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Category Archives: camping in South Texas

Sometimes the Simplest Things Make a Big Difference

It’s deer season in South Texas !  So it’s time to head out for the big hunt!  Getting the all the STUFF to the hunting camp can often be one of the biggest problems for hunters, though, bigger than deciding which rifle to take. If you’ve got an SUV, you’re golden. Everything can be shoved in the back, usually up to the ceiling and packed in tight! I always chuckle when I pass these guys going down the highway.  There’s barely room for the hunters, the beer, and all the stuff.  Ya gotta wonder if a hunter got left behind to make room for the beer!

But if you head out in a pick-up truck, you need something a little more sturdy and weather resistant in which to pack the necessities. The sleeping bags (or bedding if you have that luxury), towels, food, various tools, ammo, etc. will need to  be kept safe from the wind, dust, and possibly rain. Everything can be thrown into the back of the truck, maybe in trash bags.  I’m not going to pretend that we haven’t traveled that way in the past. If you’ve had stuff blow out of the bed, then you throw heavy things on top of “fly-away” things.

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We learned the value of plastic storage containers quite a while ago.  While they are a step up from trash bags, be warned.  There are an endless variety of containers on the market.  Many just won’t hold up to the rigors of the trip.

We’ve discovered that there are certain things to consider when choosing containers for hauling supplies in the bed of a truck:

  • Choose boxes that are reinforced with recessed grids.  They seem to be much stronger for repeated use.
  • Be sure that the boxes fit securely one atop the other when stacked with lids on. Boxes like the one pictured above come in several similar but not identical sizes.  On three trips to Home Depot, we purchased three slightly different boxes with lids that weren’t interchangeable and that didn’t stack.
  • When empty, make sure that the boxes nest one inside the other.  It will make it easier for the return trip.
  • If you have a chance, label each box with the contents so you don’t have to constantly be looking in all the boxes for your socks, or ammo, or cereal.
  • If inclement weather is possible, pack your stuff in plastic garbage bags in the boxes.  While the boxes will go a long way toward keeping your belongings dry, they are not entirely waterproof.
  • We discovered that the lids, (even the “locking” kind) can sometimes pop off, which can cause them to blow out of the truck!

wp-image--2034384424These clips can be purchased at any hardware store.  They secure the lid without affecting the ability to stack the boxes.

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I know that this seems like an awful lot of advice for something that seems pretty insignificant, but carefully choosing the storage containers that you use to haul your stuff can not only  save you money and protect your possessions but, more importantly, it can save a hunting trip!

 

 

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Grocery List for Three Meals at the Hunting Camp

For me, one of the most difficult things to plan for when heading out for a weekend at the hunting camp is what groceries to take.  I don’t want to take so much food that it will end up back in the cooler and brought home again.  Also, we don’t always want to grill for every meal so I figured out a way to get three meals out of one evening at the BBQ grill.

With the list of groceries that I’m going to share, you can prepare grilled chicken and vegetables, huevos rancheros, and grilled chicken tacos; one evening at the grill, three meals.  Of course some of the veggies can vary according to preference.  The veggies needed for the tacos and huevos rancheros will be indicated.

Grocery list:

  • chicken thighs (about 2 for each person plus one extra per person for the tacos)
  • one red bell pepper per person (bell pepper will also be used in the tacos)
  • 1 small onion per person, thinly sliced (can be served with the chicken, will be used in huevos rancheros and tacos)
  • 1 jalapenño per person, stem end, seeds removed (will be used in the huevos rancheros and tacos)
  • other veggie of choice to grill for dinner the first night, suggestions include, asparagus, yellow or zucchini squash (or calabaza if you can get it),  or whatever you prefer
  • olive oil or olive oil cooking spray
  • seasoned salt
  • 2 eggs per person
  • 2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • Flour tortillas, the cook-yourself kind if you can find them in the refrigerated biscuit section of your grocer
  • grated cheddar cheese for tacos

Along with the items on the grocery list, pick up a stack of small aluminum pans.  They make clean up so much easier.

