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Recent entries



Duck Tsukune

Thu, December 31, 2015

To all those faithful H.O. readers that wanted something new, something different in the recipe department, here goes:

Duck Tsukune is basically a flattened poultry meatball, it could be goose or pheasant or whatever kind of flying object you like to shoot, cook and eat.  It may sound complex and it certainly looks complex but it’s as simple as any deer camp meatball or grandma’s ole meatloaf recipe

First you’ll need some duck breasts ground up, then some preferably beef suet ground up, mixed about 60/40 or 70/30 duck to beef.  I prefer beef in this case as you won’t be cooking these well done, medium at most!  (If you are going to use pork fat, chicken, pheasant etc. you’ll want to cook well done)

after mixing the duck and suet, grind again for a more uniform mix

Here is what you’ll need:

Ground duck and beef suet (basically fat, trimmed off of ribeye’s or whatever, see your butcher)

You’ll want to add an egg and oatmeal for a binder, if the fat content is low (I skipped the egg as I had plenty of suet in the mix, I also like to grind the oatmeal in to a powder as well)

Fresh green onion (chop the white end for meatball, green tops for garnish) fresh garlic, ginger (fresh or powder)

Season with soy sauce, black pepper, Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, sake (if available, beer works too) and a few spoons of olive oil.  There are no exact amounts just use a little of each, if you like more Teriyaki use it, if more soy use it just go easy on those two as they are powerful and salty. 

Mix about 12-24 ounces of sauce per 2lbs. of meat adding only enough to raw meat to flavor it, save rest for Tare Sauce (dipping or drizzle)

Next run the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor making a slurry, add it to the meat mix with some of the sauce.  Mix it well with hands, let sit for a few hours to a few days.  Let those flavors work in to the meat.

In a sauce pan heat up the remaining sauce and add enough brown sugar to make the salty mix a little sweet (honey or molasses works too but I like the brown sugar)

Grill on skewers or on their own, flattening the meatballs just slightly on two sides.  Glaze with Tare sauce as you are almost done grilling (cook til medium at most) and again right before serving or as a dipping sauce with the dish.  Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.

This dish goes well on top of grilled eggplant Parmesan, grilled Portobella mushrooms, or even a nice rice dish. They work great on their own as appetizers also.

I often hear how folks don’t like duck and it’s tough to work with, let me tell ya, it doesn’t get any better than this.  Tasty, simple once you get your ingredients, can be made in many variations and will convert any non-duck loving consumers to enjoy your wild game!

It really is a 5 star cuisine that would cost you a fortune in a New York City fine dining atmosphere.

Duck Tsukune

Brad Poppe of Lexington, IL with a nice brace of ducks

Happy New Year and God bless,
Matt Cheever ~ Flatlander


60 seconds

Wed, December 16, 2015

Reflecting on the 2015 deer season leaves me with mixed emotions, it’s been a roller coaster ride as usual.  You might be thinking that there is still a month left why the wrap up now?  Well indeed some of the best hunting is yet to come as you can read about in my January Heartland Outdoors magazine article.  For me though the deer season is pretty much over.  I have reached my doe harvest goals for each farm I hunt and have my families need’s met for meat in the freezer.  I have also tagged two nice bucks so in essence my season is over.

I will likely hunt some in the late season just to see what comes in or to maybe thin the coyote population if opportunity presents itself.  I am fairly certain I won’t shoot another doe and can’t shoot another buck but would still like to have a few more sits in the treestand.  I wouldn’t have thought I’d be saying that just two weeks ago! A lot can change in 60 seconds. 

I started off the season knowing time was limited; coaching my son’s football and working a lot of hours but there is always time for hunting if one makes it a priority. I had encounters with two shooters during the October lull (for me a shooter is a 3.5 year old or older buck and 125” rack or better, but I’m not hung up on score, more on age).  These encounters were rare, the second of the two afforded me a shot at my best bow buck to date.  I was literally inches high and through the no zone (what some consider a myth, but I assure you it’s not).  The arrow stuck out both sides as I saw the buck run off breathing out the two arrow holes.

This was the highest of high! Followed by the lowest of low, losing a deer. We tracked it a mile and three quarter and praise God for cool landowners that allowed the tracking but the blood ended along with my hopes.  Two weeks later an old school mate and neighboring hunter arrowed the buck as it was chasing a doe, back to the highest of high! Thrilled for him and that I hadn’t wasted a deer’s life and he got a great buck! I felt relieved.

