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Last Sunday I took advantage of some spare time and drove out to the river to see if I could spot a few ducks in open water. With not very many days left in my waterfowl season, I wanted to see if mother nature would give me a last go, until next fall.

After having spent about two hours walking along the shores of the river and through the wetlands, it was clear that my waterfowl was nearing its end. The ice was getting thick and the open waters of the river were well out of range with the ice about forty meters wide from the edge of the shore and about two inches thick.

There was no doubt that the view was spectacular and the wind blowing in was refreshing and complimented the snowy banks of the river, just a perfect match. It is always a bitter-sweet feeling, knowing that my waterfowl season is coming to a close.

The year’s season was an interesting one and to be honest, as I went out on all my outings during this season, I seem to have lost count of my harvests and had the impression that I hadn’t had as good as season as last year, especially with the warmer weather lingering longer at the start of the season.

On my drive home from the river, I was happy about the idea of getting back into a warm spot but knew I would miss my days on the river until next fall. Over the next few days, I took out my harvests out of the freezer and let them defrost and then marinated the meat over night and began the lengthy process of making our Rillettes.

It is pretty neat to feel how much pride comes from making delicious traditional Rillettes with your own harvests, and also being able to share it with friends and family who appreciate them, especially during the holiday season.

Twenty one jars later and a clean kitchen, I can now look back on all the great moments of my season with satisfaction and pride as well as the lessons learned and only hope for the best next fall.

Remember to be safe and happy new year to all of you who share this passion of ours.

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Snow Goose Rillettes

Snow Goose Rillettes

Snow Goose Rillettes Recipe

Ingredients:
Snow goose legs & Breasts (2 birds)
1 can of duck fat
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons of sea Salt
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of Ground Allspice

Steps:

Sprinkle small amounts of sea salt and place 2 crushed bay leaves into a zip lock bag. Remove the skin from the snow goose breasts and legs and then place the pieces also into the bag. Then add 1 tablespoon of allspice into the bag and shake it once it is sealed. Put it in the fridge for 6 hours. Rinse the meat and tap dry. Preheat the oven to 110°C the pan.

Warm up the duck fat and put the goose meat in the fat. Cook uncovered for 3 hours.

Remove the goose legs from the fat. Let it cool. Strip the meat from the bone using a fork. Add about a cup and a half of duck fat to moisten the meat. Add additional salt if needed after a taste test and then put it in a jar.   Seal the jar tightly and put it in the fridge.

Great References:
The Cooking Book “Sauvage” Savourer la nature by Louis-Francois Marcotte, Pg: 54, ISBN: 978-2-89077-380-6

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The triumph of a hunt is not only measured in having successfully harvested a game bird or waterfowl as a trophy. We should also remember the time spent out in nature, actively practicing the sport we love; additionally there is also the possibility that you could bring home a bird and have a wonderful meal with friends or family.

But before this can be done there are several steps that need to be completed. Ultimately, your decision on how to proceed with the processing of your harvest is the main factor of the final outcome. For example if you staying at a hunting camp and you know that you will be there for several days, then you might not even freeze the meat, once the bird has been field dressed. It could be cooked at the camp within the first few hours following the harvest. This way you can enjoy a nice meal during the hunting trip or decide to bring some home as well. Some hunters just remove the breast meat rather than use the whole bird, which could include the legs and some of the internal organs or even the tongue.

This is done by removing all the feathers on the belly portion of the bird, then slicing through the breast skin, peeling it back and then with a sharp knife, placing the blade point at the top of the breast bone and cutting down each side. Moving from top to bottom. You could end up with two great strips of duck meat.

If you wish to do both, field dress but also keep the feathers and parts of the bird, so that a taxidermist may mount it, then I recommend you conduct the necessary research and see what is needed in order to obtain a great trophy.

If you are out hunting waterfowl and it involves some travelling then it is your obligation to keep at least one wing fully feathered and attached to the bird. This way if you are stopped by a game warden, the wing will enable them to properly identify the species.  For more information or questions, you can consult the following Environment Canada web link concerning transportation of migratory birds.

Field dressing is described as the process of removing the internal organs of a bird or mammal which has been harvested during a hunt. These steps better prepare the meat for cooking, but also facilitate the transportation of the game and decrease your chances of spoiling the meat or getting sick.

I am continuously trying to find ways to improve my skills and one of the methods I use is finding great books to read. My most recent find is the “Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia Volume 7 Birds. It is an incredible book full of knowledge about birds, and the part that interested me the most for this particular blog post is bird anatomy.

It is not necessary to be a surgeon in order to field dress game but it is important to be able to identify the main organs, so that you may conduct a proper field dressing process in a safe manner and prepare the game correctly for transporting and ultimately cooking.