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Cut ends off peppers, remove seeds and inner membrane, remove stem from squash and quarter length-wise, quarter onion, coat with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with seasoned salt

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Set hot charcoal on one side.  Place aluminum pan with seasoned chicken on opposite side.

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After chicken has cooked for a while, add veggies and cook until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.

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Meal one.

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Meal two:  Take leftover onions, jalapeno pepper, and half can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Heat through. Push off to one side.  Add eggs and cook as desired.  We prefer our eggs over easy.

 

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My favorite canned tomatoes!

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Meal Three:  Chicken Tacos.   Heat up some flour tortillas.

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Chop up leftover chicken.

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Combine and heat chicken, other half of the canned tomatoes, any leftover grilled onion and jalapeno.

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Great chicken tacos

 

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TexMex Venison and/or Wild Pork Enchiladas

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It’s really hot outside.  And, yet, it’s time to start preparing for deer season.  It’s time to fill feeders and fix feeder pens.  And check on the game cameras.  It’s time to clean out coolers.

For the Deerslayer’s Wife, it’s also time to start thinking about meals that can be packaged up ahead and prepared in a jiffy but still be worthy of the hunter that made them possible.

Enchiladas are great because they can be prepared ahead, frozen, packaged, and served a few at a time depending on how many you need.

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The cookie sheet can be placed directly into the freezer for a few hours until the enchiladas are frozen through.

The trick to having fresh (not soggy) tasting enchiladas is to package up the sauce separately, heat it, and pour over the enchiladas before they are heated in the oven or on a bbq pit and served.

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Sauce can be made and poured up into smaller jars that can be taken, in a cooler, to the hunting camp.  I’ve used canning jars and larger plastic containers with screw-on lids.

I’ve taken several varieties on hunting/camping trips, Venison/Wild Pork Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce, Cheese Enchiladas with Venison Chili con Carne, and Pheasant (or Duck or Chicken) Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce.

This recipe is kind of a variation of a couple of the others.  It has all the flavor and cheesy appeal of cheese enchiladas with the extra heartiness of a meat filled enchiladas.  Everyone really enjoyed these so I thought I’d share.  I always prepare enough to serve as dinner the night I fix it and freeze the rest for an upcoming hunting/camping trip.

Enchilada Filling 

1 lb. cooked, shredded venison and/or wild pork (see all day cooking method in “Come and Take It”)

1 tsp.chili powder, comino (cumin) and salt  or to taste

enough beef stock and/or drippings from all-day-cooked meat to moisten the mixture

about 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, divided (the more the better, I always say)

a package of corn tortillas (NOT FLOUR)

Enchilada Sauce

2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease
3 Tbsp. flour
½ green or red bell pepper, diced, seeds removed
½ onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 10 oz. can tomatoes (with or w/o chilies to taste)
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup water

to make enchiladas

In a cast iron skillet, season shredded venison and/or wild pork with chili powder, comino, and salt to taste.  Add enough stock or drippings to moisten the meat a little.

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In a separate small skillet, heat about a 1/2 inch of cooking oil. When oil is just starting to shimmer, coat one corn tortilla, one side at a time, until tortilla is soft, just a couple of seconds.

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I discovered these great rubber-tipped tongs that do not tear the corn tortillas! Priceless!

Lay corn tortilla on a flat surface.  Spread with a line of seasoned meat and cheddar cheese.

Roll enchilada and place, seam side down, in a 9×13 baking dish or on a cookie sheet,

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Continue this process until you have rolled as many enchiladas as you have meat.

If you want, set aside the number of enchiladas you want to cook for a meal right away.

Then place the rest of the enchiladas in the freezer for several hours until frozen through.

