My last duck hunt of the winter

Had a fun week last week. The owner of Knives of Alaska, Charles Allen, called me a while back and asked me if I’d be interested in helping him do a project in which we’d bone out a wagyu steer, a hog and a deer.

But let me back up. I approached him years ago about producing a boning knife for the outdoorsman.

Last year, he called me and told me that he had made one and wanted to send me a prototype to test, review and suggest improvements on. He sent me the prototype to work with. We made one little tweak and it was ready to roll. Due to COVID-19 it took a minute to get a sheath made but we were now in the saddle which brought up this project.

In the meantime, “The High Road With Keith Warren” crew was brought into the mix and before long it had turned into a huge project. Keith, his daughter, Matti Tackett, and photographer, Johnny Piazza, were soon rolling up to the gate at Charles’s ranch in Texas and we all met up. We were going to bone out all of the animals and produce what I think turned out to be the best big-game cooking show ever. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

But, in the meantime, this article is about duck hunting. We were going to duck hunt Tuesday and Wednesday morning along with the four-day processing/cooking project. I used to duck hunt a bit but don’t get to much anymore. In fact, for whatever reason I don’t get to shoot my shotgun much anymore compared to used to. I used to shoot a lot but not the last few years and it showed. My shooting was horrible. In fact, embarrassing. To make matters worse, I was in a blind close to Charles who, to the best of my knowledge, has never missed a duck! (Or is close to that status.)

But despite my embarrassing shooting skills it was a great hunt. The first morning the sun peeked over the horizon to find us on a small lake off of the Trinity River bottom. Charles had buried some septic tanks and improvised them into blinds. A few days before, I don’t want to say it flash flooded but it had come a torrential downpour and dislodged the blinds. Charles suggested waiting three to four days to proceed but all of us already had plane tickets and projects right after this one so despite hurting our duck hunting it was set in stone.

The first morning the shooting was semi slow but I still should have had eight ducks. I only ended up killing — well… I’m not telling how many but you could count them on one finger. Matti won the outstanding shot of the day award. A jet flew over at 32,000 feet and she had to let the jet get out of the way so she could make her shot. I figure that he was about 40,000 feet high.

But despite my horrible shooting it was great to get out. Gee, I love sun-up in the outdoors. It was a bluebird day so when the sun peeked over the horizon and the sun rays skipped across the water it was gorgeous.

About 10 a.m. we headed to the lodge to clean birds, eat a great breakfast that Charles’ wife Jody had whipped out and start filming.

Charles is a big-time waterfowl hunter and had been bummed about the recent flooding which had dispersed the birds. They were coming back and he’d seen I believe he said 150 down on his flooded timber area which is what we hunted Wednesday morning.

Wednesday morning we got up, slammed down a cup of coffee and had a few slices of bread that Jody had baked and took off in the dark. It was overcast and we had intermittent sprinkling, perfect duck weather. Charles was wanting us to have a good hunt so I could tell that he was more optimistic.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason the ducks weren’t flying and if I remember correctly, we only got a few. Well, time to go back to the lodge, eat and then hit ram speed and get to work.

If you’ve never got to duck hunt much you have to try it out. It can be addictive. Especially if you have a good set-up. The first couple of years you need to hunt with an experienced hunter so you can learn how to lay out your spread, call, etc.

Ducks are tough birds and have thick feathers. If you’re shooting mallards cupped up and landing on top of you or if you’re a good shot you can get by using a 20 gauge. And I did for years as a kid but I’d suggest you get a 12 gauge With a 3-inch chamber.

A lot of people have a bad view of eating ducks but Charles cooked up some Wednesday night that were the best that I have ever had. He said the secret is not to over cook them. Maybe someday I can get him to share his recipe.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Make an outdoors new year’s resolution

I don’t want to say that hunting — and — fishing has eternal consequences but since most people are going to break their new year’s resolutions let’s at least make some temporal outdoor New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s why I say this and am writing this article. I meet a million people every year that in talking to me tell me that they used to hunt a lot as a kid, used to fish a lot until they had kids, used to elk hunt a lot until their buddies moved/died and on and on the list goes. Or it may be as simple as you just moved to Idaho and don’t know where to hunt/fish anymore. But whatever the scenario, let’s make plans to get you back in the outdoors.

I’m a believer that if something is the right thing to do, then do it right now. So with that said, let’s get started.

JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH

ICE FISHING — Ice fishing is relatively inexpensive. Buy an auger, few ice fishing rods, jigs, bait, hole scooper and you’re good to go. As you get more into it, you’ll want a gas auger.

SNOWSHOEING — Great way to get up in the mountains and hike around. There are groomed trails or you can go hit the trails in your elk hunting haunts. And for sure throw in the fixings to build a fire and heat up some hot chocolate.

COUGAR HUNTING — You can try to call one in but your chances are better if you hunt with dogs.

VARMINT HUNTING — Winter varmint hunting is great fun. Buy a FoxPro electronic call. You’ll also want some Montana Decoys.

WOLF HUNTING — As is the popular saying, kill a wolf and save 52 deer/elk per year.

