Trying to Beat the Heat

As most know it gets brutal in Texas in summer. We have been lucky this year so far with temps still not at 100 constantly, but what’s the difference really when its 95 or 100 its still a beating. I had work to do on some stands and fence so I gathered some help and got a little work out of them with promises of some fishing in a nice cool river.
In the hottest part of summer I worry more about staying cool than catching tons of keeper fish so any fishing I can do in the water and swim too is perfect. I knew just the spot for both so we spent a few hours one night catching grass hoppers. I may write a whole post on just grass hopper fishing later but for now I’ll just hit the high lights. We only catch them at night and only use the big yellow ones. We had our cages full and would leave at daylight for the river.
The best place I know is below the Possum Kingdom lake dam for cool clear water. I’ve fished this area my entire child hood and we always catch something, usually small but I don’t care I’m not there to fill the freezer, I’m there to be fishing and not be hot.

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When wading and fishing with grasshoppers its hard sometimes toting a big cage full of hoppers around so I make these little “hopper holders”, its just a small wire with each end ran into a slip bobber to hold the ends and I string the hoppers up the wire and run the wire through a loop on my pants. You may get some funny looks but you have your bait handy without carrying a big cage around.

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All it takes is a small spinning set up, a 2/0 bait holder hook, a small slip bobber and a grasshopper, and you can catch every species of fish in the river. In about four hours we caught channel cat, big blue gils, spotted bass, large mouth bass, a sunfish that my grandpa used to call a war mouth when I was a kid, I don’t know if that’s the real name but PawPaw said it was so that’s what it is too me. I have even caught carp on hoppers but the only one I hooked on this trip ran right at my feet and I couldn’t keep up the slack and he came lose. I think between three of us we caught 30+ fish and I’d say half were channel cat but only a couple would have made a meal.

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You will bump into a few snakes and have to be careful on the rocks but this is one of my favorite ways to fish. When it gets too hot just sit down or take a swim.

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The scenery along the river is nice too. The wives even came out later with the kids and everybody swam and walked around in the river.

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Beings we were this close to Strawn and its sort of on the way back I decided to go up to Mary’s and have a chicken fry after we fished. Mary’s is a place that every person that’s not from Texas that ask what a chicken fried steak is should go to. I’ve hunted and fished all over and am always surprised at the people that don’t know what it is. These poor poor people haven’t been eating right their whole lives. Everything at Mary’s is huge. The burger is over a pound, the small chicken fry is big as a plate, the plate of chicken liver is more than two people can eat, if you leave Mary’s hungry its your fault. I had the medium sized chicken fry with some of the best gravy there is and its a handful. Alex had frog legs and he finished but this guy can eat a lot of frog legs and it took him a little bit to get it down.

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The chicken fry comes on its own plate but you get salad, potatoes, and toast also. I was wore out from building fence and walking the river and now I’m full of chicken fried steak so the drive home was a struggle but I’d do it again tomorrow if I could. If you want to hunt and fish and be outside no matter the weather you can figure out a way. Think of all the people that stay inside sucking up their AC when they could be belly deep in the Brazos River with a pretty little spotted channel cat on their line and a back drop of cliffs and blue skies, that’s a shame of you ask me.

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Jambo’s BBQ and an old story

Its the 4th of July Holliday weekend, its hot, and I just don’t wanna be outside longer than I have to so I was looking through some things and found an article I wrote for a traditional bowhunter magazine a couple years ago but never sent it in, partly because I’m lazy but mostly because I realized I’m not writer. I just scribble things down and try not to bore too many people. So I decided to post this article and a BBQ place I found with a man size sandwich.