For the sauce

Melt the bacon grease in a cast iron skillet,  saute all veggies until translucent.cheese enchiladas 001

 

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer, covered, about 1 hour until tender and cooked down to thick gravy.

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Stir periodically to prevent sticking to the pan.  Using an emersion blender or regular blender,  blend sauce until smooth.

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At this point, you can pour what you need over your enchiladas in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Pour extra sauce into jars to take on your hunting trip.

Note:

For a hunting/camping trip, preparing a meal that has as little cleanup as possible is almost always my goal.  Multi-packs of small foil pans are readily available at most grocers these days.   I have discovered that enough frozen enchiladas  (thawed) for a meal can be placed in one of these aluminum baking containers, heated sauce poured over the top, and cheese sprinkled on.  Cover and seal the pan with additional foil  and place on a bbq pit off to the side of some medium hot coals for about 20 minutes or so depending on how hot the coals are.  The pan should be turned a couple of times for even heating. Check the progress.  The enchiladas are ready when the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

 

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Trash Can Turkey

trashcan turkey, pheasant phantazmagoria 021Preface:  My enthusiasm was greatly deflated when, on a whim, I checked the internet on the off -chance that someone in the blogosphere had also had the mind-blowing experience of preparing a turkey without the use of electricity or a bbq pit.

I discovered, much to my dismay, that apparently every other person in the civilized world not only prepares trash can turkeys on a fairly regular basis, but writes up their experiences and findings on their blogs.

However,I refuse to be daunted by this newly discovered revelation.  Keep in mind my innocent enthusiasm as you read my thoughts… and know that I’ll try to get out more.

I’ve just gotta say that this is the coolest idea I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s the perfect solution for preparing a holiday feast without the use of a conventional oven.  Imagine a power outage, Thanksgiving at the hunting camp (as in this case), or perhaps having the family over during a zombie apocalypse. This brilliant idea allows a deerslayer’s wife to come through in the face of disaster or just impress the pants off everyone, gaining the admiration and awe of all.  Many thanks to my dear friend, Christine DeBolt for sharing the idea.

Trash Can Turkey

a 10-12 pound turkey

brining and/or injecting ingredients of your choice

extra wide, heavy-duty foil

a pointed, wooden stake about 24 inches in length and at least 1″x1″

enough rocks or bricks to hold the foil down

a small, galvanized steel trash can or ash bin

10 pounds of charcoal

a shovel

1. Prepare your turkey.  You can brine it, inject it, or just season it the way you prefer.

This turkey was brined and injected with Cajun Injector Hickory Grill Seasoning (from Academy Sporting Goods).  While the turkey rests, set up your outdoor cooking area.

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Either in a pit or on a grass-free area of dirt near where you will set up your cooking area, start 10 pounds of charcoal.

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Lay and overlap foil in about a three foot square on a relatively flat area that has enough soft soil to pound the wooden stake into the center.

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Place rocks or bricks around the perimeter.

Pound wooden stake into the center of the square.  It needs to go about 4 or 5 inches deep.

Wrap stake with foil. “Insert” turkey onto the stake thusly.

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Make sure the turkey is comfortable!

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Place inverted trash can over the turkey.

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 Shovel white coals around the outside edge of the trash can and on top.

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After about an hour and a half, the turkey should be ready to eat. Carefully use the shovel to pull the coals from around the trash can and from the top.

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Using heavy gloves, lift the trash can and check the turkey. The meat should be starting to fall from the bones.

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The meat literally was falling off the bone!  Once again, excuse my excitement.   Not to be outdone by everyone in the civilized world, I want to try this method on a wild turkey and maybe a goose, adjusting the times based on the size and leanness of the meat.  Wish me luck.