SET HOME AND COMPLAIN ABOUT THE COLD — Not an option.

APRIL/MAY/JUNE

(Seasons start and stop during these three months, check the regs.)

TURKEY HUNTING — Turkey hunting is a big deal in Idaho. You’ll want to get a good call like a 4-Play Turkey Call, Montana Decoys and HEVI-Shot turkey loads.

BEAR HUNTING — I love bear hunting. Idaho has some awesome bear hunting. To get a big bruiser it’s best to put in for one of the draws.

CRAPPIE FISHING — To hear/read the Southern boys talk you’d think that they had the corner on crappie fishing. Not so. We have unbelievable crappie fishing here in Idaho/Oregon. Me and a buddy will get well over 200 every trip when things get hot and that’s in only five to seven hours of fishing.

MUSHROOM HUNTING — If you ask why I listed mushroom hunting then you’ve never eaten a morel. They’re the best fungi in the world, second only to the truffle in England.

JULY/AUGUST (Finally summer has hit in the mountains.)

BACKPACKING — What’s cooler than backpacking? You’re in the coolest country that God ever made, fishing/hiking and having a blast.

FLY FISHING — I know, many of you flyfish year-round but now you can get up in the high country. The season actually opens Labor Day but back where I go you can’t get there until after July 4.

HUCKLEBERRIES/THIMBLE BERRIES — Wild berries are the best, whether you’re eating them as fast as you pick them, making jam or homemade ice cream. You just can’t go wrong if a huckleberry is involved!

RAFTING — Idaho is the No. 1 whitewater rafting state. I’ve still got to line up a three- to five-day backcountry fly fishing rafting trip. My buddies catch a million fish.

FOUR-WHEELING — You live in Idaho. Buy a four-wheeler! There are 50,000,000 trails. Four-wheeling is a blast. P.S. Be careful. I’ve flipped a four-wheeler a couple of times and it never turned out to be a pleasant experience.

SEPTEMBER

BOW HUNTING — Actually bowhunting opens the end of August but anymore I wait until the second or third week of September when it gets cool and the elk start bugling.

GROUSE HUNTING — Grouse hunting is a good excuse to get up in the mountains and scout for elk/deer before season.

BACKCOUNTRY FLY FISHING — I’m a big bowhunter but the last five to eight years I find myself more and more fly fishing in the backcountry until the first of September. Everyone else is hunting and I have the rivers to myself. Water levels have dropped, fish are congregated and I drill them. What more can you ask for?

ANTELOPE HUNTING — I love antelope hunting. They’re a cool animal. The only thing bad is that you have to put in for a draw to get a tag.

MOOSE HUNTING — I’m sunk. I’ve already killed my lifetime cow and bull moose but moose hunting is the best. They are huge animals and will require some serious packing out. Put in for a draw and you’ll have plenty of meat for the upcoming year.

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMBER (Showtime! Big game season is in full swing. This is why we live in Idaho.)

DEER, ELK, BEAR, BIG HORN, GOAT, WOLF HUNTING — Idaho is at her finest and is shining in all of her splendor!

WATERFOWL HUNTING — Many hunters live for waterfowl hunting. It can provide high speed fun shooting.

I am way out of room but Idaho has a million more activities to offer than I’ve listed above. Sorry if I didn’t get to list your favorite activity but the editor has turned off the ink and is shutting me down. I didn’t even get to talk about putting in for drawings. We’re over blessed here in Idaho.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Prepare to meet thy doom (not really)

OK, maybe I’m being a little bit of a drama queen with this title but it is winter and I’m sitting inside typing this article and there is a skiff of snow outside. Not that many years ago, winter was looked upon as a time that many wouldn’t survive. I think the further away from agriculture we get as a society the more we lose touch with reality.

Think about why I say that last sentence. Winters are tough on livestock. If you lost the family milk cow you were in trouble. If it was a long winter and you didn’t have enough hay stored up you were in trouble. If a wet cold spring hits during calving season and you have lost a lot of newborn calves, you’re sunk.

I think outdoorsmen are tied in close enough to nature to understand the above even if they don’t run livestock. They see how deep snows can be devastating on the deer and elk herds. Life/death in the outdoors is so weather dependent.

So up until not that many decades ago the above was the view held concerning winter. In old writings winter was written about with a foreboding aura. But a few decades ago, something changed and now many people can’t wait for winter to hit. There are now all kinds of outdoor activities to enjoy. Let’s list a few. Ice fishing, varmint hunting, cougar hunting, snowshoeing, skiing, trapping, snowmobiling and even winter camping. Many people look forward to cross country skiing to a backcountry yurt.

What caused the shift in views the last 30 years as compared to that of previous history? I think it can be summed up in two things:

• Better clothing

• Multiple warming methods

You may argue with me and say Tom, the reason I go out is because of the advent of snowmobiles, etc. I’d have to argue though that if it weren’t for warm clothing a lot of these inventions would have had no necessity because no one could get out. So, since we can now brave the cold better than any previous time in history smart manufacturers are inventing more cool toys.