Remembering My First

I would like to start this by saying I had practiced till my fingers bled and shot arrows until the target wouldn’t stop another shaft but that’s just not the case. I’ve shot bows, actually all kinds of weapons my whole life and have never devoted an entire season to a single type of weapon, that’s not to say I haven’t devoted the time needed to be proficient with the weapon I chose for a particular hunt, just that I am not apposed to a muzzle loader, compound bow, or even rifle if the circumstances allow. This past season I finally connected with my first whitetail with traditional gear. Let me tell you first about how I acquired this bow.
Years ago as I made my way up the main street of the small Texas town I grew up in I noticed a pickup in front of me without a tailgate and I spied an old recurve just bouncing around in the bed. When the driver pulled into a small cafe my sister worked at I followed. I inquired about the bow and the nice lady driving the pick up said that it didn’t sell in her garage sale that morning and she would gladly take ten dollars for it. Wouldn’t you know I only had seven in my wallet so my loving sister made up the difference from her tip jar.
The bow was an old Ben Pearson Cougar 55@28, the limbs were straight, the wood was dull and frankly it was ugly and as you can imagine having ridden around in the bed of a truck the finish was nothing to look at either, but I found some arrows it liked and it shot well so I continued to shoot it.
Just a couple seasons later I took a nice Corsican ram near my home, it was nice to put blood on the ground with a traditional bow but lets face it, an exotic Texas ram is not a white tail deer and although I was proud of the 19 yard shot I knew that if I really wanted to become a true traditional bowhunter I needed to take a wild white tail deer.
In the following years kids playing sports, and work, and just life in general had taken most of my time for practice and I done most of my hunting with a gun of some kind or a compound bow. I know a lot of traditional guys have a different opinion about wheels and cables but I feel any archery taken game is a great accomplishment and I took plenty with mine but I wanted to hunt with the old recurve.
When I learned about backing a bow with snake skin I knew how I was gonna fix those cosmetic problems that the old Pearson had. Living in Texas finding a rattle snake to skin is an easy task, in fact sometimes too easy, often they will offer themselves to you when you don’t even need one. Like when your walking to your stand in the dark or kicking around some leaves to make a nice spot to sit against a tree while turkey hunting. After studying several methods of backing with snake skin I went at it like I’d done it before and surprisingly the bow looked good and I was very impressed with what I had done. I showed it off to my buddies and bragged on the bow but I still hadn’t accomplished much in the way of hunting with it.
So here is November again and I had filled all three of my freezers with hog and deer meat with my muzzle loader, compound bow, and rifles so I turned my attention to the recurve. Now when I say turned my attention I mean I shot it some but nothing that would be called heavy practice. I’m very lucky in that I can pick up most any bow and in only a few shots be grouping arrows at twenty yards in a tight circle. This is not a brag, I’m just lucky to have very good hand eye coordination. Wether it be from pitching a baseball all my youth or shooting, I don’t know but I feel very confident in my shooting in a short time.
On to the hunt.
I had loaded three different bows two rifles, one shotgun and one sidearm into my truck, this should cover any situation I would encounter over the next week. Being on my regular hunting grounds I knew I may end up on a duck pond or calling a bobcat or hunting pigs in the dark so I was prepared. When I arrived the first day of the week the wind was perfect for a tree stand I had at a fence crossing so I grabbed my snake bow, as it had been dubbed, and headed to the tree. Just an hour in a small nubbin buck had somehow snuck into twenty five yards unnoticed. It amazes me how they do this, I am there for the sole purpose of seeing a deer and I strain my eyes to see one and like a ghost there they are like they were dropped from the sky. I watched the little deer for fifteen minutes I was thinking his mother had probably caught a bullet being this is late November and general season in Texas had been open for a month now and he was alone. Then I see an ear through the brush. A big ear, an ear big enough that I knew to grab my bow because this was a grown deer. In the seconds it took to reach my bow the ear had become a full grown doe standing at ten yards. Not having a shot there I made my adjustment to be ready when she cleared brush. As I’m playing the up coming shot in my mind I’m seeing the deer stepping out, quartering away and me releasing a perfect arrow but all hunters know that what you want to happen and what the animal usually does is rarely the same thing, but in this case it wasn’t. If I could have remotely controlled a deer to walk in and stop at a spot and an angle it would have been this exact place.
The hardest thing for me and I believe a lot of traditional shooters is picking a spot on an animal to shoot at. Orange dots on targets help you focus on a small area and of the thousands of Texas deer I’ve seen none have come with this spot so I found a little place on her rib second from the back and knew if I hit that spot with her at that angle I would have my first traditional whitetail soon.
She raised her head looking away into the brush at other deer and I started my draw. I remember hitting anchor but not much after that. Something took over, practice, instinct, something, Im not sure but my brain just said I got this and the arrow was on the way.
When I used to pitch as a kid I knew the instant the ball left my fingers if the pitch was gonna hit my intended spot near the plate or end up a souvenir for a fan in the left field seats and just like then when the string broke lose I knew it was a perfect arrow. I’ve heard people say that sometimes they concentrate so hard on a spot that at the release of the arrow it seems like slow motion and I didn’t understand what they meant, but on the way to the deer this arrow seemed to stop spinning and I felt I could see each individual feather on the shaft.
She didn’t jump the string thanks to the strong wind in my face making the sound hard to hear. The arrow hit that exact place on that rib I had been looking and buried to the feathers.
I love to hunt I love the challenge I love the woods but I don’t get too fired up about taking game. Not that I’ve lost the feeling of buck fever I’ve just learned to control my emotions. I’m excited for the hunt and the opportunity to be out but once I have gotten an animal in a spot I want and fooled their nose and eyes and I am in range I feel I already won, taking the animal after that is a bonus but I was pretty pumped about this shot. I knew the distance was a little farther than my usual practice distance because I had ranged several trees and brush in the area on previous hunts. I usually practiced at twenty yards but I didn’t care the distance at the time, when you know you can make a shot you just shoot and I had all the confidence in the world that this deer would soon be laying at the end of a short blood trail. I later ranged the shot at twenty four yards which made me more proud.
Hearing the arrow snap on a tree just fifty yards into her run I knew the blood would start to flow heavy then and the track would be a short one. I took twenty minutes to gather my thoughts and equipment and replay the shot in my mind insuring myself that the shot was where I thought and I climbed down.
She had made a big half circle of about seventy five yards before getting out of sight and I figured she wouldn’t be far from that spot and I was right. I followed a little blood till I found the arrow, so beautiful and red, as I reached down to pick it up I scanned the under brush for more blood and found the trail. Just thirty yards passed the spot where the arrow was laying there she lay. I was a little surprised at the distance she had made it when I dressed the deer because the arrow had entered high in the back of the near lung and exiting the front lower half of the far lung and had made a little slice in the top of the heart on the way through. These are amazing creatures with a will to live and senses not rivaled by many other animals and I had taken one with a ten dollar bow and a single arrow. A bow that isn’t worth much more now than the money I gave for it out of the back of that truck. In fact the snake skins were probably worth more than the whole outfit but I wouldn’t take twenty times that for it.
Now I felt I had accomplished something, no disrespect to the little Corsican ram I had taken before but you just aren’t the challenge to hunt that wild Texas white tail deer are.
I’ve found myself shooting my recurve more and more and have even gotten a real nice custom take down bow, which is a work of art and as smooth and quite as anyone could ask of any bow, but theres something special about the snake bow, maybe the story, the reminder of my sister being grateful and giving her tip money to help me that day, or maybe that I put snake skins from snakes I collected on it or maybe the fact that it is the bow I took my first recurve whitetail with. I don’t think I will ever completely give up on shooting my other bows and guns but I doubt I will ever feel the accomplishment I felt when I finally took my first white tail with traditional equipment.

