Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Thursday, December 25, 2014
The shortest day of the year found us up in the wolf country and off the grid where time literally stood still during a three day stay. The forest seemed absolutely desolate and devoid of any activity and the meager snow pack rapidly slumped into slush, as warm fog and drizzle shrouded the whole country in gloomy dimness.
No birds came to the feeders. Neither grouse nor hare appeared. No whiskey jacks nor ravens. Not bird call one. Only silence and a wintery mix.
A fitting state of grey for the end of another busy year.
Finally on the third day there was some sign of life written in the snow, as we went for a hike into a little beaver pond not far from the cabin. Four wolves had emerged onto the trail and gone ahead of us toward the pond, but then peeled off to the northeast as we broke out of the spruces and into the open meadow that surrounded the beavers' labors.
One track of a white tail buck was there and a few from some snowshoe hare. A weasel has crossed the trail as well. But that was the extent of any animal movement.
We had left the dogs in the cabin, suspecting that we might encounter their grey brothers.
Late in the day a great grey owl perched atop an aging aspen.
All was grey save Blondie as a damp Mrs Claus
Monday, December 15, 2014
Damn, I have forgotten how good a taste of ruffed grouse can be.
A decent descriptor of pathetic shooting prowess
But then there was never a really good opportunity
At least that's my story
Two shots too far at a bird that flew down the trail center
Two shots at a bird behind the balsam screen
One shot at a too close, weird angled, up and behind the back twister
Perhaps there was no lead in the little shells
Seven birds in the birch and spruce boughs
Craning their necks to decifer a three dog risk
No shooting at the thought of retriever pieces
And then finally a duck gun Hail Mary
driving down the black top
returning from the morning flight
sunburned face and aching shoulders
rowing hard to beat the compition
outboard motor failure
"there's a bird"
"right there on the shoulder"
"didn't you see it"
"it was right there"
didn't see it
"you want it"
Twelve gauge and steel number twos
huff and puff a couple hundred yards back up the road ditch
no bird on the shoulder
are you sure there was a bird
go ahead another twenty-five yards
flush at about fifty
shoot and miss
pull a lead and shoot again
down like a freakin' shuttle cock!
Between passes and misses
the kill stands at about 5 %
pretty good year for the grouse
One grouse lightly shot (one #2 steel center punched)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup reconstituted dried morel mushrooms
dredge: 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon seasoned salt, 1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium/ low heat
Split the grouse lengthwise and remove the legs
Dredge the bird heavily in the flour mixture
Drop dredged bird into hot fat and brown for about five minutes, turning once
Reduce heat and add shallots - simmer for two minutes
Add the morels and the excess reconstitution water
Cover and slowly simmer for one hour
check occasionally to avoid bird sticking to bottom of the pan and add water as needed to produce a thick gravy.
All that is left, is to marvel at how incredibly delicious this little bird is- and wonder if the nineteen that got away will be around next season?
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Loons are a fixture of the north country and have attained a revered status here in Minnesota's lake region. They arrive early in spring, usually showing up on the very day that the ice goes out. After mating, nesting, and rearing one or two offspring, the adults migrate south in September to the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the youngsters don't go with them. Somehow these newly fledged birds cluster in large numbers on the states largest lakes and then fly en mass to their wintering grounds just ahead of freeze up, sometimes not returning for another year and a half. This past fall during the first week of November, I saw hundreds of young-of-the-year loons on Big Winnie. Minnesota has more loons (est. 12,000) than any other state except Alaska.
Not so rarely, loons get into trouble with fishing lines and lures, landing on highways in rainy weather, poisoned by ingesting lead head jigs, and in the case of the story below - missing the bus to get the hell out of here before winter sets in.
Once in awhile the old Curmudgeon actually grins, and this story from the backyard did it, but I fear the young loon faces a steep curve toward recovery. Check this out........... and stay tuned.