Sure, old mountain men went out in the wilds trapping and living in cabins and skiing and snowshoeing have been around for centuries but not to the magnitude that they are now. Make sense?

So, with all of the above said what clothing do you need to brave the wilds in Idaho? I’m going to get basic because we have a lot of new people moving to Idaho. To begin, you’ll want to wear what we call a base layer. In the cowboy days they called them long handles. But they were made of cotton. You want a moisture wicking base layer. If we’re outdoors we want to be active which means you’ll be sweating. When you stop, you’ll get chilled. You might as well have fallen in a river because you’ll encounter the same effects. I use XGO. You’ll want them made out of polypropylene, silk, wool or something of that nature.

For pants, wear something water resistant. I’d rather it be in the low 20’s than right at freezing. Otherwise, if you’re bird hunting and getting in and out of a truck your pants legs will thaw then freeze, repeat and be like wearing irrigation pipes. Wool shirts are great.

For a coat don’t wear one big Grizzly Adams type of coat. Dress in layers, maybe a fleece jacket and a lined shell over it. That way if you’re snowshoeing and get a little warm you can peel off one layer and not pull off your only coat resulting in two options — hot or freezing. Also don’t buy waist-length coats. Longer coats are a lot warmer.

SOCKS

Same with base layering, get moisture wicking socks. There are a lot of good options for hiking socks.

And for sure wear waterproof insulated boots. When the deeper snows hit, wear high-top boots so snow doesn’t go over the top (curse of all curses). Also wear gaiters which will prevent this.

WARNING

Remember — COTTON KILLS! Cotton holds moisture. Don’t wear cotton clothing.

The experts tell us that 95% of our heat loss is on our head. If your head is not adequately covered blood vessels are only skin deep and you will lose heat. Wear a balaclava and a good toboggan. NEVER buy a coat or jacket without a hood. Even on a light coat a hood keeps the wind from zooming down your neck. It also keeps snow/rain from doing the same.

I always wear a cap. With the hood over the cap even in rain my face doesn’t get wet and it keeps my glasses semi dry.

GLOVES

Buy some good gloves. Waterproof. Also think about glove liners. But you don’t want them super tight. Semi loose so it doesn’t prevent good circulation. And get gloves with long sleeves.

HEATING AIDS

There are a lot of external heat sources. Hot pads that last for 4-6 hours, rechargeable boot inserts and propane tent heaters. For your snowmobile/four-wheelers they have hand covers and hand heaters that are a life saver when zipping around.

Uggh! I feel like I am barely getting started and we are out of room. Check out some of these options and be safe. Don’t set by the fire this winter, get out and have fun.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Cool new items for rifles, shotguns

Soon after getting married, Katy told me that I was the eternal tightwad. I told her that I wasn’t a tightwad, I was just thrifty. She puts her hands on her hips and says, “Well, you’ve carried it to a new level.”

I told her I didn’t have much as a kid and learned to get by with what I had. She informed me that I was no longer a kid and I had a real job, a good job and I needed to loosen up some.

So with the above said, there are some items on the market that can make working on your guns a lot simpler. Let’s cover a few of those items. Up until … OK, maybe 10 years ago, anytime I was going to clean a rifle or mount a scope I’d pile some blankets on the kitchen table to cradle my rifle. Needless to say, that didn’t provide for a very stable work station.

When mounting a scope, it is not conducive to obtaining good results if the rifle slips and bounces off the table. Ditto with the scope. You need something firm and steady holding your rifle. Same when cleaning your guns.

The ultimate tool to solve the above problems is the Otis Elite Range Box. It is like a giant tackle box. Remove the top and put the two forks in place to cradle your rifle. Now you’re ready to work. Another big feature is that it has ample room to store all of your cleaning patches, oils, solvents and tools. On the side of the forks are slots to hold your cleaning rods. I love these boxes for cleaning my rifles/shotguns and for mounting scopes or working on them. You can also carry it to the gun range. After you get one you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.

Another important thing is a stable bench to shoot off of. Ninety percent of the time I go out on the prairies to do my shooting/sighting in my rifles and shotguns. That way I don’t have to work around anyone at the gun range and hold them up or vice versa. But one benefit that a gun range has is that they have a steady bench and seat.

For a few years I shot off the tailgate. Then I started taking a chair and then I really moved up and for years used a card table and chair and piled blankets/coats on the table to rest my rifle on. Still not the ultimate.

Replace the blankets with range bags. It seems for every different gun that you need a little bit different of elevation to get comfortable so get a variety of bags to accommodate your different needs.

Now I use a Caldwell Stable Table. It is a collapsible table and seat. It is durable and easy to slap up or fold-up and store at home. It’s handy.

Another item that came out years ago was the Caldwell Lead Sled. It was a device that held your rifle so you could shoot and it wouldn’t kick you as bad. This is a big deal if you’re shooting a lot of rifles or big bore guns. If you’re flinching then you can’t get good groups. To reduce recoil, you lay lead shot bags on the sled, hence the name Lead Sled.