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Jambo’s in Rendon Texas is open three days a week and when they run out of food that’s it. They smoke the same amount of meat for the next day every time and sell it until its gone so get there early. Every thing was good and even though its crowded we got in and out fast. This is the Texan, it has smoked bologna, turkey, sliced and chopped brisket, sausage and ribs. It was work for sure but I got it choked down.

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Ask Me What I like About Texas

I’m like Gary P. Nunn and like everything between the Sabine and the Rio Grande too so when the in laws come down from Detroit I’m gonna show them everything I can there is to love about my state. We started the day with this view and if that’s not the best way there is to start any day anywhere I would like to know a better one.

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I called Johhny Stevens over at Eagle Mountain Lake and told him I wanted to take my brother in law and sister in law fishing and he said its been slow but we will give it hell, that’s all I needed to hear. They arrived from Detroit at DFW at 9:15 PM and it made for a short night but we got to the lake at daylight and Johhny was ready to go. You gotta love a guide that has the boat in the water and things squared away when he tells you to be there. Just like Johhny said it started slow, so slow in fact at about 9 AM we were considering calling it day, but I’m glad we didn’t I really wanted Chris and Jenny to catch fish. We decided to try one more spot and it had a few fish so we stopped and slowly but surely we started catching a few. It was still slow and it took a lot of casting but it was enough action to keep us there. Jenny some how managed to catch a stick in the middle of the lake, but we didn’t laugh at her.

