The best big game rifle for Idahoans

Discussing the best big game rifle could cause a civil war. This is a topic more serious than politics. There’s be a better chance of seeing Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump holding hands walking down Main Street drinking a latte than for an ardent 30-06 lover to set down and have a civil talk with a .270 fanatic.

Why is this such a touchy subject, the non-hunter may ask? I’ll tell you why: Not only are there arguments as to which is the best rifle manufacturer, but also as to what type of actions. Bolt-actions, lever-actions, pumps or semi-automatics. And for sure the most vehement arguments will be about the best caliber.

A lot of your choices will be strictly sentimental. Your dad or uncle used this rifle and you bought a rifle just like theirs and killed your first deer with it. It would almost be sacrilegious to change your beliefs.

So everyone will have their own rationale as to the best caliber. It may be for sentimental reasons as stated above. It may be because you saw John Wayne use such and such rifle or you may scientifically decide that this rifle has the fastest feet per second, knock-down power or whatever. And even among the scientific thinkers, they can err. Do you really think it matters if a bullet is zipping along at 2,800 feet per second as compared with brand X that only flies along at 2,700 feet per second?

And then a lot of it can be because of marketing. Here’s what I mean by that. How come the rifle that last year was advertised as the absolute best rifle ever designed is suddenly outdated? In one year! Because they have to advertise and breed contempt or you’ll buy one rifle and keep it for the rest of your life, pass it on to your kids and then it will be passed along to your grandkids. That’s not good for business.

I had to ditch my old Remington 742 I bought when I was 12 years old with my paper route earnings. Everyone knows bolt-actions are more accurate, so I bought a new Remington 700 .338 Win Mag — and missed the first bull I saw. Hold on — wait a minute. I thought they were the ultimate. I’d shot turkeys in the head at 60 yards with my old 742 and made dozens of head shots on deer with it. I’d been hoodwinked.

I say all of the above to show that people make up their minds as to which rifle/caliber is the best based on a lot of sub-standard reasoning and emotions. Or it may just be preferences. It’s like saying what is the best wife? Black haired? Blonde? Red haired? Pink, blue or orange haired? It’s a preference, not a right or wrong.

So with all of the above said, if you’re new to Idaho and trying to decide which rifle to buy, I’ll try to help you out. Forever, I used my old Remington 742 semi-automatic 30-06. It worked fine. For close shots, it was plenty accurate, but most people would agree that a bolt-action rifle is the most accurate and dependable. So I’d tell you to get a bolt-action rifle.

Years ago, to get a 1- to 1 ½-inch group, you had to get a custom rifle and reload. Now, there are a few factory rifles that are capable of getting 1 ½-inch groups with factory ammo. I’ve tested a couple of Mossbergs and been able to do this with them. So you don’t have to buy a super expensive custom-made rifle anymore to get good groups. (To tighten down your groups, you probably will need a trigger job.)

Now what about calibers? If you can only afford one rifle, I’d say get a 30-06. You can kill anything in America with it, but the .300 Winchester Magnum is better. They’ll be a little bit of an over kill on antelope and small deer, but still you’ll have a rifle that you can hunt everything in North America with. Then you have all of the other popular rounds, .308s, .270s, .243s, etc. Too many to list. Then, of course, right now everyone is in love with the 6.5 Creedmoor. But if you’re new to Idaho, I’d say get a 30-06 or more likely a .300 Winchester Magnum. I have a .338 Win. Mag. but wish I had of gotten a .300.

Almost as big of a factor as which caliber you choose is which ammo you use. I test a lot of ammo and am constantly amazed at how accuracy varies from ammo to ammo in my rifle. Just as important is how it performs when it hits an animal.

For years, I used the old Remington Core-Lokt ammo. As a kid, it only cost $10/box, so I couldn’t see paying $40 to $50 per box for the higher priced stuff. But it’d perform great on 10 to 15 deer in a row and then suddenly it wouldn’t. I remember one year I had to shoot a deer three times to drop it and an antelope twice all in the same year. That got me checking out better performing ammo.

Well, we are way out of room and have barely gotten started. Hopefully this short article will get you started. Or you maybe want to play it safe and just buy one of every caliber!

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.