But a couple of years ago Caldwell came out with their Hydro Sled. It has a reservoir that you fill with water to give it weight which reduces recoil. I use it now instead of my Lead Sled.

If I’ve got many rifles to sight in, I always take my sled. If not, by the time I get two to three new rifles sighted in it is hard not to flinch which prevents me from obtaining decent groups.

But where I really got to loving my Lead Sled was years ago. I was doing an article for Bass Pro Shop on the best turkey loads and had to sample a ton of different turkey loads. You want to talk about getting pounded! Go shoot a couple of boxes of 3 ½-inch HEVI Shot ga. Turkey loads. That will make you cry Uncle. But with my Caldwell Lead Sled, no problemo.

SUMMARY

So to ease your pains when mounting a scope, putting a red dot scope on your shotgun, cleaning your rifle/shotgun or just to keep all of your cleaning supplies and gun tools organized, get a range box.

To provide a stable rest for sighting in your rifles, patterning your shotguns and seeing what your gun is actually capable of shooting, invest in a Caldwell Stable Table and some bench bags.

Then if you want to go all out and hit the next level you might want to check out these two items.

1. Caldwell Ballistic Precision Target Camera. The younger techie crowd will like this. With the app and using your cell phone it allows you to observe where your bullet hits the target.

2. Caldwell Chronograph to measure bullet speeds. These are an aid to tell you your reloading results. I like to know how fast my airguns fly, when I start losing accuracy or performance etc.

SECOND SUMMARY

As Katy would say, “Boys and their toys.”

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Cool new aids for rifles, shotguns

Soon after getting married, Katy told me that I was the eternal tightwad. I told her that I wasn’t a tightwad, I was just thrifty. She puts her hands on her hips and says, “Well, you’ve carried it to a new level.”

I told her I didn’t have much as a kid and learned to get by with what I had. She informed me that I was no longer a kid and I had a real job, a good job and I needed to loosen up some.

So with the above said, there are some items on the market that can make working on your guns a lot simpler. Let’s cover a few of those items. Up until … OK, maybe 10 years ago, anytime I was going to clean a rifle or mount a scope I’d pile some blankets on the kitchen table to cradle my rifle. Needless to say, that didn’t provide for a very stable work station.

When mounting a scope, it is not conducive to obtaining good results if the rifle slips and bounces off the table. Ditto with the scope. You need something firm and steady holding your rifle. Same when cleaning your guns.

The ultimate tool to solve the above problems is the Otis Elite Range Box. It is like a giant tackle box. Remove the top and put the two forks in place to cradle your rifle. Now you’re ready to work. Another big feature is that it has ample room to store all of your cleaning patches, oils, solvents and tools. On the side of the forks are slots to hold your cleaning rods. I love these boxes for cleaning my rifles/shotguns and for mounting scopes or working on them. You can also carry it to the gun range. After you get one you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.

Another important thing is a stable bench to shoot off of. Ninety percent of the time I go out on the prairies to do my shooting/sighting in my rifles and shotguns. That way I don’t have to work around anyone at the gun range and hold them up or vice versa. But one benefit that a gun range has is that they have a steady bench and seat.

For a few years I shot off the tailgate. Then I started taking a chair and then I really moved up and for years used a card table and chair and piled blankets/coats on the table to rest my rifle on. Still not the ultimate.

Replace the blankets with range bags. It seems for every different gun that you need a little bit different of elevation to get comfortable so get a variety of bags to accommodate your different needs.

Now I use a Caldwell Stable Table. It is a collapsible table and seat. It is durable and easy to slap up or fold-up and store at home. It’s handy.

Another item that came out years ago was the Caldwell Lead Sled. It was a device that held your rifle so you could shoot and it wouldn’t kick you as bad. This is a big deal if you’re shooting a lot of rifles or big bore guns. If you’re flinching then you can’t get good groups. To reduce recoil, you lay lead shot bags on the sled, hence the name Lead Sled.

But a couple of years ago Caldwell came out with their Hydro Sled. It has a reservoir that you fill with water to give it weight which reduces recoil. I use it now instead of my Lead Sled.

If I’ve got many rifles to sight in, I always take my sled. If not, by the time I get two to three new rifles sighted in it is hard not to flinch which prevents me from obtaining decent groups.

But where I really got to loving my Lead Sled was years ago. I was doing an article for Bass Pro Shop on the best turkey loads and had to sample a ton of different turkey loads. You want to talk about getting pounded! Go shoot a couple of boxes of 3 ½-inch HEVI Shot ga. Turkey loads. That will make you cry Uncle. But with my Caldwell Lead Sled, no problemo.

SUMMARY

So to ease your pains when mounting a scope, putting a red dot scope on your shotgun, cleaning your rifle/shotgun or just to keep all of your cleaning supplies and gun tools organized, get a range box.

To provide a stable rest for sighting in your rifles, patterning your shotguns and seeing what your gun is actually capable of shooting, invest in a Caldwell Stable Table and some bench bags.

Then if you want to go all out and hit the next level you might want to check out these two items.

