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Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Deer of Season (Blog Fifty-two)

Saturday while hunting the last day of West Virginia's early muzzleloader season, I killed my first deer of the season - a mature and very hefty Mason County doe.  Normally when I kill a deer, it is because I have done extensive scouting and pondered where and when to take a stand.

This time, however, I must give thanks to Chris Walls of Cross Lanes and his dad Morris who lives near Beckley.  Chris, director of public relations for the Warner Law Offices in Charleston and who also operates Beyond the Backyard, a popular program for youth interested in the outdoors, made the initial contact of the Mason County landowner who owned the property.  And then Morris scouted out the property before I arrived and instructed me where to set up.

Next month, I hope to repay the favor to the father and son team when I take them turkey hunting in Monroe County on opening day of the fall season.  When folks go out of the way to help a fellow hunter be successful, it is the least that we can do to repay that kindness.  I'll let you know next month how we did.

Meanwhile, Elaine and I spent much of Saturday night and Sunday afternoon turning the whitetail into packages of venison for the winter.  For the first time, Elaine canned some venison (picture below) which we have heard makes for great soups.  And tomorrow, I will have venison heart sandwiches (whole wheat bread, hard cheddar cheese, brown bread) for my school day lunch.

For more information:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wild Black Walnuts (Blog Fifty-one)

This afternoon I gathered wild black walnuts from a tree that grows in our woods.  Last September and October, I neglected to forage for these nuts and spent the rest of the fall and winter regretting it.

Walnuts, especially the ones that grow wild, have a taste like no other nut.  To be sure, I enjoy eating domestic walnuts, often having them in my morning oatmeal.  But the nutmeat of the wild variety has an intensity all its own.  Indeed, it is almost as if one wild black walnut has twice the, well, nuttiness, the heartiness of flavor, jammed into it that two domestic walnuts would.

In a month or two, after the walnuts season for a while, I will remove the outer husks (while wearing gloves of course) taking care not to let them stain my clothes or hands.  Then I will wait another week or two, then remove the shells.

The remaining nutmeat will be used to season persimmon bread, paw paw pudding, and of course my oatmeal.  Elaine will also use the nutmeat for her other homemade breads.

Other wild nuts taste great, for example the ones from mockernut and shagbark hickories especially, but none can compare to the black walnut.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Praise of the Western Virginia Land Trust (Blog Fifty)

Next Sunday, Elaine and I will be at the annual September meeting of the Western Virginia Land Trust where I will be doing a benefit book signing, donating $2.50 off every book sold to the WVLT.  A canoe trip on the James River with me will also be auctioned as part of a fundraiser.

It always makes me nervous to be "auctioned off," as my fear is that no one will bid for my services.  Of course, nothing, I would guess, could be worse, auction-wise, than to be a male or female being auctioned off as a date and have no one bid on an evening with you. 

Still, I am always relieved when, after the bidding concludes, someone comes up to me and informs that they are the lucky winners of a canoe outing with me.  We exchange phone numbers and e-mails and tentatively plan an excursion for the following summer.

The WVLT is an outstanding organization that does wonderful work  by saving rural land through conservation easements.  Elaine and I have placed 392 acres in Craig County under conservation easements and we are very glad that we have done so. 

For more information on the WVLT and the benefits of conservation easements:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Preparing for Bow Season(Blog Forty-nine)

September is the month when the impending arrival of bow season for deer takes on a sense of urgency.  I begin practicing with my Matthews Switchback every year on or around July 4.  But in the ninth month, other preparatory acts begin as well.

Yesterday, I went to a Botetourt County cattle farm where I have permission to bowhunt and placed stand steps in a hardwood.  That particular tree grows in a place where deer activity is heavy every October when Virginia's season begins.  The spot is both a natural funnel and where a grove of white and red oaks have been thinned so that only the best mast producers still stand.

I should see plenty of whitetails there next month.  Whether I kill one or not is really up to my skills and whether a deer happens to come into range.

This morning I practiced with broadheads on my arrows, saving the ones that flew accurately and culling one that did not.  Later this week, I will check tree stands, safety harnesses, and do some more scouting in places where I have permission to be afield.

I will also make a list of every item that I will be taking afield on my first bowhunt.  One can't start too soon to be ready for opening day.