New Year’s Day Hunt

Skipping the usual New Year’s eve madness I went to bed early. While everyone was out waiting for the witching hour, I was dreaming of fresh air, mountain vistas, and hopefully, a tasty dinner.

My hunting buddy had a little too much holiday cheer the night before so I found myself driving through the predawn glow alone. The ski traffic was minimal and I pulled off at my destination just north of Idaho Springs. I opened my trunk, threw on my field BOB and shouldered my new gun. I had recently purchased a Westernfield .410 single shot bolt-action and I couldn’t wait to try it out. On my hip was a H&R model 676. Like I said, a gentleman owns more than one suit.

Foothills in JanuaryI had never hunted this area so I picked my way along slowly. All the mania of the modern world melted away as I inhaled the scent of fresh snow and pine trees. The ground was covered in a light snow and the trail petered to nothing. I marched along an ever steepening draw. There was little in the way of sign but plenty of stunning views. I finally picked up the trail of a deer and followed along in her steps. I wasn’t looking for a deer but I couldn’t find anything else to track. I lost her spour along a steep set of boulders and withered little pines.

The morning followed that pattern. Little trail, lots of wandering. Around noon I stopped to rest and warm myself up. There wasn’t much snow here but the air was cold and gusting occasionally. I found a spot down among the boulders where I could stretch out and build a fire. I set up my SOL tarp and made a quick wind break. With the wind stopped and a fire burning it was ideal. I ate a power bar and kicked myself for not bringing more food. I had done so intentionally as motivation to hunt something up for lunch. A small reminder of why we hunt. It’s not to kill. It’s to be tied, body and soul, to the natural world around us. This silly maneuver had failed to settle my appetite.

Making tea in the snow

After some tea and a nap I broke camp. A light snow began to flurry so I turned back for the two hour march to my car. I was a little nervous because the weather at 7,500 feet can be tricky this time of year. I wasn’t doing much hunting and instead was focusing on self extrication lest the snow turn bad. I burst into a little clump of stumpy doug firs and found about a dozen drey’s. The weather wasn’t bad yet so I stopped to look around. No movement, no chatter. I tried every trick I could think of; throwing a rock up into the branches, firing a round off from my pistol, calling them. Nothing worked. I figured the drey’s were either old and abandoned or the weather was too foul for them to come out. I managed to find a set of squirrel tracks some distance from the dreys. I followed them around for bit but still had no luck.

.22 LR case for comparison

.22 LR case for comparison

The snow became heavier so I really started moving. The first hunt of the year was a bust. No matter, I’d rather go home empty than spend the night in a snow cave. Well actually, I wouldn’t mind spending the night in a snow cave but the wife and I had dinner reservations so I thought better of it. I hiked the last hour out and was a few hundred feet from the car. At the bottom of the draw was a big cliff about 30 feet high. The trail led to the bottom of it before veering off to the parking lot. The snow had stopped for a moment and a bright sun illuminated the cliff. As if a sign from the heavens, an explosion of wings emerged from a ledge on the cliff and a dozen rock doves flew into the sky. I froze as they circled up back around. They landed on the open flat space at the base of the cliff to feed during the brief break from the snow. I was still back in the trees and they had no idea I was there. The Westernfield had no magazine so I grabbed more shells from my pocket and held them between my teeth. Creeping to the edge of the clearing I waited for them to bunch up a little. I put a bead halfway between two feeders and squeezed the trigger. The gun popped and they balled up in a halo of feathers. The whole group started to rise in a confusion of flapping wings. I had a live shell in the chamber before the spent one hit the ground. Bang! A third dove dropped to the ground. By now they weren’t disorganized and had flown up together about twenty feet. They got another twenty feet of height and were quartering around to me before I could get another round off. I hit the fourth dove square in the chest before the rest got away. Now the year was off to a proper start.

Rock Doves-Richard Hammack

SHOT Show 2014

SHOT Show 2014 is right around the corner. This year is going to be big. How big? Here’s a little infographic that tells you everything you need to know.

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You read that right, thirteen acres of shooting, hunting, and outdoor products! The Vigorous Chase will be right there giving you all the new information you need. Stay tuned for daily updates coming to you from the show floor as we see what great new gear is coming for 2014!

Spicy Fried Squirrel

Eating fried squirrelFried squirrel is something you just have to try. Don’t let your preconceived notions of hillbillies and Appalachian poverty sway you, fried squirrel is delicious. It’s a quick and simple recipe that will fill your belly with lean, clean meat. No antibiotics, no hormones, no gmo’s. Eating food that lived a life in the wilderness instead of a cage is the most nutritious, ethical way to eat. This recipe is designed to be made in the backwoods. You can hunt all morning and have this recipe for lunch!

Begin by gathering the ingredients for the batter:

1 Cup flour

1 Tablespoon black pepper

2 Tablespoons ground red chili pepper

1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 Teaspoon salt

You will also need:

250mL Milk

100mL Frying oil

A fistful of copper .22LR or steel .410 depending on your weapon of choice.

Premix all the dry ingredients (except the ammo) in a plastic baggie. The most tedious part of the prep is done. It’s time to move this operation to the woods.