1. Caldwell Ballistic Precision Target Camera. The younger techie crowd will like this. With the app and using your cell phone it allows you to observe where your bullet hits the target.

2. Caldwell Chronograph to measure bullet speeds. These are an aid to tell you your reloading results. I like to know how fast my airguns fly, when I start losing accuracy or performance etc.

SECOND SUMMARY

As Katy would say, “Boys and their toys.”

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

How to make the best turkey stew

As a grade-school kid, I’d read the Fur-Fish-Game magazine and dream of being a mountain man. No, read probably isn’t the right word. Devour would be the correct word. I’d read the articles about the old trappers up in Canada and of their lifestyles. In summer they’d go out in the woods, build a cabin, pack in supplies, cut a winter’s worth of firewood and then when the winter snows hit, they’d slap on a pair of snowshoes and set a trapline. They’d trap all winter and come out in the spring and sell their hides, which they’d scraped and stretched on the long winter nights in the cabin.

In junior high with my paper route earnings I bought some of the old A.R. Harding books that were advertised in FFG. In some of the books the old timers would talk about processing their moose, which would provide their meat for the upcoming winter. But they also made a big deal out of saving the bones, which they’d boil down to make broths and stews. You can visualize how they made their stew.

At daylight before they took off to run their traplines they’d load up a Dutch oven with moose bones, canned vegetables and snow and put it on the fireplace. After running their trapline all day they’d come home at dusk to a hot pot of stew.

Then nine or 10 years ago, I was helping a store up in Haines, Alaska, during the Canadian Thanksgiving spree. One day a young lady pulled up to the back of the store and asked if we could cut up her moose bones for her to make stew. We shrugged our shoulders and said sure. She opened her van and there was a whole moose carcass in back laying on a tarp. She took all of the cut-up bones back to her cabin to make stews and broths for the winter.

So, I guess these backdrops are what prompted me to save the bones/fat off of our Thanksgiving turkey and try to make a stew. Boy, am I glad that I did. Turkey stew has now come to be almost as enjoyable as eating the actual turkey itself. Plus, it’s super easy to make.

Ever since, I’ve been making turkey stew but I doubt that I’ve ever used the same recipe. I’ll list out a general list of ingredients that I use but feel free to improvise to your family’s liking. I suppose that you can throw in pretty much anything on up to the proverbial kitchen sink.

Here’s how I make it. I’ll throw in the turkey bones/fat, sliced potatoes, squash, tomato, onion and, for sure, cilantro. Cilantro is a key ingredient. I also slice up one to two jalapenos to add a little spice and then garlic, salt and pepper. I go light on the salt and let everyone add what they prefer when served.

There’s nothing sacred about following my exact recipe. Tweak it to what sounds good to you or what ingredients that you have handy. Cook until the vegetables are done. You won’t believe how good it is.

Maybe I’m too much of a mountain man/cowboy but it tastes best when cooked in a Lodge Dutch oven. For cooking at home, I use a Dutch oven without legs. They’re easier to use on the stove top or in the oven without legs.

I know you’re thinking that there has to be more to it than this. Nope, it’s that simple.

So when you carve up a turkey don’t throw away the bones and fat. Bag them up and freeze them so you can later make some turkey stew. Even on a smaller turkey you’ll have enough scraps to make two batches and can stretch it out to three to four batches on a large bird.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and take a moment to give thanks for all of your many blessings. It always improves my outlook on life when I focus on all the blessings I have instead of the one or two things that I don’t have.

Sidenote: FFG is still going strong. In fact, I have an article in the November issue which is currently on the shelves. If you want to check out some of the old A.R. Harding books contact FFG or look on pages 40 and 44 in the current issue.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Going into Idaho’s outdoors country? Sometimes you’re gonna get stuck

If you’re going to get into good country, sometimes you’re going to get stuck. It’s not a maybe, it’s only a when. Let me throw out one disclaimer first. When you finally get your first four-wheel-drive truck, you erroneously think that you’re bulletproof. Newsflash — you’re not. Just because you have a four-wheel-drive doesn’t mean that you can’t get stuck so be prudent. I’ve heard it said, drive like you have a two wheel drive, that way you don’t jump all in and get hopelessly stuck.

When you really get in trouble is when you drive too aggressively and get in too far, and then it’s really hard to get you out.

So enough theory. What’s the moral of this article? You’re going to get stuck once in a while, so how do we get out?

The curse of all curses is when you high center. That’s when the snow or dirt is up against the body of your truck. Not good. What you’ll have to do in this scenario is jack up your rig and put some rocks in the ruts and under the wheels. If no rocks are handy then use sticks and limbs. Anything to get your truck to set up higher.

To be able to do this you need to carry a Handyman jack. A little hydraulic jack usually is nonfunctional. You’re buried in the mud so you can’t get the hydraulic jack slipped in under the truck and even if you can you’re on a soft base. If there is enough clearance you might be able to put a rock under the jack. Just carry a Handyman jack.

With a Handyman jack, you can put the lip under the bumper or whatever is stout enough to lift your truck and lift it up. Don’t get under anything as the ground under the jack will likely be muddy and slippery and it can shoot out and drop the truck.