Smoking salmon

There was definitely a miracle on 34th Street or whatever street the Claycomb house is on the night before Christmas Eve. While digging through the freezer to find something or the other, I found one last package of salmon fillets. It was a fillet of silvers from two years ago while fishing with Alaska Expedition. The Claycomb girls were rejoicing — which brings up the topic of this week’s article: How to smoke salmon.

There are a lot of good ways to cook salmon but the two favorite methods in my house are blackened and smoked.

Blackening is not hard. Skin the salmon. I like to use a pair of needle-nose pliers and pull out all of the bones. Next, melt a little butter in a Lodge cast iron skillet. Drop the fillet in the butter and then flip. Pull it out and sprinkle on heavily some Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish spices. The butter will cause the spices to stick to the fillet.

Add a little butter to the skillet and turn up the heat. The Cajuns say to do this outside because you want the skillet smoking. I don’t cook it quite that hot, but you do want it to semi-burn a crust on the outside pretty fast. If the heat is too low, it will cook the fish throughout and be dry. You want to get a blackened crust on the outside, but the inside of the fillet should be almost rare or at least moist. Salmon is great blackened.

But the way that my girls like it best is smoked. So that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Here’s how I do it. Leave the skin on (I’ll explain why later). Pull the bones with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Mix 3 to 4 cups of warm water with ¾ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, salt, little pepper, ginger and stir. You can marinate your fillet in a cake pan or it works nice to put it in a plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag so the marinade and bag are semi-tight against the fillet.

Marinating fish or jerky in a bag is nice because every hour you can massage it and not even get your hands dirty. On fish, I just flip it, which will help ensure that all surface areas are being marinated.

I like to let my salmon marinate at least four hours. In the old days, I’d smoke it on my smoker or grill on a piece of foil, skin side down. But that holds in the moisture so it tastes broiled instead of smoked. Here’s the best way. Smoke your salmon on a board, skin side down. The skin will stick to the board but no big deal because you aren’t going to eat the skin anyway.

The Native Americans will tell you to use a cedar plank but an oak cutting board or whatever will work fine. I soak my board in water before smoking to prevent it from burning, but most of my smoking boards are all charred on bottom.

For ease and consistency, I use a Camp Chef wood pellet grill. That way I can regulate the heat to a T, and it still has a good smoke flavor. I suppose any flavor of wood is good, but on fish I prefer apple.

Smoking on a wood plank lets the moisture run off so you get a dried fillet instead of a water-logged, broiled-tasting piece of fish.

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.

Show season is almost upon us

If you’ve peeked out the window lately, then you are painfully aware that winter has hit. After all the hunting seasons are closed, what’s a guy to do? Sit around and drink lattes and get fat? No! The show season is nearly upon us, so get out and hit some of the outdoor shows.

I like going to outdoor shows for a lot of reasons — besides the obvious reason that it’s usually cold and the weather is miserable by then and I’m bored stiff. Here’s a few other reasons that I enjoy them.


I love hitting the shows and attending the seminars. At every seminar that I’ve ever been to, I’ve learned something. The bigger the shows, usually the better the speakers. Although I must throw out a disclaimer. Sometimes at smaller shows you’ll have a gung-ho young local guy and he’ll share everything that he knows and not hold back like some of the older dogs.

And of course, I like doing seminars at the shows. January will be a busy month for me. The first week, I’ll have four seminars at the SCI Convention in Reno, the next week four seminars at the Dallas Safari Club Convention in Dallas, and then the last week four at the SHOT Show in Vegas. So I’ll be swamped.


If you are in need of new gear, hit the shows. Many times manufacturers will have booths set up and be offering show specials. Plus, you’ll see a lot of new gear not offered in the big box stores. I see a lot of creative hunters and fishermen who invented new little knick-knacks and are trying to make a go of it. You’ll see gear you’ve never seen before.

A buddy told me to get your product into Cabela’s, you have to let them list it on their internet sales for two years. Then if it does good, they’ll offer it in the store. Gee, you could have a great product and go broke before you ever got to put it in front of a customer. That’s where shows have helped jump start many struggling little companies. So you’re likely to see gear you’ve never seen before.


Then in addition to all new products discussed above, there’ll also be a lot of booths with old gear. By “old” I don’t mean old but, rather, what you will find in the stores. There may be show specials. For instance, if you’re in the market for a backpack, this may be a good spot to find one.