I have put in over 300 hours in the stand and contrary to what I hear from others heckling I don’t have the golden egg of hunting spots, I have some decent to mediocre fringe areas that see some run off or satellite bucks with the occasional giant every four to five years.  No shooter bucks showed in all these hours of rut hunting including six all day sits.  The lowest of low, I was beyond discouraged but also knew as I grow older and gain experience (grey hair/no hair) that it can happen anywhere in any stand.  Good fortune has a better chance of showing up in the worst stand location than it does in the warmest bed or comfiest couch.

One weather extreme to the next

Thank goodness for the ole bologna sandwich to get me through the long days

The first gun season came and went, I struggled to put a tag on a doe but did get one nice plump doe.  Second season came and went without a single deer sighting in three days, not even a shot heard, was it really even gun season I thought to myself?  Then in just a few seconds a buck, doe and button buck came rushing in.  Two shots, rapid reloading, gear thrown about and the blink of an eye I had a buck and doe on the ground.  With a hurried photo session, quickly but safely gutting the deer and hanging them up, I was still able to make it to church (walked in at 10:01, sorry Pastor) but exhausted and blessed giving thanks to the One that gave it all to me. Amazed, the highest of high, in just 60 seconds.

Muzzleloader season looked to be promising as I was going to travel to hunt and I hadn’t been on this farm since Halloween but had seen some shooters then.  Going in on a high note, nothing had shown itself in the balmy hot weather as of Sunday morning.  My buddy and I were leaving camp at 9:30 deer or no deer, I was losing hope, not even the flick of tail yet, and then as I look over my shoulder I see antler tips in the dense thicket a hundred yards away.  Through a single six inch hole I had to poke a shot, the muzzleloader ignited as almost an extension of my arm or maybe through telepathy the bullet left, smoke hung, bullet struck.  The buck with a thud, hit the mud as hard as the bullet had struck him, dead in his tracks and in another amazing 60 seconds! I was then as rattled as I’d ever been, not at the size or score of the buck but by how it all was orchestrated.  Amazing!

Hunting South Central Illinois is vastly different than where I live, instead of 80/20 food to cover it’s 80/20 cover to food and with record warm temperatures, seeking food sources wasn’t the deer’s priority in the daylight. Tough hunting to say the least

Had I slept in either one of those mornings or had I opted to shave 120 second of hunting off the 300 plus hour season I’d still be hanging my head low and grumbling about Illinois deer. It can all change in 60 seconds, sometimes less. The point is you have to be out there, every season, every year, every chance you can.  Those that consistently succeed consistently put themselves in that position, those that don’t might be short changing their chance of success; besides, you know the old saying, a bad day hunting is still better than a good day at work right??

Until Next time, have a Merry Christmas, great hunting and…
God bless,
Matt Cheever ~  Flatlander


Elk hunting

Fri, October 02, 2015

Most of the prime Elk hunting is finishing up in the West, winter is coming and while some gun seasons are still going on the peak of the bow season and rut or prime bugling will be waning. It’s been a hot topic among Midwesterners who partake in the adventure. I always like to listen in to these stories and try to be slow to speak. Let me tell you why I’m often a silent observer.

In my opinion there are three kind of elk hunters, those who talk about doing it that never will or at least will drag their feet for a few decades (and that’s okay it’s not for everyone), there are those who are going to or have booked an outfitted hunt that will cost a month and a half’s salary with expectations of stepping off a horse, or out of a truck and walk up over the mountain top and shoot one that can be loaded up and hauled off.  Then there are the purist’s which I see as true elk hunters, public or private land, do it yourself, maybe some help from and outfitter for a drop camp, most likely not.  They put in the time, do the home work and will carry the elk out on their back. This last group rarely speaks of antler score or judging bulls, they talk of filling an elk tag and it’s a true place of honor and respect for the species, its pure!

I can tell you are reading my bias in these scenarios, and that’s no mistake. I often hear talk of elk hunting in the summer months and have folks ask my opinion; not because I’ve been a few times or arrowed and elk but because I rub shoulders with more hunters in a week and get their stories than many do in a year. I also seem to have a fairly accurate B.S. meter and can identify a straight shooter from a hot air hose most of the time.

I get questions like, how many elk can I expect to see? How and what type of calling to do? Where to go? How much will I spend? Would you do an outfitted hunt? Is there good public land? Would you be interested in going to a ranch with a guide for $7000 that guarantees a 350” up bull?

Let me sum it all up. No I won’t do the high dollar hunt as I see no merit in it. If I invest $7000 stock with my financial advisor and he puts the money in CAT stock or maybe Apple, years ago anyway, it would have greatly increased my investment.  Would I boast that I had made a ton of money? I could certainly boast that my money made money, and I had made a wise decision going with a good retirement planner, but hardly that I had made good money!