I always carry a few quarter-inch bolts and nuts because laying in the bed of my truck and bouncing around the bolt holding on the jack handle is always getting lost. Many times the jack gets rusty and won’t function. Keep a quart of oil in your truck which you should do anyway and pour a little on the jack mechanism to lubricate it up so it’s functional.

You also need to keep a shovel in back of your truck. That way you can dig out some of the snow and mud that is causing you to high center. I don’t carry one but I’ve also thought that a hoe would be beneficial in a lot of circumstances. I used to worry about someone stealing the gear out of the back of my truck but most of the kids in town are little yuppies now and don’t even know what a shovel and a Handyman jack are. And the ones that do are farm and ranch kids and are decent enough so they won’t steal them.

Always carry a chain. You’ll need it so someone can pull you out or so you can pull out some other poor soul. You can also pull trees off the trail if one is blocking you in. And while speaking of trees blocking the road, for sure carry an axe and it’s best to have a chain saw.

Think about it a minute. You see a lot of blown over trees while hunting, right? That happens behind you sometimes when you go down a trail, too. Speaking of, one time we had hiked down a trail in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area while fly fishing. I’d backpacked in and set up a camp back in there a few miles. That morning my nephew Tom and I had hiked downstream fishing. Later when we were fishing back to camp we found a 20-foot log, about 2.5 feet in diameter laying dead center in the trail. It had rolled down the mountain and landed in the trail. Glad we weren’t there when that happened.

Same can happen behind you when you drive in on a trail. One time on a spring bear hunt Ed Sweet and I drove into an area. Going in we noticed a crack down the middle of the road. The downhill side had dropped about 1 inch. Coming out it had now dropped 2 inches. Not good. You don’t want that to sluff off and slide down the mountain. Hate to be a weenie but Mercedes and I got out and let him drive over that spot alone!

A lot of people have winches on their four-wheelers but not too many people do on their trucks. If you do, they can be beneficial. I have a buddy that carries a big spike, he drives it in the ground and then has something to tie off to when stuck out on the prairies.

Then lastly, of course, aggressive tires make a big difference. If your tires are bald you’re not going to get any traction. And nothing to do with getting stuck but go to the junkyard and get an extra tire and wheel. As many flats as I get I always carry two spares. Be careful out there.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

New to the outdoors? I’ve got you covered

Katy and I were talking and she said her principal said he’d heard that I liked hunting. She asked him if he liked the outdoors and he said he used to but hadn’t been in 12 to 15 years, that he didn’t know where to go.

Which prompted her to say I ought to write an article about how to get into hunting.

I’m super blessed. I had the best mom and dad in the world. Dad took us hunting and fishing with him since we were born. We got BB guns when we were 6 years old, pellet guns at 9 years old and shotguns at 10. When I started dove hunting, I couldn’t even reach the trigger. I had to hold the butt under my arm like granny on the Beverly Hillbillies.

But what if you didn’t come from a hunting family? How could you get into it? It’s almost like a family inheritance or something — if you don’t have a dad or uncles that take you as a kid it can be almost impossible to get into.

I think we have to break newbies into two groups. Group one hasn’t ever hunted/fished and group two has but they’ve just moved to Idaho, or maybe just moved to a new locale and lost their old hunting/fishing spots.

GROUP ONE: I’M A HUNTING NEWBIE

There are a million/trillion Californians moving into Idaho. Many of them would like to get into the Idaho lifestyle but don’t know how to start. They’re not against hunting/fishing/camping — they just don’t know how to get into it. I’ve had a lot of them tell me this. This may be you.

So how do you become the next Kit Carson? It’s tough but not impossible. Let’s speed up your learning curve. I meet most of my hunting buddies at church or work.

Have patience. There’s so much to learn so it will take a minute. First thing, guns are a lot of fun but if someone gets shot it sucks all the fun out of it. You’re going to be shooting/hunting with people you love. It would screw up your life if someone you love got shot. I’m not known as Captain Safety. This year I’ve broken a rib twice, cracked my patella, torn a meniscus, gotten stabbed and I can’t remember what else but on gun safety, I take it super serious. While hunting, make it a standing rule that everyone has the freedom to point out unsafe acts. This is serious stuff.

The good news is, now it is easier than ever to get into the outdoors. As a kid, I only remember a couple of outdoor shows. There were no YouTubes, podcast, blogs, etc. Now there’s a million videos on calling, etc.

When I first started elk hunting, I just grabbed a bugle and went hunting. In those days, there were no tubes. We cut a vacuum cleaner hose and blew into it. There’s no reason you can’t have a sharper learning curve than we had in the old days due to all of the helps.

Seminars: I’d recommend hitting all of the outdoor seminars you can. I never heard of an outdoor seminar until I was in my 30s. Now I conduct 50 to 60 seminars a year. The first of the year I’ll be conducting two seminars at the Dallas Safari Club Convention & Expo, five at the SHOT Show in Vegas, and four at the 2021 Safari Club International (SCI) Convention also in Las Vegas, plus at multiple retail stores. But I still attend as many seminars as I can to keep on top and learn new tricks.

