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Axis Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Roast

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Get a bunch of hunters sittin’ around a fire and ask ’em what they think of axis deer meat.  I’m guessing  that the consensus, after a couple of contemplative sips of beer and a good deal of head-nodding, is that axis meat is top notch.  The flavor and texture are superlative. For several years, I’ve heard hunters say that they’d just as soon eat axis as any other variety of wild game, with the possible exception of elk.  I have to agree.

This is the beginning of my comparison between Axis and whitetail meat.   After a sip of beer, I’ll share my experience.

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This is a football roast from a small axis.  It is from the hindquarter. It’s larger than that of a whitetail.  Also, notice the thick layer of silverskin.  I discovered that it isn’t as tough or chewy as whitetail.  The roast has been placed on a roasting rack and placed over a small oven-proof pan to catch drippings.  I have to admit that this set-up is a little precarious and requires some coordination when it comes to placing the roast in the oven.  What can I say? I ride the ragged edge of disaster.  Use a roasting pan that is larger than the rack if you wish.  Problem solved.

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Notice the rich, mahogany color of the meat.  I cut the roast most of the way through, then filled the cavity with minced garlic and salt and pepper.

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I tied up the roast on the roasting rack.

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I covered the entire top of the roast with more minced garlic.   Yeah, it’s a lot.  A lot of fabulous!

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Take thick-sliced, maple bacon, cut each slice in half and lay across the top of the roast.  Place in a 350 degree oven.  Roast for about one hour.  

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I always throw a pan of root veggies in the oven at the same time as the roast.  I add sliced onions, carrots, potatoes, cubed sweet potatoes,  a drizzle of olive oil, plenty of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, all tossed together with my hands in a 9×13 baking dish.  Add about a cup of water or stock to the pan. This can go into the oven with the roast and will be ready at the same time!

 

 

 

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Transporting Eggs for Camping

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It’s great fun to be the Deerslayer’s Wife when I get out to the hunting camp with everything I need to rustle up some delicious meals.  However, it all hinges on my ability to get the necessities out there intact! For me, a successful and enjoyable trip requires some planning; groceries, menus, and strategies for getting everything to its destination unscathed.

How can I make breakfast tacos or cornbread or huevos rancheros if the huevos don’t make the journey intact? Because we always pack up all of our perishables in our Yeti coolers, I know that our perishables will not perish.  Those coolers work better than anything else we’ve ever used. I know I can count on them to do the job.  Eggs are tricky, though.  Just keeping them cold is not the only issue.

The camping aisles of most sporting goods stores offer a few options for egg armor; rigid, hinged contraptions that, in theory, protect the eggs from breaking.  Mine was yellow.  I was so excited as I closed it over my beautiful blue, green, and brown farm fresh eggs.  They cracked as I secured the clasp!  My beautiful eggs were various sizes as farm fresh eggs often are.  Most of them were too big for the camping egg carrier.  I made an emergency omelette!

Strolling around the grocery store recently, I came across some egg packaging that I thought was pure genius.  The eggs were nestled in a clear plastic carton that was more rigid than the usual styrofoam and mroe water-resistant than cardboard that would dissolve in a cooler.  I was intrigued.

I purchased the eggs just so I could sample the travel-worthiness of the carton.

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Here’s a picture of the 6 eggs that Deerslayer and I needed for the trip, arriving after the journey, unscathed!

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Tah Duh!

The carton was rigid enough to protect the eggs, pliable enough to accommodate various sizes, and could withstand getting wet.  I bought two dozen eggs in those containers so that I could reuse the cartons.  Since it was just Deerslayer and me on our weekend camping trip to the ranch, I staggered the six eggs that I planned on using for balance and additional protection.

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In a pinch, I’ve improvised.  A container such as this also works if you need just a few of eggs, packaged up with paper towels in between.

The next time you stroll through the egg department of the grocer, see if you can find a brand packaged in these clever carrying containers. You can use the eggs and get a free “special camping travel receptacle” for them, as well.

Camp on and have an eggsellent trip!

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in camping, Hunting, Uncategorized

 

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Backstrap Scraps with Mushroom and Onion Gravy

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Every hunter knows that the backstrap is one of the most prized cuts of meat from a deer hunting harvest.  Seared or fried up into steaks, it just doesn’t get any better.   However, up near the neck of the deer, there’s some meat that is technically still backstrap but doesn’t lend itself to the traditional applications.  The meat is just as tender and succulent as the delicious lower portion, it’s just ummm… scrappy and shouldn’t be wasted.

Recently, I grabbed some meat from the freezer that had been appropriately labeled “axis backstrap neck meat”. It was indeed pretty scrappy.dsc_0282

I cleaned it up, removing the fascia or silver skin from the meat.  Then I cut it into chunks.

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Notice the pile of tissue that I removed from the meat.  DON’T THROW IT AWAY!  Bag it up, put it in the freezer and save it to use for stock or toss it in with your cook-all-day meat.