But, please, Look around. People drive me nuts with their impulsive shopping habits. I remember one year, I had eight seminars at a show. A buddy of mine worked for one of the top backpacks in the country and they had a booth in back. I don’t know how many people I saw that walked in the front door and walked straight to the first booth and bought a backpack. I know for sure that Robert had much better packs in back. Look around and then buy.


If you’ve been wanting to hire a guide to hunt or fish in some out-of-state area, this is a great place to meet them. At the Boise show, I see some of the guides that I know from up in Alaska. In fact, one guides’ son was the fish cleaner on the dock, working his way through college.

And if you want to go on an exotic safari, SCI and DSC are the two shows to hit. You can sign up for all manner of big game, bird hunting or fishing adventures. It’s almost painful to walk the aisles and see all of the cool hunts they are offering if you’re on a peon’s salary.

Most of the time you can tell by talking to a guide if he is any good or not. But for sure, check references. You don’t want to waste 10 days and $25,000 on a bad deal.

And to get even deeper, you need to determine if their set-up is for you. You need to be honest with yourself. What is your main goal? To some people, it is important that they are back to the lodge by dusk and served a great dinner cooked by a chef, and to sit around the proverbial camp fire and drink until midnight.

To other outdoorsmen, the whole objective is to hit it hardcore and be successful. Different guides specialize in different flavors. Make sure you pick the right flavor or you’ll be disappointed.

Be crystal clear on what is provided and what isn’t. Do they handle the shipping back of your trophies? Get all of the necessary tags, etc.? There can be a lot of hidden costs that they take for granted but you didn’t have a clue.

Let the shows begin! Have a merry Christmas.

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.

Cleaning your rifle for accuracy

As I get older I like to have tighter and tighter groups for my rifles — I like an accurate rifle. Fifty years ago, 1- to 1 1/2-inch groups with a factory rifle and factory ammo were unheard of, but today it is possible. But you have to do a couple of things if you want to get a tight group using factory ammo and a factory rifle.

Here’s what I’d suggest. First, you’re going to have to test a few different manufacturers and grains of ammo to determine what shoots best in your rifle. It constantly amazes me as to how much the accuracy of different ammo varies.

Secondly, some rifles are more picky than others. Some rifles like to be clean before they’ll give you a good group. My Mossberg Patriot Revere .30-06 likes to be clean. After I shoot about 15 shots, the groups start widening out. That doesn’t cause me any heartburn because I’m not going to get in that many shots in a day other than on a hog hunt.

So here’s how I’d recommend cleaning your rifle. But first, one disclaimer. I’m a middle of the road cleaner. You have extremes on both sides. On one side was my old 94-year-old buddy, Roy. He said a smokeless rifle didn’t need to be cleaned. And then on the other end of the spectrum are the fanatics that will run 20 patches down their barrel.

Here’s what I do, and it works fine for me. To begin, get a good gun cleaning station. I use an Otis Range Box. For years, I’d pile blankets on the kitchen table and try to balance it on them. Make a one-time investment in a gun-cleaning station and you’ll be happy ever after. You can keep all of your gun-cleaning supplies in it so it doesn’t take 30 minutes rummaging around hunting all of your supplies.

The first patch I’ll run down my barrel using some Barnes CR-10 Rifle and Hand Gun Bore Cleaning Solvent. Then run a wire brush. Then a rag to clean it up and repeat. it depends on how dirty the rifle is, but generally I’ll do this two or three times (Let it set for a minute the first time. But read the instructions).

Then I run a couple of dry rags down the barrel to remove any loose crud and then use some of my Otis gun cleaning oil and run a few patches and brush it until clean. You want to remove all of the CR-10. The last patch I run a lightly oiled patch down the barrel.

Then oil a rag and lightly oil the bolt and clean out the breech. Then run a patch over the outside of your rifle. If you over oil it, it will just act as a dust magnet.

Then using an optic rag, I will clean the lenses on my Riton Optics scope. Don’t dry rub the lenses. I like to blow off any loose dust. Then using a good lenses spray apply to the lenses and then clean with a lenses rag.

You are now ready to go sight in your rifle.

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.

Dutch ovens really up your cooking game

In the last two decades, Dutch-oven cooking has gained monumental acclaim. A lot of the articles I write I feel like I barely get to do them justice because of my limited space, but on this topic I really am just going to barely scratch the surface. There’s been no telling how many books have been written on this subject.

