Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry turns surplus big game meat into food for the needy

For several years I have wanted to meet Jeff Schroeder from Jerome, who is the president and executive director of Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Unfortunately our paths have yet to cross. Whenever I have been in the vicinity of Twin Falls and Jerome, I have been pressed for time on what usually is a 13-hour journey to the Oregon coast. I have got to just find a time to go to Jerome and meet him.

For those who have not heard of Jeff, he and his wife took over the Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry program in 2009. Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry (IHFH) was organized into seven regions with cooperating food pantries in each region. It took a while to get food pantries in each region working with IHFH to provide donated wildlife meat to the needy in each region. In 2016, IHFH finally obtained a processor and pantry in the Southeast Region.

Chad Giesbrect of Del Monte Meats in Pocatello said hunters can either pay for the processing of their big game and tell Del Monte how much of the meat they want donated to the pantry — which in the Gate City is First Baptist Church at 408 N. Arthur Ave. — or they can pay for the meat they are keeping and have Del Monte invoice the pantry and IHFH for the portion they are donating to the needy.

Here is how the program normally works: Hunters donate meat to cooperating food processors. The processors call and invoice the local IFHF food pantry, who then submit the invoice to IHFH for processing. Once delivered to the food banks and pantries, they distribute the meat to families and individuals in need.

Hunters can pay for the processing and donate the meat to the food banks and pantries, but they should check with IHFH to make sure all regulations are met for the donations. Donated meat must be processed professionally — so, not in your garage — for the food banks and pantries to distribute it to the needy.

There may be some wildlife meat the processors and pantries cannot accept for donation to the needy, such as bear. Be sure to check with IHFH as to what they are allowed to process and donate to those in need.

IHFH estimates that one in seven Idahoans are hungry and need assistance. The need for donations is very real and appreciated by the pantries and food banks in the area.

The people in Idaho have a history of being charitable toward those who need help getting back on their feet through religious organizations and the many programs that exist in most communities to help those in need. Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry and their cooperating processors, food banks and pantries are making it possible for hunters to have their surplus wildlife meat professionally processed and distributed to those who need it most.

Please consider helping IHFH achieve their goal of “Transforming Idaho’s wild surplus big game meat into nutritious food for the hungry.” They have a website at

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at

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.

Dealing with hypothermia

We had what I perceived as a pretty warm hunting season from Oct. 10 to 20. A couple of the evenings were pretty cool, but nobody I am aware of felt cold enough to mention they were cold. As a matter of fact, I packed clothes, gloves and hand and pocket warmers I never needed. I basically did very well with boots, pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt with a light pull-over jacket with hood. During the day, I put the jacket in my day pack because I didn’t need it.

Those who will continue elk hunting during November should experience colder days and nights than the temperatures during October. If you are planning to camp while hunting in November, your vehicle might be quite a ways away if you start to experience hypothermia — the dangerous lowering of your body’s temperature.

Cold affects not just one or two specific tissues or functions of the exposed person but affects the whole physiological economy in a sometimes subtle, yet always complex fashion.

Under cold conditions, humidity plays a minor role, unless the skin is artificially wetted through rain, perspiration or falling in the creek. Should this occur, the resulting evaporation cooling may exceed all other factors in importance. A person immersed in sub-arctic 40-degree water can be cooled beyond recovery in about 20 to 40 minutes or approximately 10 to 20 minutes in 32-degree water. A person in wet cotton clothing because of perspiration or rain must be considered nearly immersed in water and should act accordingly.

The sooner wet clothing can be removed and dry clothing put on, the sooner a person can regain some warmth. To the outdoorsman who depends on the clothing worn to stay dry and warm, the choice of clothing immediately available in case of the need to change in a hurry, should have the highest priority. Because of weight limitations, weather factors, seasonal conditions and the environment, clothing must serve several purposes, yet be able to withstand the abuse of the rough, rugged environment. Several layers of easy-on, easy-off clothing can offer layers of dead air for insulation between the fabrics. Wool is traditionally preferred because it is warm even when wet, but it is poor protection from wind, so a good wind-proof garment should be the outer layer worn.

If someone in your group exhibits signs of hypothermia, remove wet clothes, hats, gloves, shoes and socks and replace with dry clothes and blankets. Protect against wind and drafts. Move to a warm dry shelter as soon as possible. If the victim is conscious and you have warm liquids that do not contain caffeine, you can offer it to them. Do not give a victim of even mild hypothermia symptoms alcoholic beverages. Caffeine and alcohol speed up heat loss.

