I am about sick of this cold weather. There is not much left of any of our seasons except Snow Geese. I have always thought the pheasant season should end on Dec. 31, not a month later. KDWPT says that the pheasants killed in January don’t impact the total population for 2019. It seems to me that one dead pheasant is one less that will work on repopulation for the next year, but they feel that one rooster is capable of populating several hens and I tacitly agree since I’m sure deer work under the same philosophy and they seem to do fine. I just don’t shoot very many roosters in January—for several reasons—mostly because it’s too cold to hunt and I don’t like walking in snow-covered milo stalks. The birds are thoroughly exposed to hunters and know how to escape. It also seems like I shoot much worse in January. We shoot five stations out at Karla’s place and I’m not very good at that game. I see some excellent shooters and don’t get my hopes up. It is a great game and definitely makes you a better shot, so I keep trying, but it is certainly humbling to watch Brian and Don murder my score with their 410 shotguns. They are kind and sympathetic and devise several plausible theories as to why they break twice as many targets with their little guns as I do with my 20 gauge—but in spite of their kindness—I get it... .
I have one of those little smokeless grills that sets on the counter and really is essentially smokeless. I have never set off the fire alarm. I thinly slice yellow squash, a potato and zucchini and some deer meat. I actually harvest two or three deer each year with my bow and I eat that meat. It is perfect for cooking in this fashion or in stir fry. I also grill it in warm weather. I process all my own meat and have roasts in the sous vide. That is a process using a water bath (Joule is my device and my cell phone manages it) to heat meat to a specific temperature. I like medium rare at about 140 degrees. It takes 3-4 hours to cook (I add spices and seasoning to the plastic bag housing the meat) and you can leave it an extra hour without over-cooking. It does a deer roast better than any other method I have ever seen. I also make my own jerky and sausage. I dine most elegantly!
This brings us to the dining habits of our marsh inhabitants. The raptors dine very well on waterfowl and rodents around the marsh. You can watch the eagles this time of year sitting on the ice out by the huge flocks of geese and ducks in the small pools of open water. They are scouring the group for wounded or injured birds, and when they launch on a hunt you can see thousands of ducks and geese take to the air in a panic. I have a couple of shots of hawks and falcons taking waterfowl out of the air, but the images are not good enough to share. Yes, I am a bit vain about image quality. If I don’t like it you won’t see it.
The Great Blue Herons and the egrets gobble up almost everything from minnows and small fish to crayfish and reptiles. Here is a picture of a Great Blue consuming a small snake. It took about 20 minutes for him to accomplish the feat. I thought for a while the snake might win when he wrapped himself around the beak of the heron, but strength overcame a cunning attempt to survive, and the snake went down the hatch.
Duane and I have made goose breast pastrami from a recipe that came from Mike Schnipper who comes from Ohio to hunt with us every year. He has done it for more than 20 years and is one of the best friends the Bottoms and Quivira ever had. Sandra makes fettucini and pheasant with green chilis that is to die for. My Louisiana friends make crayfish gumbo when they visit and we always dine well. Dusty gave me the Louisiana state cookbook and I can hardly wait until we get a good population of alligators in the Bottoms to top off the menu. We are what we eat!
Stay warm, be safe driving, and get some wild game cookbooks if you don’t have any. The German recipes that are staples in our wonderful community would take a whole other column! I am grateful every day for who we are and what we do!
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.