When you think about Dutch ovens, your mind automatically drifts back in time to the old trail drives and cowboy chuck wagons. It’s the crack of dawn and while everyone is roping their horse for the day, the cook scoops a shovel full of hot coals out of the fire. He throws some on top and some on bottom of his old Dutch oven and heats up a batch of sourdough biscuits. In a short amount of time, the cowboys all line up single file as he serves them up a hot cup of coffee, biscuits, scrambled eggs and sausage.

Now let’s fast forward 100 years. The modern-day Dutch-oven cooks are chefs that demand an exact heat level. My buddy Paul Loree strategically places a certain amount of coals on top and on bottom for the exact heat he wants for that recipe.

I bought my first Dutch oven in 30 years ago. I messed around with it, but years later I attended a class that Paul taught. That’s where I really learned how to do it right. Paul has taught thousands of people how to cook Dutch oven.

Where do we start? The first step is to buy a Dutch oven and bring it home and scrub it out with hot soapy water and a Brillo pad. This will remove the wax, grease or whatever the heck it is they protect them with at the factory. (Many manufacturers claim to preseason their Dutch ovens, but I still do it myself.)

Dry it off. Grease it up and fire up your oven to 400 degrees. Throw it in the oven for an hour. Let it cool off and pull it out. Grease it up and it is ready to use. From now on you will never use soap on it again or it will remove the seasoning and you’ll have to re-season it. From now on to clean it, scrub out the old food and heat and grease.

Here are a few good Dutch oven cookbooks:

  • “Lovin’ Dutch Ovens: A Cook Book for the Dutch Oven Enthusiast” by Joan S. Larson
  • “The Outdoor Dutch Oven Cookbook” by Sheila Mills
  • “Cast Iron Cuisine” by Linda Cawley and Geri Munford (A good one for beginners)

Buy one of these books and try some of the recipes. Remember, every time you open the lid to peek in it increases the cooking time by five minutes.

There is a wide array of tools and accessories to make life easier when cooking with a Dutch oven. Tongs to lift the lid, lid holders and charcoal starters are just a few. Paul will shoot me for being a heretic because in the old days they got by without all these gimmicks. It’s just that they make life easier.

Shortly after attending Paul’s class I took my boss Doug Pagler bear hunting. We got back to camp after dark and I was preparing dinner and was worried that I didn’t have charcoal and was trying to carefully measure out some hot coals. Doug brushed me aside and said quit worrying about it. He grabbed the shovel and scooped a load and laid it on top. I told him we needed so and so many coals. He told me not to worry, he’d been cooking Dutch oven for years. Then he said something that clicked. He asked me if I really thought that the old cowboy carried a bag of charcoal to cook with?

As best I remember we ate every bit of whatever it was I was cooking, so I guess it wasn’t too bad. It’s just that the cooks nowadays have exact heat temps and know exactly how long to cook a meal. There’s no guesswork — for them it’s just like using an oven. They know for each recipe exactly how many charcoal briquettes to lay on top and how many on bottom.

Remember, though, in the cowboy days all they had to use was the coals they scooped out of the fire pit. All my buddies are hardcore and use an exact number of charcoal briquettes. You can also double stack ovens to conserve coals. Paul cuts the side out of a metal trash can and stacks his ovens in it. That blocks the wind and helps him cook faster.

You can buy a variety of brands and sizes of Dutch ovens. The most common is the 8-quart oven. They even make aluminum ones. They are unbelievably light. Paul packs them in on his horses. And they make an anodized one if you’re worried about Alzheimer’s. The aluminum is light and cleans easier, but the cast iron has a more even heat. Whichever one you buy, get one with a lip on top and legs on bottom. This way you can put coals on top. Lodge is the best brand that I’ve found. The walls have a more consistent thickness, the lid seats better and the handle works smoothly.

What can you cook? The sky is the limit. The classes that Paul taught were four weeks long. The first class he taught for the first two hours and then served the whole class. He had cooked a whole turkey, enchiladas and lasagna for a main course. For dessert, he had cherry cobbler, and if you didn’t like cherries he had peach cobbler. I was totally sold after that meal. Now it’s a given. If we’re having a barbecue, we tell Paul to bring whatever he wants as long as it’s a Dutch oven special.