I don’t judge those who chose an outfitter, many don’t have the time or know how for a “do it yourself”, I’m good with that, but to those don’t brag in elk circles on “what you’ve done”. True elk hunters know “you’ve done nothing” it’s what the mountain hands you.  I relate it to smallmouth bass fisherman, purists, it’s not the sponsor on the truck or boat, or the $250 reel, it’s what the river gives up and blesses you with. Same thing!

My first elk hunt included a gentleman that said I’m not shooting any bull under 350 inches Pope and Young! Upon returning to camp his first night, hours after darkness, lost, bewildered and completely worn out and out of shape, declares “I’ll shoot the first calf I see, this is ridiculous.”  The Rockies have no place for boasting, you truly put in the leg work and it quickly takes out the desire to boast and you realize every step upon aching step is a gift! The meat, whether cow or bull is consequently icing on the cake. Antlers are simply a reminder of how good you ate for a year.  You are still an elk hunter whether you punch a tag or not.  Elk hunting at this point mirrors Muskie fishing, you’re excited to say “I had an encounter, and it was awesome”!

You can expect to be mesmerized many times at the scenery alone, you will look down through the clouds at beautiful lakes, likely the first time doing so without being in an airplane. (side note: when flying to Europe this summer our plane started heading East a bit and banking gaining altitude for a second time and I looked at the flight status and map, we left Chicago now banking over mid-Michigan and we were at 11,000 feet and could barely see houses and cars, just dots, I told my wife we were still about 2-300 feet below altitude where I’d shot my elk, she had a look of disbelief).

You can expect in a ten day hunt to probably have a near death experience, first trip a tree fell quietly over me on a water break. My hunting partner sitting next to me saw it out of the corner of his eye and tackled me off the log, the dead tree landing by our legs, him saving my life! The second trip we darted between lightning bolts, enduring golf ball size hail on top of a flat mountain top with no cover in the dark with the only thing comforting was the conversation with God about me not breaking the promise to my son that I wouldn’t die on this trip and I’d once again throw a ball with him…….I pleaded with my maker “don’t make me a liar to my son”.

So you see when I see a group on television with two guides, a hunter, four camera men, step out of two crew cab trucks and walk calmly through a meadow and set up at daylight and call a little, 5 bulls come by waiting for a Booner and then they quietly discuss which ones to let pass, that isn’t even really elk hunting to me.  Call me judgmental but call me an elk hunter as well. I won’t ever likely shoot a Boone and Crockett elk but I won’t sip coffee in a lodge and minutes later be in a hundred elk either.

You can expect to miss a shot with a bow, or maybe a few, you can expect to have several encounters that you will botch due to your ignorance or simply because the elk are smarter.  You, if hunt hard enough in a decent area can expect to hear a bugle that will change your life and how insignificant you think you may be and just how mighty God’s creation is.  You’ll scratch your head at how a 900lbs. animal with antlers big enough to gore you and your buddy can get close enough to smell his urine and see the slobber run out of his mouth and nostrils but yet not present a good shot. It will amaze you.

You will swear to God you’ll never do this again or hike that mountain again and it’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, then within 24 hours be thinking about how you’ll talk your spouse in to letting you go do it again.  You’ll be at the point of tears due to physical anguish but not let your buddie’s see it, or maybe you will as they have already let you see.  You’ll promise if you go again you’ll be in better shape next time but honestly can’t ever be in that good of shape unless you live there.

You’ll promise yourself to never start a fight or partake in one with someone who lives about 6000 feet elevation no matter their stature. You’re pretty sure the first week back in Illinois from your hunt that no one you meet will whip you either, and you’d be right unless you tangle with someone else who just got back from a do it yourself elk hunt also.

You’ll write about your hunt as if you’re an expert but though you’ve barely scratched the surface of what the Rocky Mountains are all about. You’ll appreciate life in a way that when folks talk about “buying” an elk hunt you’ll snicker to yourself or maybe out loud. You might not even talk about elk hunting with other hunters unless you hear them say, I “do it yourself” elk hunt out West. Then like old fraternity brothers begin to digress.

If you’re reading this you’re likely that guy or gal saying “someday I’m going” (and you really need to) or you are pissed off because you’ve put that deposit down on the guided rifle hunt and you consider yourself an elk hunter but deep down inside you don’t think you can muster up (or out West, Cowboy Up) what it takes to do it.  Money can’t buy intestinal fortitude. Maybe you’re reading this nodding yes, like you do when listening to your favorite folk singer knowing how crazy the song, the singer is right!

Pictured below, Jeff Sandage of LeRoy, IL ………an Elk Hunter

Until next time, God bless,
Matt Cheever ~  Flatlander


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