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She redeemed herself though and caught us a nice sand bass to eat.

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These fish were weird, they looked poor but wouldn’t bite and most of the ones we did catch were directly on bottom and it was a muddy bottom. I’ve never caught sand bass on black mud bottom but they were there so I learned something. Here’s Chris, Johhny, and Jenny trying to figure them out.

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Let me tell you a little about Johhny, first Ive fished with dozens of guides and Johhny is one of my favorites, when I called he said fishing sucks but we can try it. I liked that about him, he knew we may not catch much and he told me that but he’s 72 years old and been fishing this lake for 50 years so I figured if he can’t catch them then they can’t be caught. He makes his own lures which I bought plenty of when I left and he has his things squared away and he put up with me on a boat for six hours which I guess to some ain’t easy. We ended the day cleaning 51 fish, that’s not bad but not a typical sand bass trip but thanks to Johhny’s honesty there were no surprises. I’ll go fishing with him anytime.

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As you may have guessed fishing makes me hungry and Johhny knew a spot we could eat while he cleaned the fish so off to Mak’s Burgers and BBQ we go. This is a cafe in a gas station which are some of my favorites, I mean I can have a burger, scratch a lottery ticket, hear the latest local gossip, and fill up the truck all in one spot. Now before I tell you about the cafe let me tell you that Jenny is like me and can eat and loves food so when she is here we knock out some food. Chris and I had burgers which were great and had about everything you could pile on a burger on it. Jenny had what Mak’s called armadillo pie and this thing was a beast. French fries, with brisket, grilled onions, jalapeños, tons of cheese, some kind of sauce that I think they make, and more cheese and, well you get the idea. It took all of us to eat it but I think we did it.

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Johhny met us back at the cafe just in time and we got squared away, I filled up some sweet tea for the road and we headed home to rest up for the Ranger game, another thing I like about Texas. So far in less than 24 hours Chris and Jenny had left Detroit, landed in DFW, got a couple hours sleep, fished for six hours and were at a Texas Ranger game. That’s a lot of doing in a short span but I wanted them to see and do as much as they could while here, and they ain’t even got to Austin yet for the X-Games which is the whole reason for coming to Texas to start with. We got to the park and I introduced Jenny to some Texas size food. The Rangers ballpark has what they call a Boomstick, which is a two foot long two and a half pound hot dog, and a Choomungous sandwich named after outfielder Sin Soo Choo, it is also two feet long, and has some Asian beef, slaw, sriracha sauce, and some sort of spicy mayo. I have already eaten the Boomstick a couple years back and it wasn’t that good, it was average for a chili dog but I had to eat it all to say I did it. I ask Jenny if she wanted to try the Choomongous sandwich and of course she did. This thing is massive, it looked bigger to me than the Boomstick and after I started eating it I realized there was no way I could have eaten this thing alone. I’m not sure how I finished the Boomstick alone but the sandwich wasn’t happening so lucky I had help, plus at $26 a pop you kinda feel like you have to finish it.

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I waddled back to my seat after that and we watched the Rangers get beat, and called it a night. I hope the first 24 hours of being in Texas was better than they expected, and now they have some things they can like about Texas too.

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Eagle Mountain Lake

I had high hopes for our trip this week to Eagle Mountain Lake but the wind had other plans. Wind is the weather I hate more than any, I can take cold and even rain but hate wind. A little wind is nice it makes the channel cat hang out on the points and usually easy to catch but this amount of wind is not fun. You need to be in the wind where the fish are but you want to be back in a cove where the fish aren’t so you have a decision to make.
Me, Alex, Catman Brandon, and Mary Ann were looking to fill a cooler up with channel cat but it didn’t work out. The wind was bad, the lake was white capping, and it was tough. I should have known when Alex lost the first fish at the boat, and it was nice, that it just wasn’t our day. Then my first catch is this green guy, we are going down hill fast.

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But wait I landed this monster, and its the right species so I’m counting that as making progress.

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It did get a little better but it was tough. Alex caught a couple nice ones and if you were a channel cat under 12″ and you live in Eagle Mountain lake there’s a real good chance me or Mary Ann put a hole in your lip. We had to have caught 50 littles ones but ended up keeping 30 so a total of 75 fish or so but not many fillets.