A couple of years ago, we had a dinner for our cattle suppliers. We had a guy with an outfit named Going Dutch or something like that cater the meal. He fed more than 300 cowboys with Dutch ovens. He grilled some ribeyes and cooked potatoes in his Dutch oven. They were sliced and cooked with cheese and jalapeños. They were worth dying for.

I’m telling you. You can cook anything. Paul even cooks pizza. Here are a couple of easy recipes to get you started.

Doug Pageler’s Quiche

  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 can of mushrooms
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 8 oz. cheese
  • 1 lb sausage

Charlie’s Honey Buns

  • 1 cube butter
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar and 2 tbsp Karo syrup
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • 2 cans Pillsbury Grands biscuits

Line a 12-inch Dutch oven with aluminum foil. Place Dutch oven over 5 or 6 coals and melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and nuts gently. Slice biscuits in 1/2 or ¼ and drop all around on top of the brown sugar mixture. Cover with lid and 12 to 14 coals on top. Bake until golden brown — about 15 minutes. Dump onto a large plate and let the goo drip down the sides.

If your salivary glands aren’t salivating by now, you’d better get yourself checked out. You ought to buy a Dutch oven this fall and try it out in hunting camp. It’ll add another dimension to your camping experience and will guarantee you a spot in any camp.

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.

Adventures in sharp-tailed grouse hunting

My buddy Ron Spomer bought the Dancing Springs ranch in July, which is south of Pocatello. He has been after me to come visit ever since he bought it. He kept telling me about all of the pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and huns that he’s been seeing — and on top of that, deer, elk and even a moose.

The season for sharp-tails and huns was about to close so it was time to go. Katy had to run over to Nebraska last weekend so it turned out to be the perfect time to go. After I got off work Friday, I jumped in the truck and ran rover to see Ron and Betsy.

It turns out that when I got there Ron and a photographer were taking out to film a deer hunt for the Winchester World of Whitetail. I unloaded and Betsy showed me around. Wow, we didn’t walk 200 yards down the pasture road heading to their house before we had already jumped two sharp-tails.

He ended up bagging a nice buck. I don’t want to spoil the upcoming TV show so I won’t say anything more. It was now time to go sharp-tailed grouse and hun hunting so the next afternoon we took off. We walked up and down the many draws covering the lower part of his ranch. Later that afternoon, it had started spitting a little rain and snow. Near the end of the hunt, it was getting a little nasty.

At the bottom of his place, there are pastures and the drainages that run through them are choked with hawthorns and choke cherries. Little did I know how thick they were. The weather was getting bad as we walked down one last draw that Ron seemed pretty optimistic about.

Everything was holed up pretty tight with the bad weather and so were people if they had any good sense. I was walking along day dreaming and suddenly a couple of sharp-tails came blowing out. Ron dropped one right over the brushy draw and I dropped one that fell right in top of the highest bush.

Suddenly sharp-tails started blowing out like a roman candle. Three or four came up my way and I dropped another one. The limit is two, so I was done. Ron is training a new bird dog — an English Setter named Covey — and it took off up the hill to get my second bird.

It looked like it was onto it but because of the tall grass I couldn’t be for sure. Then one busted about 20 feet further up hill. I figured it was my bird and had run uphill but suddenly Covey came up with my bird.

Now to find the tough ones. Ron had told me that the draws were thick but, gee, they were impossible to get through. At times I’d get locked in one spot, just like I was hung in a spider web.

Finally I saw the bird. He had miraculously fallen through the brush and hit the ground. It was so thick that I didn’t think that I was going to even be able to get to him. By now I was crawling, which is not fun in that thorny thicket. But after another five minutes I made it and had retrieved him.

What a great afternoon. We hung our birds in his shed to age for a few days and went in to dry off and wait on Betsy to whip out another great, hot meal.

If you want to read some about Ron and Betsy’s adventures on their new ranch, check out their blog at He writes updates fairly regularly. It is lighthearted, fun reading.

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.

Just a kicked-back 4-wheeling trip

Last week my buddy Fredy Riehl, the editor of, and his daughter came out to visit me to go on a 4-wheeling trip. He lives in New Jersey so he has to come out to Idaho to get in touch with reality every once in a while. This trip, he wanted to bring his daughter Carly with him. I have all daughters, so I told him sure. Turned out she was a great kid to have along and we all had a blast. (OK, she’s actually a young lady, but everyone is a kid when you get to my age.)