Any time a person exhibits signs of hypothermia, as the body cools, symptoms will indicate the severity of the situation. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. If the body temperature drops to 96 degrees, shivering begins and metabolism increases. At 94 degrees, gross motor skills are impaired. At 92 degrees, severe shivering begins and walking becomes difficult. At 90 degrees, convulsive shivering begins and the inability to stand up will be experienced. Finally, at 89 degrees body temperature, shivering stops and the individual will become comatose.

A person who is exhibiting any signs of hypothermia is in trouble. Immediate action to restore body heat is critical, so make sure you and the members of your group are prepared to act quickly to restore body heat and get the victim to professional medical help if necessary.

Many people don’t realize how soon a person will be in serious trouble if they don’t immediately remedy the situation when body temperature begins to drop.

Stay safe and stay warm. If a member of your group starts to show signs of hypothermia, get them warm fast or get medical assistance while there is still time.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at

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.

The .30-30 Winchester

Do you Know what America’s favorite deer rifle is? I don’t know what it is now, with all the choices available to hunters, but from 1895 to the 1950s and ’60s it was the .30-30 Winchester center fire or .30 WCF as it was first called. Now we just call it the .30-30 Winchester.

In 1835, it was originally manufactured as a lever-action rifle with a tubular magazine under the barrel. It was the first small-bore sporting rifle designed for smokeless powder. Because the cartridges were loaded one in front of the other in the magazine, the bullets were either round nosed or flat nosed to avoid ignition of cartridges in the magazine, which would destroy the rifle and ruin the hunter’s day. However, Hornady has recently been manufacturing a 160-grain bullet with its flex tip technology for the .30-30 Winchester that has a spire-point tip, a higher ballistic coefficient and is safe to use in tubular magazines. Hornady calls the new bullets LEVERevolution bullets, and they have the potential of improving standard .30-30 performance in lever-action rifles out to 200 yards.

I usually load my .30-30 with 170-grain flat-nosed bullets at 2,227 feet per second and 1,873 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Round-nosed and flat-nosed bullets create more air resistance, making the lever-action .30-30s decent 200-yard hunting rifles but the 170-grain bullet drops fast and loses momentum and foot pounds of energy past 200 yards. By 300 yards, the bullet has dropped 20 inches, and by 400 yards, it has dropped 58 inches.

Since 1,873 foot-pounds of energy is only about 400 foot-pounds of energy above that recommended for elk or moose hunting, it is recommended that the .30-30 be restricted to 100 yards and no more than 150 yards for the larger ungulates. In Canada, the .30-30 is used on moose and caribou using bolt-action rifles with spire-point bullets, but I personally think one should consider moving up to a .30-06 for game larger than deer or pronghorn.

Still, the .30-30 is a popular hunting rifle because of its good accuracy and light recoil, which is about 11 foot pounds of energy coming back at the hunter at 9.7 foot pounds using a 170-grain bullet.

Since I write a lot about the 700 Remington Magnum, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum, 300 Weatherby Magnum etc., I am sometimes asked if I even still own a .30-30 Winchester lever-action rifle? The answer is an emphatic yes. I own the original model 94 Winchester I used when I first started going hunting for deer, and my wife inherited a Model 64 lever-action .30-30 from her father.

I always take the .30-30 Winchester with me when I go deer hunting in case I end up hunting in heavy brush or sspen stands where a light, shorter rifle is preferred and the distance to target is likely to be 100 yards or less — sometimes a lot less.

I also like to lend my .30-30 to a couple of my grandchildren who probably aren’t ready to hunt with even a .30-06, which recoils twice as hard as the .30-30.

Whenever I am not hunting but want a rifle with me when going into some mountain property my family has owned for a lot of years, the .30-30 Winchester gets the nod. I have a sling on it and it is light and easy to carry if I am hiking, scouting for game prior to the hunting season or just want the reassurance of a rifle with adequate power out to 200 yards.

The .30-30 Winchester lever action may be older than my Aunt Doris, but it still does what it was designed to do within 200 yards, and it does it well. It definitely has an important place in and out of my rifle vault.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at

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.

The mediocrity effect

By Jeff Hough Lately, I have spent considerable time reflecting on the statement, “A meeting moves at the pace of the slowest mind in the room.” Having sat through countless meetings, I tend to agree with the premise. Yet, thinking past the initial acceptance of the thought, I began to wonder what lies behind it.
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