Hunting Camp Cuisine

“What is that stuff?” questioned my cameraman, pointing at a pile of meat that had been placed in front of us.

 

“Shut up and eat!” I replied.

 

“Not till you tell me what kind of meat that is!” demanded my companion. I smiled…all the while thinking if I’m gonna have to eat this, so do you!

 

“Bush meat!” I replied taking a bite and pretending to savor every lip-smacking bite. “Mmmmm, seasoned just right as well. I’m telling you the chef out did himself this time!” I was doing a pretty good job of acting, because all the time I was thinking whatever this was might be the second worst meat I ever tried to eat, ranked second only to ‘possum and sweet potatoes I had tried many years ago in my father-in-law’s cow camp.

“Ain’t gonna do it! I’ve smelled dog and cat food that had a better aroma.” Said my companion shaking his head. “You can have my share! Think I’ll just have some of that hard bread with butter.”

 

I again smiled! Right before he had arrived I had tried the butter. Obviously it was made from goat’s milk, for it tasted the same way an old rutting billy goat smelled.

 

I watched as he tore a piece from the loaf of hard bread, which indeed did taste good (by itself!), and swab it with butter. As he nodded his head, the brim of his hat (a real hat and not a ball cap) hiding his eyes from me, I quickly reached up and spit out the meat I had in my mouth. No sooner had I gotten rid of the horrible tasting meat which was about as tender as a dried piece of mesquite, I heard a loud “YUCK!! What is wrong with this butter?”

 

When I quit laughing I suggested we stick to the hot tea, and partake of a couple of apples and a chocolate bar I had hidden under my bunk. It’s good to be prepared!

 

Over a cup of strong, though delicious coffee the next morning I suggested to our host, he consider letting me take over some of the cooking duties. He didn’t try to talk me out of doing so. I guessed he too had not been overly impressed with the previous evening’s meal.

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I got lucky that morning and took a very nice Coues deer shooting my Ruger American in .270 Win, topped with my Zeiss Conquest and using Hornady 130 grain American Whitetail. After finishing most of our filming and photographing duties. I caped my buck in preparation of sending it to The Wildlife Gallery. Then I pulled the backstraps. I would have liked to have let the deer age at least a couple of days, but there was no time to do so. I cut steaks from the loin; across the grain. I pounded each one with a coffee mug and put them in bowl into which I squeezed the juice of a large lemo, over the top of them. I stirred the bowl until all the individual pieces had “come in contact” with the lemon juice. The lemon would not only help tenderize the meat, but also slightly flavor it.

 

Digging through the coolers I found a gallon of milk. I poured just enough into the bowl to cover the meat, then covered the bowl with aluminum foil and set it into the cooler which still had some ice in it.

 

Earlier while rummaging through the coolers I saw a 3-pound package of salt pork. I found it, cut several thick slices and put them into a cast iron skillet. My purpose was two fold; one I had found a big can of green beans. I wanted to use the bacon to help season them. Secondly I wanted to use the bacon drippings to help fry the venison. I’m a firm believer everything tastes better with bacon!

 

After frying bacon, I cut it into small pieces, put it in another pot along with a very small spoon full of bacon grease. Later I would add the green beans.

 

I’ve hardly ever been in a hunting camp where there were no potatoes and onions. I found both. Soon I had had peeled and sliced three pounds of potatoes. I washed the slices thoroughly in a large pan, then did the same with three fairly large, sliced onions. I filled the pan with water.

 

Going back to the cooler I found several bags of apples and oranges. I cut these in bite-sized pieces and put them in bowl and covered them with some foil before putting them into the cooler with ice…dessert.

 

I found another large cast iron skillet, put it on the wood burning stove, but not before cutting up more bacon, which I cut into small pieces and fried, until it was nearly done. Then I added a bit more grease and after draining the potatoes and onions I put them into the larger skillet, and moved the pan where I was likely over about medium heat. I occasionally stirred the contents. When the potatoes and onions started to “soften” a bit. I started on the backstrap.

 

I found some flour, seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then put the first skillet on the fire. While it was heating I pulled each of the individual steaks out, and dropped them into the flour to lightly coat them. Flour dusted I quickly dropped them into the now hot bacon grease (to which I had added a bit more oil). The moment the bottom sides started browning, I flipped them over and waited. When both sides were browned, careful not to over-cook the venison, I removed them and put them on a platter.

 

While doing this I also poured the green beans into the pot with bacon bits and drippings and heated them. All the while the potatoes and onions were cooking and frying.

 

I put the platter with meat on the edge of the stove to keep it warm, poured the pot of green beans into a large bowl and did the same with the potatoes and onions.

 

I had just finished setting the table with plates and silverware; knife and spoon on the right placed on a napkin, fork on the left. Besides each plate I placed a red Solo Cup, which would serve as our wine glasses for the red wine I had bought once we crossed the border.

 

The other hunters along with my cameraman and our host walked in just as I was finishing up. As they sat down I put the dishes I had prepared on the table.

 

When the group was finished eating, there was one small piece of meat left, no green beans, a table spoon full of potatoes and onions, and no fruit salad. I guessed they liked it.

 

There was one problem however as I started cleaning the table to wash the dishes…they wanted me to be the cook the rest of the hunt. I did agree to help with kitchen duties, but I also hoped to still do some more hunting.

 

I dearly love cooking in hunting camp. I find it great fun and satisfying. One of the reasons too is that almost, and I repeat almost, everything tastes better in hunting camp.

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