Fredy and I have gone backpacking, fly fishing, etc., the last couple of years and this year I thought it’d be fun to take him 4-wheeling. There are literally thousands if not millions of acres you can 4-wheel on, much less if you throw in the big outfit that I used to work for. I don’t know how many acres they own. They have 32,000 cow/calf pairs so it takes a lot of pasture for that many cows.

Fredy and Carly flew in, and I picked them up at the airport. We had to run pick up the Can-Am Defender MAX side-by-side four-seater and trailer. Wow! Compared to my 4-wheeler, this was a Cadillac.

Next, we ran by a local outdoor store and they stocked up on a few last-minute items. PahaQue had supplied us with a couple of tents to test out and Camp Chef had sent us one of its cool little backpacking stoves. There had been a fire ban so I was scared that we might not be able to even build a fire, which was a major bummer because a roaring fire is a big part of camping.

CRKT Knives had supplied us with some of its sweet little Mossback bird and trout knives. I love those little knives. At first glance, you may discount them for being too petite, but think again. They’re great. They’re lightweight and handy.

I also packed along my Riton binoculars. We were going to be in some good elk, deer and antelope country, so I wanted to be able to let them see some nice bulls. You wouldn’t believe the huge herds of elk I see down in that country — sometimes herds of up to 500.

Then like mentioned above, we had some PahaQue tents and a cool GCI cooking station. The PahaQue tents are great. Instead of the tent poles slipping into a solid sleeve, they also have plastic clips that clip onto the poles. I have grown quite fond of this type of tent. For this excursion, we tested the Rendezvous and the Basecamp tents. The Basecamp, you basically just shake and it pops into a huge tent.

So, into the trip. I love 4wheeling in the Owyhees. I always find old cabins. I love looking around them. At one old homestead, Carly found an old buckboard wagon in perfect shape. It had been parked off to the side and was overgrown with bushes. The wheels were gone but other than that it was in perfect shape.

You can only imagine the history behind that old wagon and homestead. That country still gets snowed in bad.

There are some super rough canyons down there. I had one that I found a couple of years ago while elk hunting that I really wanted to show them. I finally found it the day that we were leaving but we came in on the upstream side of it so they didn’t get to see the coolest part of it but it was still cool. We also found some eggs. I don’t know the official name, but they are some rocks that are as big as ostrich eggs. You can cut them in half or we found plenty that were broke in half. They’re like a big softball cut in half, which has a concave area in it with quartz inside. They’re kinda cool.

We got to see a lot of cool country and the Can-Am really impressed me. We had no trouble getting around everywhere we wanted to go. Coming out of camp, we loaded it down and it carried all of our gear out in one trip. Impressive!

Well, things finally came to an end but we had barely gotten started exploring. There may be a part two next summer.

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.

Boning out your big game

I love big game hunting — the planning, the hunting, the camping, everything. But if, after the hunt, you drop your game off at the processor, then your hunt is over. Why not extend your hunt and cut it up yourself? It’s going to be a little hard to explain how-to in an article but we can do it.

If you only bone out one deer every few years then it will be hard to get proficient, so if you have a pile of deer you can practice and get good. Before you panic, remember, cavemen have been cutting up game and getting by without knowing all of the cuts for hundreds of years, so even if you screw up but get it in the pot, it’s not a crisis. I’m going to show you how to market it a little better and get some unique cuts off your game.


Separate the front shoulders off the carcass. You’ll be surprised. There is a seam that you hit and it’ll practically fall off.

If you bone out the front shoulder for sausage, you’ll only end up with a handful of meat because of all of the gristle and tendons. You’re going to smoke the whole shoulder and all of the gristle will disappear. Check out this e-article:

Put it on your smoker for three hours and then put it in a turkey roasting pan in your oven on 180 degrees. Add 2-3 cups of water and sprinkle with seasoning salt. If it runs out of water, it is ruined. If low, add more water. The next morning, if it falls off the bone, it’s done; if not, turn it up to 325 to finish it fast. It’s not ready unless it falls off the bone with a fork.