Publications: The Idaho Press has the best outdoor page of any newspaper. One disclaimer though. Used to all articles had to get approved and edited by an editor. Now, anyone can start a website/blog with no reality filters But there are a few good ones. I write a weekly Product Review for Ammoland ShootingSports News (ammoland.com), which is the largest outdoor website in America. Also, check out gunpowdermagazine.com.

Join local clubs, the gun range, archery clubs, shooting range events, local Ducks Unlimited club, the National Rifle Association and so forth. You’ll meet people there.

GROUP TWO: I USED TO HUNT BUT …

I’ve had to move a bit and that’s always a major pain. In some ways it’s like starting all over again. You have to discover new hunting/fishing spots. That can be a major pain but it can also be exciting. You’ll meet new hunting partners at work, Church or in your neighborhood.

If you’re a girl, it can be really tough to get into the outdoors. Of course, ALL of the guys will want to teach you the ropes but that can get weird. There’s getting to be more women groups. My wife and daughters go shooting with their buddies.

So yes, it’s tough getting into the outdoor world if you weren’t raised in it but it is not impossible.

Imagine you just moved to a new country and don’t know the customs or the language? That’s almost how drastic it is. Have the attitude of a 2-year-old and jump in with both feet.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Tips on how to be successful at elk hunting

Next to sheep hunting, elk hunting is the toughest hunt in Idaho. They live in rough country and they’re tough animals. If you’re hitting it hard by the third day you’re so sore you can’t hardly hunt. So why do people hunt them if it’s so tough? The same reason that makes it tough. Because they live in rough country and they’re cool animals. It gives you a good excuse to get out and hike into areas that you never would.

There’s something cool about being up in elk country. You’re on top of the world in majestic country seeing sights that few people get to see which is all a side benefit.

But how do you be successful, after all, that’s why we elk hunt. We want to get one. I wish that I could give you a five-step plan for guaranteed success. If I had that plan I’d get an elk every year. But I’ll throw out some general rules that should help you be more successful.

SCOUT

The people that are successful year after year scout before season. Even if your family has hunted the same spot for 40 years and you know all of the routes they take when feeding, heading to bed or when spooked, you need to scout. Why? What if a pack of wolves have moved into your drainage and slaughtered everything? Or what if three other camps have decided to hunt in your honey hole this year?

One year a buddy invited me to go hunting with him up by the Rawah Wilderness area. I got there and he said we’ve got to move camp. How come? Unbeknownst to him, the Rainbow Coalition had decided to have a festival there and the day before when he was setting up camp and doing a final scouting, he’d run into some girl in tennis shoes hiking down the trail. And I mean only tennis shoes. Not conducive to a good elk hunting scenario.

While hopefully you may not encounter the above scenario things can change even if you did do due diligence and pre-scout. So the moral to the story is, you need to have at least three spots scouted out to hunt. That way if they aren’t at your first choice — jump. Go to your second choice.

I remember the first elk that I ever got, we moved camp twice before I finally got into the elk at the third camp. If there are no tracks, move. Elk can’t fly so if there’s no tracks, they’re not there. Granted, if you wait long enough some may get moved into your drainage but that’s a big if.

GLASS

I teach “Glassing For Big Game” (glassing = looking around with binoculars) seminars at a number of national sports and hunting conventions and shows and at retail stores and yet every year I’m amazed at how much game I see when I take time to properly glass. Hint: Use good optics. I use Riton Optics 10×42 binoculars and a Lucid Optics spotting scope that I am testing this year. When you take time to glass, it will amaze you as to how much more game you’ll see. But you have to use good optics or you won’t see anything plus bad optics will give you a headache.

SCENT COVER

The more I hunt, the more important I realize that scent cover is important. I like to clip on a couple of the Hunter’s Specialties elk wafers that have cow urine scent on them. They’re strong so let’s just say that you don’t want to be walking downwind of your buddy while he is wearing one.

Also, regardless of how much you cover your scent, always try to stalk in from downwind of your game. Whether it’s elk, deer or bear. And the thermals switch and swirl so it can be confusing. Stalk accordingly.

When setting up to call don’t have brush downwind of you. Set up so they can’t sneak in and scent you and scatter without you even knowing it.

CALLING

With the advent of wolves, most people tell you that elk have gone silent. There’s no use calling anymore. They won’t answer. OK, I agree they have quieted down a good bit but that doesn’t mean that they won’t still come in.

I learned the above by accident. Years ago I took an old buddy elk hunting. He could barely get around even with a walking stick but I’d try to take him out a few days every year. One year near the end before he died, we went to a spot where he’d seen a bull a few days prior. He sat in a spot and I hopped right over the rise 100 yards away. I usually set up and call for 15 to 20 minutes and then move. He said we’d set there about 1½ hours.

