Archive | April, 2009

Harvesting from the Earth

Posted on 10 April 2009 by Cork Graham

Many of you have written me after watching cooking show after cooking show, asking:

It all goes back to my understanding of conservation, and real conservation goes back to
the origins of stewardship of the land. Originally  just a king or landowner, or  a
farmer or rancher who the conservationists who worked or had someone work with the land and reaped
the rewards of that labor.

Nowadays, we pay agencies and corporations to do that work for us. For many of us now,
conservation really means preservation, practicing catch-release. For others like me, the
cycle of life, building water collection sites, clearing out pollutants and fencing it off
from cattle, planting feed plots for deer and then harvesting from those endeavors is
most rewarding: not only on a societal plane, but also environmentally for all other
game and non-game animals, birds and fish that benefit.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a very important place for catch-release programs,
especially in areas with no restocking programs that are close enough to urban
populations that non-stocking or catch-keep practices would wipe out an in a week. It’s just that we can’t forget how we got here and what works best, where, and when…

As for the cooking shows, I’m a firm believer in what I heard Master Chef, hunter, and
entrepreneur Marco Pierre White
comment on cooking game. He was walking with
Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations and showed how to cook a rabbit with a filling
of grass taken from the land where the rabbit had been shot: match the game and fish to the land.

For us here in Northern California, that’s wine and grapes, and blackberries and hops and
madrone and alder. Take a steelhead from the river and cut a few of the many stands of
alder (be sure to remove the bark or you’ll get sick) from the waterway which you’d
taken the trout, add a sugar and salt brine and you’ve got the makings for an amazing
smoked steelhead.

Take a Chardonnay from the Napa, Sonoma or Russian River Valley, match it with garlic, and a
turkey taken from the same vineyards that produced those wine grapes and you’ve got the
makings for a heavenly “Turkey Scallopini”! Or, as we just did in our latest episode with a
Russian River Valley 2007 Chardonnay from Peters Vineyards and bottled by Papapietro
Perry Winery
, a steelhead poached in wine and served with a phenomenal wine-butter

The more that I can re-instill that pride of gathering and preparation that used to be so
prevalent all over the world, before children began thinking that their burgers, chicken
patties and fish sticks magically came from a machine that made food from cellophane
wrappings, I’ll do it!

Our friend and fellow outdoorsman John Putnam at Gauge Wines let us in on what’s
happening up in the Mendocino area. There’s an organic foods movement that has been
rising in strength, starting in Northern California, with such culinary luminaries and
Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and land shephards Don and Sally Schmitt at
The Filo Apple Farm
: The Philo Apple Farm prides itself on not even making produce deliveries
further than a tank of gas away out of respect for local grown food freshness.

With more activity like that, our populations will eat more healthily and the land will benefit
through that enlightened husbandry—and what better way to make sure that our following
generations will have a great place to live than to bring back that understanding that all
our ancestors automatically received from day-to-day life on family farms and ranches!

Well, amazingly realistic photo-imaged, inflatable decoys from Cherokee Sports just came in and so we’re off to Lakeport at the north end of Clearlake to match them with the Decoy Sled for our next Remington Arms turkey production!

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Two in the Can…Two More This Weekend!

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Cork Graham

Ziggy's first half of hunt birds.

Ziggy's first half of hunt birds.

If I could only shoot and not have to deal with editing, creating episodes would be a complete slam-dunk: but it’s in the editing that shows are made or destroyed!

And sometimes it just fun going out for a hunting or fishing trip and enjoying it for what it is. Two weeks ago Ziggy and I went to Birds Landing Hunting Preserve to make sure the Zig-meister had a last chance at pheasants during their shoot-out. First time trying the place: great place to hunt, with nice folks…but make sure your pup has its Frontline–ticks galore!

For an 8 months old pup he pointed 8 birds, two of which were dead. As can happen, other hunters lose their birds, either because their vest is flimsy or the bird falls out as they’re bending over. Or, more often, a bird is crippled and never found–if you’ve ever wondered why a good bird-dog can cost so much this is why… If a bird is killed that day, I have no problems adding it to my bag.

If you feel the same, feel free to pick up those birds and add them to your limit [this was an end of season “Shoot-out”, so there was no limit, hence 8 birds!] What I do is smell the bird to make sure it’s fresh, though.  And as a sign of age, if I see maggots already at work, I know for sure it’s been a day since the bird was killed and that’s where I don’t retain the dead bird. 

Funny part was that I’m now getting an idea of what he’s pointing. If Ziggy’s tail’s up, it’s a live bird holding. If his tail’s down, it’s a dead bird, time of death not yet determined. Needless to say we’ve got a lot of birds to work smoking and BBQ recipes with. Just did a couple birds in the 10 year old Model 8 Cookshack smoker: bulgogi marinated and applewood smoked–came back from my year working for the ROK Army to find it kaput, but a replacement of the heating element and that’s all it needed!

As for other show’s we’ve getting ready for release, we’ve been editing the wine-poached steelhead that we used a wonderful  Papapietro-Perry Chardonnay on. It came out very well as you’ll see in the coming how-to episode.

Hope your turkey opener was spectacular! I was the cameraman on the lastest episode we shot for our friends at Mathews last weekend. Started off with a perfect ground blind setup, but devolved into a call and run and shoot: wait ’til you see how Marv DeAngelis shoots at 15 yards, if that!

Marv DeAngelis with his trophy gobbler

Marv DeAngelis with his trophy gobbler

For this weekend’s shoot, our friends at a Rvfshr Products and Kramer Tackle and Guide sent a collection of lures to try on steelhead. So, we’re dedicating a couple episodes to jigs and pink worms, and spoons and spinners. Can’t wait to try them! They look fishy and you’ll notice that many lures meant to catch fish, as compared to anglers ,can seem very muted when you use them, jigs and worms aside. More on that later in an actual feature article…

It’s kind of a bittersweet as we move into later parts of the season. The Russian is lowering and we’ve probably just got another two weeks left of steelheading there. The American is still on, and perhaps another two weeks after than and it too will be done. Then it’s trout and bass and halibut and spearfishing and so many great activities to do in the outdoors that put  you in the thick of it as a true conservationist–preservationists need not apply… 😉

As for hunting, we’ve definitely got many opportunities for turkey, mainly Rio Grandes, but a few Easterns in the mix through cross-breeding. Briley and Kick’s Industries sent us their special turkey chokes to try on my trusty Remington SP-10. You may be surprised to know that I actually enjoy shooting the SP-10. It’s more enjoyable to shoot than many 26″ barrel 12 gauges. Yes, it’s heavy, but as you know from my comments about shooting heavy-kicking firearms, I’ll definitely take the weight any day. And what I love most is when that load from a 10 hits, it’s lights out: turkey or geese–perfect load/perfect pattern! It’s the magnum shooter’s 16 gauge…

More on program scheduling: my favorite, wild pigs, is still on the menu this spring, though with the rapid heating/non-winter and lack of water it’s a question of what it’ll carryon to be…

Well back to the Russian for steelies on jigs, pink worms, spoons and spinners!

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