 

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Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins (or for the Hunters; Booze Muffins)

 DSC_0016This is the time of year when I’m just in between bird hunting season and deer season. The house has just been cleared of boots, feathers and coolers and is not yet stacked with the second round of coolers, rifles, and hunting boots.  We haven’t taken the camper out to the hunting camp nor have we stocked it with all the hunting necessities like wine, pantry staples,  fresh linens, and wine. Oh, did I already say, “Wine”?  Well, it bears repeating,

Soon, we’ll be checking the propane tanks, cutting the tall grass around the campsite and poisoning the stuff that’s in the spot where we’ll place the camper, and cleaning out the camper by wiping down all the surfaces.  Having a campsite that’s free from grass greatly reduces the problems of snakes (not a fan), mice in the camper (really not a fan), and mosquitoes.

We’re starting to have temperatures dip below the 90s during the day and low 70s at night.  These autumnal temperatures really put everyone in a hunting mood and are putting me  in the mood to prepare “cook-all-day venison, pork and nilgai” and get some baking done as well.

 I love taking a tried-and-true recipe and adapting/adjusting it so that it becomes something new that adds variety to the Deerslayer household.  This muffin recipe that I’m sharing today is a knock-off of my Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins that got their name from an ingredient that many people consider rubbish. My family eats a lot of cereal. Not Captain Crunch or Fruit Loops but Shredded Wheat and Fiber One.  Inevitably, there are crumbs left at the bottom of the container after the cereal is finished.  In my mind, these crumbly bits are every bit as nutritious as the stuff that was left intact.  Soooo, I came up with the Rubbish muffins.  Made from the wholesome goodness of whole grain cereals these muffins make me feel like I’m not throwing away good food….

…and I love muffins!

Everyone in the Deerslayer household will eat Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins with abandon.  Apricot Brandy Muffins may sound a little too  “bridal shower brunch” for my hunting crowd, though.  So, for the sake of the ongoing theme, and my hunting buddies, These muffins will be referred to as “Booze Muffins”.

BOOZE MUFFINS

(Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins)

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1 cup chopped dried apricots

Enough apricot brandy to cover apricots

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You’ll notice I’m using the “good stuff” from the bottom shelf at the liquor store. That’s fine!

1 ¼ cups of flour

¾ cup cereal crumbs (from the bottom of the box) Check out Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Macerate (soak) chopped apricots in brandy for one hour.apricot muffins 009

Heat oven to 350°. Combine all dry ingredients.  Stir lightly with a fork.

Combine milk, beaten egg, vegetable oil, and brown sugar.  Add all at once to dry ingredients.

Gently stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Pour brandy into another container and set aside.

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Reserving the brandy for glaze, add apricots to batter.  Fold in chopped pecans or walnuts.

Grease muffin pan.  Use cooking spray if desired.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.  (Good luck with this one.)

Glaze

3 tbsp. apricot brandy (from above)

1 cup powdered sugar

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Gently add about three tablespoons of brandy into powdered sugar. Stir with a fork or whisk until desired consistency is achieved.

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Drizzle prepared glaze on muffins.   Makes 1 dozen.

 

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What’s Not to Love?

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When we’re in the throes of hunting season, all eyes seem to be on the more carnivorous endeavors.  With what will we fill our freezers?  That’s pretty much what’s on our minds and on the minds of my readers. Once the freezers are full of venison, wild pork (and this year, nilgai), how will God’s bounty be prepared and presented to the hunters’ families?  All valid concerns, for sure.

DSC_0027aMore than once, since the season ended, Deerslayer and I have been out and about and spotted a beautiful full moon or brilliant, colorful sun rising in the eastern sky.  “Sure wish we were at the hunting camp.”   Without actually saying it, we understood the full meaning to include, “sitting around a campfire, with a refreshing beverage, listening only to the sounds of the birds and coyotes, and no concerns of everyday life.”  Even now we dream of living on a few hundred acres, with beautiful views, the sounds of nature instead of the drone of the TV that never really seems to have anything on worth watching, and a fire pit to sit around while we tell stories or just sit and watch the flames until well into the night.  Will we ever retire to our acreage?  Who knows? But dreams like these have kept our marriage strong for almost 30 years.DSC_0024