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I liberally seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then I sprinkled flour over the whole mess and tossed to coat.

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I browned it on all sides in a hot skillet with melted butter just for a couple of minutes so that meat stayed medium rare.

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Then I removed the meat to a plate and set it in warm oven.

I sauted an onion, thinly sliced, in the same skillet with a little more butter until browned and softened, almost caramelized.  I added mushrooms and stirred until the mushrooms were also browned.  I set those aside in a bowl so I could make the gravy.

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I melted a quarter cup of butter in the skillet. I added two tablespoons of flour and stirred until smooth scraping up all the tasty, browned bits to make a roux. I whisked in a cup of stock, a quarter cup of red wine, and about a quarter cup of Worcestershire (more or less to taste), stirring constantly. I heated it on low/medium heat just until slightly thickened. I added the mushrooms and onions back into the sauce and mixed until combined.  DSC_0289

I served the gravy over the backstrap scraps and some lovely garlic mashed potatoes.

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Ingredients:

  • about 2 lbs. of scrappy backstrap neck meat, chunked
  • liberal amount of salt and pepper mix
  • enough flour to coat meat chunks
  • 2-3 tbsp. butter, another 2-3 tbsp. butter, about a quarter cup of butter (Alright, about a stick of butter, divided)
  • a medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • about 2 tbsp. flour for the gravy
  • 1 cup dark stock (beef or venison)
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • about ¼ cup  Worcestershire sauce

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Axis, Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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Un-Valentine’s Day (any Day AFTER February 14th)

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of St. Valentine. He lived in the third century and was steadfast in his faith during a time when it was dangerous to do so.  While little is actually known about his life,  what IS known is that he was in no way affiliated with Hallmark greeting cards, mylar balloons, overpriced flower arrangements, chocolate-covered strawberries, or expensive restaurant meals.

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Right inside the main entrance at Wal-Mart.  Avert your eyes, children!

He ABSOLUTELY had NOTHING to do with “Fifty-Shades-of-Gray” teddy bears or nasty underwear.  If anything, “Valentine’s Day” has evolved into anything BUT how St. Valentine would want his life to be remembered or celebrated.

A trip to the grocer has been an assault on the senses for a month already!

That is why my family decided several years ago not to celebrate the commonly recognized day of spending, February 14th.  Those of you who follow my ramblings, know how I feel about the hype. Deerslayer knows that I don’t love him less if he doesn’t cough up the goods on Hallmark Recognition Day. In fact, I love him more for sharing and respecting my feelings that forced, artificially-imposed tokens of love and affection just aren’t necessary.

I’m 100% in favor of setting aside a special time to show loved ones how much we care.  It’s just that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, just be a sincere gesture.  And who says it has to be a single day?

Deerslayer would love a great backrub on the folding massage table that I bought him for Christmas several years ago.  (Best gift EVER!)  A delicious meal of seared venison tenderloin, roasted asparagus, and a salad will be wonderful.  Nothing says “I love you and appreciate your hunting spirit” more than preparing a dish featuring wild game that a beloved hunter has brought home.  Follow it up with a favorite dessert and a movie at home and you’re golden.  No guilt. No long lines. No plush animals. No mylar.

Want to give the gift that keeps on giving?  Any hunter would appreciate a gift card that could be used during the next hunting season for cheerful gate opening and closing on the ranch or lease with no whining or pouting. Trust me on this one!  No strain on the credit card, either.  Just thoughtful giving of oneself.

If your loved ones have to have the chocolates, the flowers, the cards, and the plush animals,  it will all be 50% off tomorrow!

Cherish your loved ones, show them you care not just on Feb. 14th (or 15th) but every day!

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Our Own Ranch

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I think that it’s a dream of just about every hunter to have a place of his own… not a hunting lease but a hunk of land that belongs to him to hunt as he pleases, to wander around on, look at the stars at night, watch the sun rise and set, knowing that every corner and everything in between is his.

It’s been a dream of ours for years; having a place to hunt that is our very own, not a lease. It’s a dream that has finally been realized!  Deerslayer and I are now the proud owners of our own 256 acre hunting ranch in the Texas Hill Country! I don’t think I can put into words my excitement.

The process of finding the place was difficult, frustrating, and exhausting but it was worth it.  For years, we’ve added to and adjusted our wish list.  Our “dream ranch” :

  • has to be in the Texas Hill Country
  • has to have at least 200 acres
  • has to have access to highway and city
  • has to have power and a well
  • has to be easily traversed
  • has to have lots of oak trees
  • has to have a view of sunsets and sunrises

After more than a year of searching in earnest, we found a place within our budget and negotiated until we agreed on a price.  Our ranch (I just love saying “our ranch”) is about two hours away from San Antonio with it’s medical center, shopping and international airport.  There are smaller towns within 30 minutes to an hour away that have grocery stores, hardware stores, a church, etc. that we will need access to.