Fried squirrel ingredientsThrow the ingredients in your field bug out bag and head for the hills!

My friend Ryan and I were fortunate enough to each harvest three squirrels that morning. We would have limited out in the first hour the hills were so thick with squirrels but we saved our shots for the fattest ones. Always go for a clean head shot, it’s humane and keeps the meat clean. Stay away from lead ammo. Even microscopic amounts of lead can build up over time and cause serious neurological damage.

Get a fire going while you clean and quarter the squirrels. Build the fire up high and let it die into a nice bed of coals.

Pour the oil into a pan, cover it, and let it get hot. You’ll know it’s ready when you put a stick in it and bubbles quickly form around it. Don’t rush, if the oil isn’t hot enough then your squirrel won’t fry right. Put some of the squirrel quarters into the batter baggie and shake it up. Make sure you leave a little bit of batter mix to make gravy with.

Frying squirrelPut the pieces into the pan and cover it. Let it sizzle up real good before you turn the pieces. The trick here is getting the skin crispy but not over cooking and drying it out. This is why the oil needs to be so hot.

Once you’ve fried up the quarters, add what’s left of the batter mix to the oil and make a little gravy. It goes great on the squirrel and makes your bannock into something more. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the bounty that the wilderness provides.

-Richard Hammack

Field Bug Out Bag

Field Bug Out Bag

Have you met my buddy BOB? I have a lot of friends named BOB and this one goes with me when I’m after small game.

The Allen Company makes great hunting equipment and this pack is no exception. The Smart Rig is the platform I use for my small game BOB and it has withstood the test of time. Before you rush out to buy an exact copy I have bad news. It’s the older version of their current Nomad fanny pack. The only difference is a strap of webbing across the front of the Nomad.

This BOB sits on a shelf right next to my desk. Whenever I get a spare afternoon I grab it and go. What’s in it? I’m glad you asked.

Main Pocket

With an 8x10x6″ main compartment, what’s not in it?

Field Bug Out Bag

Hatchet: A Gerber hatchet with a knife in the handle is a must. It makes short work of wood for fire and shelter. It’s incredibly light yet robust and can be used as a maul. The little knife that lives in the handle is a great bonus. It’s sharp, sturdy, and grips like it’s covered in tar.

SOL Pack: The Survive Outdoors Longer pack goes with me everywhere. It’s with every one of my BOB’s.

Paracord: This is the difference between a debris shelter and a hut. It has more uses than can possibly be listed here.

Medical Kit: Steri-Strips with mastisol adhesive, gloves, ABD pads, gauze rolls, needles and syringes, toradol, benadryl, lidocaine, ibuprofen, and tylenol. Personalize your kit to your skill level.

Fixed Blade: A Mora knife forged by Vulcan himself. Mora’s are among the best survival knives out there. The handle doesn’t slip even if covered in blood or water. The edge is scary sharp and stays that way no matter how you abuse it.

Ammo: Without it your gun is just a nifty club.

Light: A headlamp and a small flashlight make camp easier to navigate in the night. I also have a glowstick if the batteries fail.

Multitool: The difference between dying naked and alone in an uncaring wilderness and having a nice day hunting often revolves around tool use. Get one, learn how to use it, thrive.

Marking Tape: Can be used to flag trails if the GPS fails. I also use it to mark traps if I’m running a line.

Front Pocket

Field Bug Out Bag

Document Holder: A gentleman doesn’t toss his license and ID around his bag. Keep it protected and stylish in case.

Hand Warmers: After fleshing the hide, plunge your hands into an icy stream to clean up. When your hands get numb, pull them out and crack open some of these.

Power Bars: Your body wants carbs and protein. Do what it says.

Notebook and Pen: For writing your notes and recollections. Also useful as a fire source. If you haven’t prepared well, save the last page for something to scratch an incoherent farewell on as the darkness closes in.

Hand Sanitizer: Washing up before supper was never so easy. Also highly flammable and makes a city slicker fire in no time. This one is wrapped with foam tape. It makes blisters disappear.

Hide kit: A handy kit to preserve small animal hides in the field. Scalpel, gloves, towelettes, salt, tissue paper.

Side Zipper Pocket

Camera: As the internet adage goes, “pix, or it didn’t happen”.

Binoculars: Sometimes telling a Eurasian Collared from a Morning Dove isn’t easy. Avoid confusion and fines by using some lightweight optics like these Tasco’s.

Chapstick: We get so much radiation here it’s crazy. Sunburned lips are lame.

Open Pocket

Water bottle: The key to dedication is better motivation through constant hydration.

Trashbag: What? Are you gonna put a bunch of animal hides and meat in your pocket? Don’t be a heathen and use a bag.

Belt

The belt is made of webbing and holds the pack fast.

Pistol: Sometimes I don’t even bring a rifle. I don’t have to think before hitting the trail because this H&R Model 676 is always strapped to the side.

GPS: Use them while you can.

Skinner: A little skinner to make quick work of your harvest.

The exterior of this bag is soft and quiet as you move through the brush. Mossy Oak pattern works where I live all the time. I throw this around my waist and a camel bag on my back and I’m gone for a while. Put together a BOB for the field and make the transition from home to hunt a snap.

-Richard Hammack