Pull all of the meat off. All of the gristle has disappeared. Chop it into ¼-1/2 inch pieces. Put butter in a black skillet and toast buns on both sides. Slap on a handful of meat and douse with barbecue sauce and Tabasco sauce. It will rival any Texas chopped brisket sandwich.


Make a cut down the backbone on each side. You’ll hit a bone at the hindquarter which is the pelvic bone. Scoop out the backstrap down to the fourth rib. I make chicken fried steak out of these.


With the stomach cavity facing you, make a cut down the inside of the femur bone starting at the knuckle bone down to the ball joint. On the outside, go an inch or two below the knuckle bone and there is a seam separating the knuckle and the outside round. Remove the knuckle.

On the backside, there is a seam separating the gooseneck and the top round. Make a cut along the femur bone and hit that seam in back. Remove the top round.

I pull the muscle off the top of the top round and slice into chicken fried steaks.

Remove the gooseneck. I used to make deer roasts but now I use the knuckle and outside round for jerky or sausage because they are so lean.

On the chuck (forequarter) bone this out. I use this for sausage.


OK, we’ve covered the major muscles. Now for the fun part. Let’s save some unique cuts. On deer, these will be small, but on elk and moose they will, of course, be a lot larger, comparable to a cow.

First let’s cover the flank steaks, where the stomach wall ties into the hindquarter. Right where you start making the incision between the hind legs to open up the stomach to remove the guts, you will cut between two tear-shaped muscles. (Oblique abdominal muscle). Cut these out and remove the tough tissue on top. Now remove the flank steak from the tough yellow tissue on the bottom.

Before you remove the knuckle as described above, half way down the knuckle under the knuckle bone you’ll see where an ice cream-shaped muscle — tri-tip — is attached. Mark it and remove it.

I sprinkle both with coarse McCormick Steak Seasoning and smoke. On the flank steaks, I lay on them some chopped green peppers, onions and jalapenos. Roll it up and pin together with toothpicks.

Smoke semi-slow until done. Slice paper thin and serve as hors d’oeuvres. You’ll love these!

Hopefully this is enough to get you started.

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.

Don’t forget to take care of your truck

As you get geared up for hunting season, you’re probably preoccupied with sighting in your bow or rifle, stocking up on food and planning menus, sharpening your knives and starting to pack. That’s all good and necessary but don’t forget about another main component: your truck.

There are tons of books and articles on how to pack a survival kit. Take a peek at Adventure Medical Kits’ website. And yet we just take off without giving a thought as to what lies in wait for our trucks.

So my point is everyone has a survival kit, but do you have a survival kit for your truck? If not, you should. Nowadays, nearly everyone has a four-wheel drive vehicle, which means you can get back deeper in the woods. If you break down, you’re really in trouble.

When you think about it, our trucks are our legs and feet. You lose them and you’re sunk, so I think it’d behoove you to set down and give it a thought. This is fresh on my mind right now. I’m up in the mountains helping a buddy build a cabin and recently my truck wouldn’t start. Luckily a neighbor pulled up about that time and helped me get started. I then parked it on a hill so I can jump start it when I head home in a few days.

Oh, one more recent problem. Just a few weeks ago, we were running over to Oregon fishing. I had a blowout. I normally carry two spares but I had my jon boat in back of the truck and only had one.

When I took it in to get fixed, guess what had caused the problem? A rock. Want to know how that I knew this? A 3 ½-inch rock had punctured the tire and was still inside. The worst I’ve ever had was years ago on a moose hunt north of Pocatello. I woke up three mornings in a row with flats. I had to go to town at lunch every day and either purchase a tire or have a flat fixed. Now I carry two spares. You can pick up a spare tire/rim semi-cheap at the junkyard.

If you’re like me, you’re probably not much of a mechanic, and even if you were, you couldn’t carry a shop full of tools. But there are a few tools and items we should carry to get out of the obvious disasters.