There’s a casita on the place that will take some fixing up. Since we bought the place “as is”, there’s lots of trash that will need to be hauled away.  There’s also a trashed camper on the place that, luckily, the realtor will be removing. We’ve taken our own camper out there which will allow us to work at our own pace until things are taken care of to our satisfaction. It will certainly be a labor of love. Heavy on the labor.dsc_0233

We’ve brewed coffee and watched the sun rise over the ridge.  We’ve seen axis deer and flushed coveys of quail.  We’ve heard turkeys.  We’ve watched the sun set, sat around a fire and gazed at the stars ON OUR OWN RANCH.

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A First! An Axis Buck!

I’ve seen axis deer for years on drives through the Texas Hill Country.  Usually, they’re behind  the high fences of hunting ranches.  Sometimes they’re dead on the side of the road, having escaped from one of those ranches and not having kept up with the rules of the road.

They’re beautiful animals originally from India, fully spotted with long, three-pronged antlers. They were brought here to be hunted as exotics.  Slightly larger than whitetails with beautiful spotted coats like a fawn, they were first brought to Texas in the 1930s to keep on game ranches.  Because they’re exotics, they can be hunted any time during the year, not just during hunting season.

Deerslayer and I had heard, through the years, that axis is a preferred game meat because of its mild “non-gamey” taste.  I’ve always said that game that is properly processed and prepared beautifully doesn’t taste gamey.  But my curiosity was certainly piqued regarding axis deer.

Even though Deerslayer has hunted since he was a kid, he’d never had an opportunity to bag one….. UNTIL NOW!  An opportunity presented itself for Deerslayer to harvest his first Axis.  We were both really excited.  The buck was a little larger than a whitetail.  The skin was gorgeous.  I asked Deerslayer to save it for me.

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Being the Deerslayer’s Wife, I was so excited to try out the meat. It had quite a reputation. And after all, this is what I do.  As I use the meat for all my favorite recipes, such as Venison Parmesan, Pecan Crusted Venison Steaks, Seared Tenderloins or Backstrap, Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Football Roast, and all the others, I’ll share with my readers my findings regarding any differences that I discover between the axis and whitetail.

The first night that we brought it home and processed it, I noticed the gorgeous deep, rich mahogany color of the meat, deeper in color than whitetail.  There was also more fat on it than what I was used to seeing on whitetail.  In the Deerslayer household, we don’t really care for fat  that some whitetail have.  It kinda coats the inside of your mouth and doesn’t seem to add good flavor to the meat.  For the sake of experimentation, we decided to grill the tenderloins of the axis, one trimmed of fat and the other with the fat left on.

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It was the consensus of the family that both tenderloins, seared to a glorious medium-rare were as good as, if not better than, whitetail.  The tenderloin that had the fat left intact was as flavorful as can be. There was no unpleasant after-taste or mouth-feel.  I’ll continue to compare and share.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Christmas Decor for the Discerning Deerslayer

I think it’s safe to say, readers, that being a Deerslayer household means that life is a little bit different from ordinary households.  It permeates every nook and cranny of your existence. This seems most glaring  during the Christmas season.

While other families are wearing matching sweaters and caroling, we’re loading the truck for a weekend of hunting.  Christmas parties give way to camping, sitting by a fire, sharing stories, looking at the stars, and listening to the coyotes.

I have to admit that I cannot blame Deerslayer for the timing. Granted, the coolers and camo and other paraphernalia strewn about the house during this time of year do add a certain  unique ambience that is unmistakable. Christmas DOES fall during hunting season in South Texas, after all.

This tray holds sheds that we’ve collected over the years as well as ornaments that were on my Christmas tree when I was a child and some fresh and festive clementines.

It can be pretty hard to prepare for Christmas while we’re in the midst of hunting season. This is when being a Deerslayer’s wife gets complicated.  There are gifts that need to be bought and wrapped, a tree that needs to be thoughtfully chosen and decorated, cards for teachers and helpers that need to be written out, tamales that need to be made. You get the idea.

Grab the wine.  Take a deep breath. Perhaps block a few phone numbers like the homeroom mom’s or committee member’s.  Do the stuff that you must, delegate out some of the other chores.  Focus on what makes your family happy.  Remember the reason for the season.

Over the years, I’ve not only come to terms with the fact that my house will never be  like one of those on the magazine covers, but I’ve actually begun to embrace the lifestyle of a hunter and his natural habitat. It may be cluttered and stacked to the ceiling with coolers, camo, guns,  and ammo but it’s part of who we are and I’ve grown to love it.

The basket with candles, sheds, and old ornaments is casual and easy to throw together (like our lifestyle).

The house smells like wonderful things to eat (thanks to Junior Deerslayer) during this holiday season and is full of things that remind us of memories that we cherish.   It doesn’t get any better than that.  Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

 

 

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