My field dressing kit consists of a very sharp knife with a short but extremely sharp blade, and it does not exceed three inches and has a hooked blade tip for cutting the windpipe and this also allows me to be able to detach certain organs from internal tissue. I have several cheese cloth bags to keep the insects and dirt off the game but plastic bags from the grocery store will work just fine too. I have a box of latex gloves, this way I avoid direct contact with the blood or skin. A cooler filled with two ice packs to keep the meat cool during my transportation. A box of large size Ziploc bags can be quite handy.

During the field dressing of a game bird or waterfowl the first thing I do, is inspect the bird for any abnormalities, checking if the bird is sick or very small. This could help in identifying for spots or even removing flees, and seeing if there are there patches of feathers missing. Then I proceed with removing the feathers from the bird except for one wing. I always complete this process outside avoiding unnecessary mess in the kitchen. The tailgate of the truck or even a cutting board at the hunting camp makes for great work surfaces, having water in a bottle or tap close by is also really great to help clean the bird as well as your hands.

I then place the bird on its back and cut down the center of the breast bone breaking the rib cage and then pushing down on both sides thus flattening and opening the bird as illustrated in my painting.* Be careful as the breast bone is very sharp and thin which can cut your fingers or a broken rib and small bones can poke your hands or fingers and cause you to bleed. This makes it easier to identify the organs. When working with the digestive system, I am also very careful not to sever the intestines, so that its content, excrement or urine does not touch the meat. The heart or gizzard can also be removed for cooking, however, I would do research on the birds’ environment and identify whether or not is recommended to eat. (May contain high levels of lead)

I hope you have great season and wonderful meals too.

Rock Dove Anatomy

Rock Dove Anatomy

*1. Trachea, 2. Crop, 3. Flight Muscles, 4. Heart, 5. Liver, 6 .Gizzard, 7. Lungs, 8. Small intestines, 9. Pancreas, 10. Cloacal opening

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In two days, I will be heading back into the woods and I can barely contain my excitement. I will have spent almost the whole week preparing my gear and rifles for the day trip. It is very difficult to describe this strange magnetic draw I feel toward the wilderness.
 
In Dianne Macmillan’s book “Life in a deciduous forest” she writes about energy and how it is transformed into food when it pertains to the relationships between the sun, the North American biome and its ecosystems, which also include wildlife.
 
She describes the different levels of a forest from high above in the canopy down through the understory and finally to the forest floor; there is in fact energy and not just at the solar or nutrient levels. She writes the following on page six: “A constant exchange of matter and energy creates a natural balance.”

It is all it takes just a few hours in the woods and I am able to grasp the balance I need. Although the majority of us live in urban areas, we are very much part of the link and this relationship that the author writes about, futhermore at the end of the book she provides websites and suggestions on activities and practices that are great for the environment.

This blog is not just about small game and varmint hunting but also about conservation, if you leave a room -shut off the light. This simple yet great gesture will indirectly affect your hunting environment in a positive way allowing you and future generations to benefit from the wilderness as well.

I highly recommend this book as it was an enjoyable read, so much so that I finished it in just two hours. The book is extremely informative and helps you better understand life in a deciduous forest and there are some great points about its wildlife such as the black bears, ruffed grouse and other small game.

Education and awareness are key, thank you Dianne!

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In one of my previous blog entries titled “Double Edge Sword” I wrote about the differences between necessities and wanting, when it pertains to purchasing equipment for small game hunting. It is about asking yourself the following question before you make a purchase. Is it something you really want for hunting or something you need?

This is not because you are being cheap but rather because hunting equipment can add up very quickly. One important point that I must mention is that if you are starting in the sport, there will be initial costs just like buying a home. But the neat part is that once you have your clothing, hardware and accessories, you can start adding to it and improve it constantly. This is also very fun!

For me the right handling of a double edge sword is finding a balance within your budget so that you do not cut yourself financially. Hunting rifles or shotguns, clothing, ammunition and permits are necessities that must be acquired. It is also about being comfortable, well equipped and enjoying the sport without over spending on unnecessary accessories and supplies.

The question often comes up “How much does a small game hunter spend on equipment?” We should also ask: How much does the necessary equipment cost for small game hunters?

In response to these questions I have decided to break down some costs looking at the necessities and show you how much I have spent in Canadian dollars. In my case I already own a bolt-action rifle which cost about $150 dollars in 1962, but today you can easily spend a couple hundred dollars depending on the model and if you wish to add a scope. My Remington 870, which is my versatile work horse cost me $400 dollars and it allows me to save money because there is no longer a need for a different gun for each type of small game you hunt.

Ammunition does not need to be expensive either, I can get a box of fifty rounds for less than $15 dollars for my .22 bolt-action rifle . For my 870, I can buy a box of #6 shot for under $25 dollars.

My first pair of hunting boots cost me $200 dollars but I got a second pair of NAT’s boots just under $80 dollars. They are ultra light and waterproof and come with its own repair kit in the event of tear.

For a resident of Quebec your small game permit cost $18.83 effective Sept 2, 2012  (2017-2018 is now $24.58). If you are hunting on Crown land it is free but if you hunt in a SEPAQ park like me it can cost you around $18 dollars for a day hunt.