Here’s a closer look at the things you should carry in your vehicle:

  • In snow and ice, tire chains give you get traction. As with a lot of situations in life, put them on before you get in trouble.
  • You see a lot of trees fallen over in the woods, right? What if one falls behind you? You’ll be stuck. So carry an ax and chain saw. I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more than it does.
  • No matter what the season, I always carry a shovel. In the winter, they’re good to dig snow out from under your truck if you high-center, and last spring I was out whistle pig hunting and bottomed out in a badger hole. I had a shovel, so I jacked up my truck, filled in the hole and off I went.
  • And for sure, do not trust the rinky-dink jack that came with your truck. Throw in a Handyman jack. I’ve been stuck a million times and had to jack up my vehicle and lay rocks or sticks under the tires to get unstuck or un-high-centered. (Curse of all curses). Also carry extra bolts. They always fall off the handle.
  • Carry two sets of keys. If you lose your keys, that’d be a bad deal. Leave the extra set in your truck. You can break a window if necessary. Plus, you need to leave a set with your buddy. We were bow hunting over in Nebraska and a blizzard blew in. My buddy made it back to the rig before me but was half froze because he couldn’t get in.
  • When you replace your old fan belts and hoses, carry them for backup. I’ve heard you can use a pair of pantyhose as a fan belt but I don’t wear pantyhose.
  • I’ve noticed that 90 percent of the time my truck starts sounding a little weird before it whacks. I’ve had this happen three to four times only days before I headed out on a hunt. Get it checked — it won’t get any easier to fix in the woods.
  • A few other items to carry flashlights, jumper cables, chains and a tire pump that plugs into the the cigarette lighter.

Hopefully we’ve listed a few common problems that you can be prepared for.

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.

Dove hunting is here — almost

Dove hunting is right upon us. If you’ve never dove hunted, you are missing out on a great bird hunt plus some great eating. I’ve dove hunted since I was 6 years old. We had great hunts as a kid; speaking of, it’s a great hunt to take your kids on to introduce them to hunting.

What’s not to like about it? The weather is warm, you don’t have to be stealthy and quiet like when big game hunting, and there is a lot of shooting going on. Sounds like the ingredients for a great day to me.

So how do you dove hunt? Scouting is important. Doves do well with agriculture so the first obvious spots to check are milo fields or sunflower patches. If you see a lot flying around or setting in dead trees and on telephone lines stop and ask for permission to hunt.

You’ll want to set along tree lines or fence rows. They have what I’ll called preferred flyways. If you’re not getting any shooting, move. If they’re out feeding, go do some jump shooting. If you have other people with you, this will get them moving around and help them out, too.

Especially on dry years, but any year really, hunt near water sources. They like to water at ponds, sloughs and slow-moving creeks and rivers. We hunt these at daylight and dark. I’ve had some great hunts on water sources.

I’ve dove hunted in multiple states but probably my most unique spot to ever hunt doves was in Nebraska. The marijuana fields were great. They love the seeds. It grew wild there and there’d be 20-foot-wide by 100-yard patches in draws. There’s be hundreds of doves feeding in them. It seemed to make them stupid and sometimes they’d fly right up and land in front of you waiting to be shot. Let that be a lesson for you. Do marijuana, and you’ll do stupid stuff.

So you’re convinced. You’re ready to jump in. So what gear do you need? It’s really pretty simple. Because of the high-speed shooting, you’ll want a shell vest with a game pouch in back. On 90 percent of your dove hunts, you’ll be sitting in one spot, so really the game pouch is used to carry boxes of shells. You’ll want a vest with plenty of shell-holding capabilities on front and two lower pockets to fill with shells. 

Using decoys will definitely help you out. There are a few options for decoys. Mojo makes a decoy with rotating wings and a Dove A Flicker decoy. There are also plastic decoys that you can clip onto fence lines or tree branches. Decoys will help.

For a shotgun, any style will work but you’ll be happier with a semi-automatic. For decades as a kid, I used a double-barrel but if you have a semi-automatic you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get off three shots, especially if you shoot like I do. Remember: You have to have a plug because you’re limited to three shots.

For ammo, Aquila low-base 8s are the ticket but many hunters use 7 ½s. Luckily, they’re not hard to kill so low-base shells work great. If not, because of all of the shooting, your shoulder would be black and blue. As kids, my brother and I once shot more than a case of shells in two afternoons and that’s when there were 20 boxes in a case.

A chair is almost a necessity and especially if you’re older. There are a lot of options on the market. They offer actual fold-up chairs but another popular option are the padded swivel top 5-gallon buckets. Many have a canvas pouch around them to hold shells as well as inside. That about sums up the gear.

We don’t have room to go into good dove recipes, so I’m going to refer you to a cooking recipe my brother did since he’s a better cook than me anyway:

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.