Backwoods Adventure, Woodscraft and Skills, Muzzle Loading and Self-Sufficient Living Off The Land
I came back from a trip to Africa, which included whitewater rafting on the Nile River, and someone told me that I had been on the adventure of a lifetime. I thought of all the other trips I have done and realized, I have had a life of lifetime adventures.
In between cleaning snow off the drive way and snow shoeing, I was able to toss a venison roast in the oven. As an experiment, I poured a mixture of maple syrup, and rose wine over the venison roast. I also tossed the ingredients for a loaf of fresh whole wheat bread in the bread machine. I was so hungry when supper was finally done after smelling baking bread and roasting venison all afternoon. Maybe that is why this roast was so good. The venison was also served with a wild rice side dish.
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup red wine. (I used cheap rose)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon onion powder
Teaspoon garlic powder
Place roast in dutch oven. Combine rest of ingredients and pour over roast. Cook at 275° for 4 hours. Ladle sauce over meat about every half hour. When roast is done, remove meat from dutch oven and use left over sauce to make gravy. Pour gravy over meat before carving.
Lefse is one of my favorite holiday foods. But I have never been able to make it until recently when I joined my friends, the Hansens, for their annual lefse making affair. I discovered that making lefse is an intricate process. The process began the night before we rolled out the lefse, when the Hansens boiled up a bunch of russet potatoes and then riced them. Later they mixed up the ingredients listed below, and then rolled them into two ounce dough balls and chilled the dough balls. The next next afternoon, we the rolled the balls into sheets of raw lefse. We did this on a cloth covered lefse pastry board, and rollers covered with cloth socks. It was much like rolling out pie crust but much easier. Keeping the right amount of flour on the roller and the pastry sheet while rolling out the lefse sheets was critical to success during this step in the process.. Finally, the sheets were removed from the pastry cloths with a lefse stick and cooked them on electric lefse griddles.
Hansen’s Way Lefse Recipe
4 cups riced potatoes
1/3 cup half and half
6 tablespoons corn oil margarine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cup flour
Making lefse was a fun group project. We had two people rolling out the dough and two cooking and prepping the dough. Much mirth also accompanied our efforts.
I was planning on making stuffed squash, but that seemed like it would take too long and be too much effort so I created this squash and gravy dish. Its fairly quick and really good.
1 lb. of your favorite breakfast sausage
½ half lb. of mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 cup cold water
3 or 4 teaspoons all purpose flour
salt and pepper as preferred
Heat cast iron skillet and fry sausage, mushrooms and onions, until done. Turn off heat. Place cold water and flour into bowl and stir with a whisk. Pour milk over sausage mix until almost covered, Add water and flour mix, and salt and pepper. Fire up stove and cook on medium until mix is hot and bubbly, Stir frequently.
2 acorn squash cut in half and with seeds removed
Place squash halves in kettle with about 2 cups of water. Cover and heat until water boils. Turn down heat and steam squash until it is done.
To serve: Place squash on plate and ladle gravy mix into squash.
Woosh-sploosh, Woosh-sploosh. Ducks in the decoys! A total of four ducks slipped in undetected and landed next to my decoy spread. I looked at my watch. Five minutes until shooting started- an eternity. I hoped the ducks would stay around until shooting started. I was tucked in between the woods and the slough, sitting under a small oak tree. As the seconds slowly ticked down to shooting time, I slowly and as quietly as possible leveraged myself to a standing position. When I was at a fully standing position, I silently cocked the right hammer on my side-by-side 12-gauge muzzle loading shot gun. The four woodies flushed, and I did a butt-beak-bang swing with the scattergun, and through the cloud of smoke, I saw one of the four woodies splash back into the slough.
Duck camp was located at Crex Meadows a 30,000-acre wildlife area in Northwest Wisconsin. There is a 2,500-acre refuge in the middle of the Crex area and the rest of wildlife area is open to the public. Crex Meadows is home to a wide variety of bird species. Some of the huntable waterfowl include Canada goose, wood duck, mallard, teal, bufflehead, and ring neck duck. Watchable wildlife includes swans, sandhill cranes, loons, eagles, harriers, Phoebes, Flycatchers, red-winged black birds, sharp-tailed grouse and numerous other birds. Crex Meadows was formed by the last ice age. A glacial outwash lake known as Glacial Lake Grantsburg covered the area. The lake bottom left deposits of sand and some gravel that still dominate the ecosystem today. The region is either marsh swamp like Crex or Sand Barrens which run all the way up to the Bayfield Peninsula. During the pioneer days, settlers attempted to drain and plow the Crex area but mostly failed at farming. The Crex Carpet Company harvested the wire grass that grew in the wetlands to make area rugs for homes. They were in business in the 1910s and 1930s. In the 1940s the DNR began to acquire land at Crex and began the process of restoring the former ecosystems. Crex Meadows has a complex system of dikes, dams and ditches that keeps the wetland wet. Crex contains the wire grass bogs, swamps, wild rice beds, and Sand Barrens uplands which are mostly a mix of scrub oak and jack pine.