Now for clothing, my hunting pants cost me about $150 dollars and my hunting jacket which is considered a 6-in-1 system cost me $200 dollars. Having said this I also purchased a second hunting jacket for friends when they come out with me at discount store for $20 dollars. If they wear layers using long johns and thermals worth about $40 dollars it is just as warm as the very expensive jackets.

When I go on a one day hunting trip it normally cost me between $20-$40 in gas and about $20 dollars in food.

Costs will also be affected depending on the time of year that you hunt as you may require specialized kit such as snowshoes.

So how much do small game hunters spend on hunting equipment? The answer to the question is, it depends on your budget but when it comes to necessities I have listed the costs below.

Examples of necessities:
Rifle or shotgun: $400-$2000 Canadian dollars
Ammunition: $50 Canadian dollars
Clothing and boots: $200-$500 Canadian dollars
Permits, park access: $20-$40 (Quebec resident)
Food and gas: $20-$100 (May vary depending on distance traveled)

Buying Small Game Permits:

Small game permits can be purchased at any local hunting store in your area as long as they have a permit printer. You may want to call the shop before hand to find out if they issue permits. For the cost of the permits in Quebec, you can go to the following website:

Hunting – Fishing – Trapping License Rates

Also make sure you bring your Hunters Certificate/Card with you in person when buying a hunting permits and have your Federal Firearms card when purchasing firearms and ammunition.

Shop smart and enjoy the sport!

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“You are what you eat!” There are several expressions about eating right that are used all over the world in several different languages and this is definitely one of them. It would also be fair to say that a great number of us have heard it at least once in our lifetime.

Understanding food and choosing the right types of foods and snacks to eat during your hunting trip has a direct impact on your mental and physical performance. Years ago as a young infantryman, I would spend several hours and sometimes days exposed to the elements such as snow-covered mountains in the Balkans. We patrolled over great distances all the while conducting very physical and mentally demanding work. Sleep was sometimes only a few hours and when it was time to eat, it was done quickly. This meant you had to eat and drink smart and also take into consideration small factors like the amount of noise you made and also being careful not to leave any traces of food or packaging.

My objective as a sport hunter today is not to have such a regimented life style anymore but to continue to make great choices with food and actually take the time needed to eat. I want to have lasting energy throughout the day, so that I can remain focused for a long time. Having a balanced food plan and a list of items you need to buy before going hunting is a process I use during my preparatory stage. This includes high energy foods that are good for you and provide you with the boost and nutrition your body requires to produce heat, feed your brain and muscles. Examples of this are beef jerky, dried fruits, fresh fruits, trail mix nuts. This may also include an emergency food kit like mine such as cans of sardines, spare water canteens and natural multigrain bars.

Still-hunting can be physically demanding and you burn a lot of calories moving through the woods especially on snowshoes. If you are sitting in a blind your body will also use up calories producing heat. This means calories being expended.

Some points such as not making noise while eating may apply if you are in a blind or tree stand but if you are still hunting, you can choose a nice spot to stop for lunch or go back to the car or truck. This makes it easier to dispose of your garbage and not having to carry it around with you in your daypack along with its scents. In one of the hunting magazines I was a subscriber to: “Chasse et Pêche” one snowshoe hunter and author wrote that during the winter months, he would light a fire during his lunch break just to warm up. This is a great idea but I would check with the park to see fires are permitted.

My experience has taught me that if I ate a muffin filled with processed sugar for breakfast at the start point of my day, my energy level would spike as soon as the sugar was absorbed into my bloodstream. As the morning went on however I would feel a crash and just be very tired. This would be an example of poor planning and eating, this could be dangerous if you are out alone in the woods. If you are hungry, your morale will be low and you will eventually become sluggish and tired. This will lead to mistakes being made, your body will weaken and hyperthermia may set in if you are exposed to the cold or wet. I drink a lot of water and stay hydrated; I also carry a bottle of Gatorade for extra carbohydrates and to replenish my electrolytes.

The night before I set out to hunt for the day, I normally have a hardy meal containing meats, vegetables, pasta and or rice. I also drink large amounts of water. Moisture is lost through sweating, going to the washroom and even your breath. Fluids are very important for our bodies.

Below is a list of food and snacks that I like to pack:

Natural granola bars
PowerBars
Trail mix nuts
Beef jerky
Water
Gatorade
Sweets or candies and gum
Canned beans
Sardines in water

Throughout the day, I will have small snacks like dried nuts and bars about every two hours or so and I make sure to drink around the same time. At lunch I have a meal which is normally a sandwich, packaged foods that are not difficult or noisy to open.  I also take into consideration the ease to pack and being lightweight, also that it does not leave too much garbage such as wrappings.

There are some great references on the web and books that are available to assist you in eating right while hunting. Every person has their own budget and system in place, feel free to suggest or comment on food ideas that can ultimately assist all small game hunters.

Bon Appétit!

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