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, when we’re out at the hunting camp, the beauty of the wilderness is not overlooked.  Early every morning, while Deerslayer is sitting in a blind, I’ll get a text from him telling me to look at the sunrise.  Of course, I’ll already have my perked coffee in hand (and my camera) to witness the glorious colors that only God can create.  (Now, granted, the whole idea of receiving a text message takes away from the rugged back-to-nature feel of being in the country.  If the same effect could be accomplished with a string and two cans, I’d be all over it.  However, that’s not the point.)  Deerslayer, sitting quietly in his blind, and I, in my camp chair with my steaming cup of coffee and camera are marveling at  the same amazing sunrise.

DSC_0077The reality is that “hunting” is just a word that has come to encompass so much more for the Deerslayer’s Wife, and hopefully countless more deerslayers’ wives, girlfriends, and significant others who may not have considered themselves to be “outdoor types”.  There is such a rush that has come from allowing myself to step outside my comfort zone for the ones I love.  It has allowed me to see beauty and peace that I otherwise would never have known.

It’s been a journey worth taking, a process that required many lists, experimentation, self-analysis, and wine to come to terms with the fact that even I can find a niche in the great outdoors.

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More Snakes! Grab Those Fabulous Snake Boots!

jerky, rattlesnake, roasting pumpkin 012In the two years that we’ve been hunting at the ranch in South Texas, Deerslayer has killed 4 sizable rattlesnakes, the one pictured being the smallest. Living with snakes is just part of life down here.  It was after finding the first and largest rattler that the fine line between fashion and function became blurred to include Cabela’s jaunty and ever-so-chic snake boots.  I’ve come to appreciate the rich earth tones, the fashion-forward suede and zippered accents, the fact that I can walk through the grass and not be killed by a snake bite..

IMG_1974The largest rattlesnake that we’ve seen on the ranch was as long as Deerslayer is tall, about 6’5″.  The shortest was about my height, 5’4″.  Spotting a venomous snake really brings to mind  thoughts of instinct, self-preservation, and survival of the fittest. The heart starts to pound.  Breathing becomes fast and shallow.  I found myself sputtering things like, “Run over it with the truck!  Run over it again!  It’s still moving.  Shoot it. Squash it with a rock.  No, use a stick.  Don’t get close.  It’s still moving!  Run over it again.  Shoot it again!  It’s still moving!”

 I suspect that in earlier times, I wouldn’t have been considered one of the “fittest”.  

Back to our most recent encounter, before Snakeslayer placed the slithering monster in the back of the truck, the head was removed. While I’m sure everyone knows this already, it bears repeating:  A dead snake is just as dangerous as a live one as long as the fangs are intact.  People have suffered serious injury and, I’m sure, even death as a result of snake bites from snakes that were already dead.  Don’t mess with the head of a venomous snake even after it’s dead.  The mouth can still open of its own accord.  Nasty business, just don’t!  That said, let me continue.

 The rattler continued to writhe and thrash about, headless, for at least an hour and a half. With the tailgate down, it slithered off the back of the truck.  When Snakeslayer decided to save the skin, there was quite an episode.  The decapitated snake thrashed, and wrapped itself around my beloved’s arms as it was being “dispatched”.  My job in the proceedings was to gesticulate wildly and suggest poking it with a stick or perhaps run over it with the truck, or shoot it again.  

It made for interesting stories to share at the hunting camp that night. I was asked by several of the other hunters whether I was going to cook up the snake.  I guess I better start looking for recipes.  Everyone had their own stories to tell.  Eyes got big, smart phones were brought out and pictures passed around.  Arms stretched in all directions to indicate size and length.  When referring to snakes, I guess size really does matter.  There’s just something about big snakes that reminds us of our place in the grand scheme of things.  Thank God for snake boots!

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