Over 100,000 people visit Crex each year and only a quarter of that number are there to hunt. The rest are there to view the wildlife. The fall migration is a peak time for human and critter visitors. There is a rest area which is open to camping from September first to December first. That is where my duck camp was set up. To get hunters from the duck camp to the flowages, Crex has an extensive system of sandy roads, a few rough black top roads, and many deeply rutted narrow trails that lead to very primitive spots where a small boat or canoe can be launched into the waters. Driving to many of the launch points was an interesting adventure. The first day of the hunt, I was looking for small protected swamp to hunt as it was extremely windy. One of the roads, I drove on was, as I found out later, a mud bogging spot for the local kids. Fortunately, my Subaru Forester was up to the task of pulling the trailer with the square stern canoe on it through the mess.
After scouting out several locations, I walked into a swamp surrounded by woods. As I quickly discovered, it was full of wood ducks. I snuck through the woods as silently as possible in my waders and secreted myself among some trees and a few cattails. Soon a flight of woodies went by and I splashed a male. Now I was about to get an education on wire grass bogs. As I began wading out to retrieve the duck, I discovered that the wire grass floats is springy when walking on it. I also discovered it’s a big drop to the bottom of the water and muck when the wire grass ends. After 10 feet of wading, I decided I had a good chance of tipping over in this swamp. And figured I would be buried under the grass for at least a millennium. Not desiring to be a found bog man far into the future, I turned around and found a stout stick in the woods and returned to the swamp. The stick made a great wading staff and I was able to make progress towards the duck. As I reached the edge of the weeds and entered the open water where the duck was floating at the bottom dropout out of the muck and the water was only an inch or so from the top of the waders. I decided to look around and try to find a new route to the duck. After standing still for a few minutes I shook, shimmied, and shaked to break free of the muck so I could wade back to the shore and walk around the swamp to a different spot. In the next spot, I discovered several tree branches that were hidden under the floating wire grass that made excellent barriers to wading. With the help of the improved wading stick, I was able to stay upright while getting around these obstacles. Once again, the water got too close to the top of the waders for comfort, so I puzzled on the situation a while and decided on another strategic retreat. This time I went back to my boat and got the 10-foot-long push pole. I also replaced the wading stick with one of the oars from the square stern. This time, I was able to successfully retrieve the duck. The entire operation took about an hour. The sun was vanishing below the horizon as I waded out of the slough for the last time. I headed back to camp to cook a quart of home canned chili and plan the next morning’s hunt.
The next morning, I put out a small spread of mallard and wood duck decoys. And for good luck I placed a couple of Canada honker decoys a little ways away. I had picked out a narrow spot in the same slough as I hunted the previous night. This is when the ducks splashed into the decoys before shooting hours. The morning fly around was very short. I think due to the 30 to 40 mph winds that were blowing so I got only the one wood duck this morning. In the afternoon, I went to one of the bigger lakes and set up on a somewhat wind sheltered spot. Several flights of ducks went by, but my decoy spread and quaking on the call only seemed to make the birds fly faster into the distance.
The next morning, I went back to the same spot as the previous morning. I decided to only set out 3 wood duck decoys. I stationed myself out in the swamp under an overhanging oak tree branch and in some of the half dozen cattails in the area. Shortly after shooting opened, I splashed one Woodie. I decided to let it float until the morning fly around was done. Most of the ducks were flying over the tops of the trees this morning rather than over the water so shooting opportunities were limited. When the action slowed down, I retrieved the first duck. After about an hour of zero ducks flying around, some woodies began to call from the far end of the slough. I answered them with my wood duck call. And after a bit, a flight of Woodies came whistling down the slough and through the narrows. Splash another Woodie. I decided to let it float for a bit and soon enough more woodies began to call so I answered them . And again, another flight whooshed through the narrows. Splash another duck. The limit of woodies is 3 in one day, so I set the scattergun aside and went for another wading adventure amongst the wire grass and muck. After much effort and a bit of colorful language, the ducks were retrieved. It was time to travel back to camp and pack up. It was a great trip. I had 5 woodies, had hit more ducks than missed and got to enjoy the morning songs of swans and sandhill cranes.
Hunting at Crex is definitely hard work and an adventure. Fortunately, the hunting is good, and the place is amazing.
This is another pickled egg recipe that I like to take to deer camp or rendezvous for a quick breakfast or a good evening snack. Pickled eggs are really easy to make, and once the brine is made, it can be restocked with eggs more than once.
12 eggs hard boiled and peeled
1 medium onion coarsely diced
1 teaspoon diced garlic
2 cups vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pickling spices
Mix all ingredients except eggs in a sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Place eggs in sterile jar. Pour brine over the eggs. Place in refrigerator for 48 hours and serve.
I attended a rendezvous recently and I made a couple of batches of pickled eggs. I like to take pickled eggs to events like this or to hunting camp because they make a quick, tasty breakfast. Ya just grab a couple of eggs from the jar and eat them will getting ready for the day’s activities.
12 eggs hard boiled
2 medium beets peeled and sliced
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup sugar ½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Hard boil and peel eggs. If the eggs have aged in the fridge for at least a week, they are much easier to peel. Mix all other ingredient in sauce pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until beets are softened. Cool brine in fridge. Place peeled eggs in sterile jar. Layer beets in with eggs. Pour liquid over top of eggs. Wait at least 48 hours before serving. Store eggs in refrigerator.
I was honored to be an invited reenacator at the Northwoods Rendezvous and Wild Rice Festival on the Mole Lake Reservation. I was able to teach many kids a bit of muzzle loader history and how to load and shoot a caplock and flintlock muzzle loader. I also ran a rifle match and a smooth bore match.