Everyone knows the above idea is a dumb idea. Except … the elk. We’d been calling for over an hour. Suddenly I saw a four-point bull sneaking up the mountain. He had not made one peep. I’ve had that happen a lot since then. So yes, elk may not bugle as much as used to when you’re calling but they still come in. Well, good luck!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.

Tom Claycomb’s big game recipes

I love eating wild game. I get some of the best ribeyes in the country and yet I still favor fried backstrap with milk gravy and french fries. Or what about a smoked forequarter made into chopped BBQ sandwiches?

I’ve even noticed amongst the young yuppie crowd that there’s an interest in hunting/eating wild game due to it being the undisputed king of organic food. With the dropping number of hunters, I’m surprised that Fish & Game isn’t playing this angle.

The last two weeks I’ve written articles on meat and processing your game. It’s only logical to follow up with an article on recipes. But when cooking wild game remember a few things:

1. Big game doesn’t marble (intermuscular fat) like beef so it is not as juicy. Don’t overcook it or cook it as fast as you do beef. Cook your big game on the medium rare side.

2. Deer/elk haven’t been finished out the last 120 days on corn so it might have a slight off-taste that you need to mask.

3. If tough, use Adolph’s Tenderizer.

BACKSTRAPS/FILETS/CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

Backstraps and the filets are the all-time favorites. Here’s how the Claycombs like to eat them.

The filet mignons, I marinate mine for an hour or two and then apply seasoning. Right now, I’m favoring the coarse ground McCormick’s seasoning. Grill on medium heat. Also great for kabobs.

Now for everyone’s all-time favorite. I’m going to lump backstraps and round steaks together because I chicken fry these. My wife beats them with a tenderizer and sprinkles on Adolph’s Tenderizer.

Let sit 15 minutes. Dip in milk, roll in flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry them in a black skillet until golden brown. I like them cooked medium but my wife cooks them a little crispy and that’s great, too.

I always make milk gravy with my CFS. Another twist is to sauté onions and make onion gravy and garlic toast. Fry up some French fries and drizzle the gravy on the steak, French fries and garlic toast.

A meal fit for kings. I can get the best beef in the country and yet this is my most favorite meat in the world. My family loves fried backstrap.

FLANK STEAKS/ TRI-TIPS

These make great appetizers. Marinate for an hour or two then lay on a pan and heavily sprinkle on McCormick’s coarse ground steak seasoning. Finely chop up some onions and green peppers and lay on the flank. Roll it up and pin it together with toothpicks.

Smoke on low heat for an hour and then turn up the heat. When done, slice paper thin across grain.

These make great hors d’oeuvres. After eating them once you will not believe that for all of these years you haven’t saved them.

KABOBS

Another way to use your steaks is to cut into 1x1x½-inch chunks. Marinate the steak, mushrooms, slices of green peppers, onions and squash for 2-4 hours. Skewer the above ingredients, sprinkle with Tony Chachere’s seasoning and cook on your Camp Chef pellet smoker. These are to die for.

FOREQUARTER

Now for my all-time favorite and after trying it once it will be yours too. The third most tender muscle on the carcass is in the shoulder, if you cook it slowly. Sprinkle the shoulder with your favorite seasoning salt. Smoke it on low heat for 3-4 hours. I used to lay bacon strips over it but haven’t in 30 years. Then put it in a black turkey roasting pan and put in about 2-3 cups of water. Put it in the oven all night at 180 degrees. If you wake up in the middle of the night check on it. If it runs out of water it is ruined. If it is low, add two cups.

When it falls off the bone with a fork, it’s done. If not, turn the heat up to 300 degrees. After cooking all night, it should finish in 30-45 minutes. But to make sure this is clear, if it doesn’t fall off the bone with a fork it is not done.

Pull the meat off of the bone. There will not be enough meat left on the bone for an ant to eat. All of the collagen and gristle has disappeared. Chop into ½-inch chunks. Sprinkle with Tony Chachere’s seasoning salt. Toast buns in a Lodge black skillet on both sides with butter. Throw on a handful of chopped meat and douse with your favorite BBQ sauce and a little Tabasco sauce. I cannot tell you how good these are. Your petite little wife will eat two. It will rival any beef brisket sandwich that you’ve ever eaten.

FAJITAS

Use the skirts to make fajitas. Peel the tough skin off of both sides. Slice ¼-inch slices cross grain.

Marinate the meat, onions and green peppers for 3-4 hours. Cook everything in a black iron skillet. Fill a tortilla and feast.

BBQ RIBS

Trim off what fat cover is easily removed and sprinkle with coarse ground McCormick seasoning.

Place on your smoker for 3-4 hrs. then put in a covered dish in your oven that is preheated to 325 degrees. Cook until the meat falls off of the bones. Douse with BBQ sauce and dig in.

SAUSAGE

Years ago I decided that I like a good hot dog but not the Joe Cheapo $.99/pack hot dogs. So now I make hot dogs out of sausage. Everyone will die for them. Smoke your sausage and then for condiments put out bowls of chopped onions, avocado slices, Wolf Brand chili and spicy mustard. Eat one of these and you’ll fall back in love with the lowly hot dog!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.