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Not a great day but, hey we were on the lake and that’s better than about anything else you could be doing and we stopped off at Colters for BBQ on the way home so over all not a bad day.

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3 cafes 2 fish and a carnival

The plan was to catch limits of fish, win every prize at the carnival, and eat good food along the way, well I tried. I started by stopping in Weatherford for breakfast with my sister and brother in law at Main St Cafe. I was impressed, it was a cool little place and the wait staff was great. I had a charizo omelette with ranchero sauce, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy, and of course black coffee and sweet tea.

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Next stop Graham for fishing, flea markets, and carnival. Cason couldn’t wait to go to the carnival so to pass time we tried to do a little perch fishing. This should be easy but when there’s only half the water in all the ponds as there normally is and still the same amount of people fishing it gets hard. We stopped at the flea market first and I got Cason a new pocket knife and he thought he was the man. He put it in his pocket and walked around a little then would have to stop and pull it out to check on it every so often. He says, I bet I’m the only five year old with a brand new pocket knife with three blades on it. After that we went fishing and he used his new knife to cut up worms but we struggled finding fish. Look close in his left hand and you can see the knife sticking out. It didn’t spend much time in his pocket.

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We needed a snack after that so we headed to the Dairy King just up the road. I’ve eaten here my whole life and it hasn’t changed and that’s a good thing. The owner Harmon, told me once that when his dad built the place it was the end of the paved road in Graham. Half my family has worked here at some point, its nothing special just really cheap food that’s good. Everybody knows everybody and its just a part of Graham that I hope stays around. Cheeseburger, fries, drink $5. $5, think about what else you can buy for $5, not much and surely not a burger in most places.

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We had made Cason wait long enough and after getting out of his fishy clothes we were carnival bound, against his best effort the pocket knife had to stay home. I’m not gonna lie and tell you I go to the carnival for the kids because I don’t I go because I love it, the kids having fun is a bonus but I would go without them too. I called in all the nieces and nephews for this one, in total I think we rolled in with about ten people total and we won’t count the money spent it was worth it. Graham carnival always has great sausage so I had a handful of those, then me and the kids knocked out four or five funnel cakes, and maybe some cotton candy and a few Cokes, I wanted to make sure they had the energy to get through the night.

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Cason, Ryley and Landry rode a few rides and Keeton and I won all kinds of prizes at various games. I say won but I learned long ago your success at carnival games goes up dramatically if you pay the carny working that particular booth more than they ask, for example Cason wanted a stuffed lizard and needed to pop five balloons but for $5 more to the carny while he’s throwing he somehow won no matter how many balloons he popped, cool huh, everybody wins. After the kids were wearing down and most of the adults wallets were worn completely down Jarod and I decided to launch the drone and take some pics and video of the carnival. I’ll show the pics from the drone but really can’t describe the reaction from the people when they spotted it, lets just say there will likely be UFO sightings reported and I’m convinced at least one woman knows for sure aliens tried to abduct her. This is one of coolest things I’ve played around with in awhile, expect more pics in the future from the drone.

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The next day we decided to try our luck at the lake and Cason wanted to ride around in the boat, careful what you ask for buddy. Launching the boat and fishing in Graham Lake was unsuccessful so we loaded up and went down the road to Newcastle. Nate knew it was low but we thought we could still get around a little walking. Its really sad to see the lakes in this condition, where I used to put my fishing tube in the water is now a 200 yard walk just to get to mud and Cason learned a hard lesson about the mud but it made me laugh. I heard him saying I’m stuck and when I turned around he had walked clean out of his boot, he didn’t find it as funny as me.

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We did manage a small bass but mostly I took pics and stood in amazement at the condition of the lake.

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I’ve fished this lake when the water was running into the top of that overflow and it is about nine feet out of the water now.

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Oh yeah Cason asked to ride around the lake in the boat so that’s exactly what he got to do. We put him in the boat and we road around the lake, the boat was on the trailer and I don’t think its what he had in mind but hey we did the best we could with what we had.

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That ended our fishing effort and I was hungry again so we went for lunch. Clayton’s BBQ back in Graham. The cool thing about Clayton’s is Ive been eating Clayton’s before it was a place. I went to school with the owners son and he always had the smoker going behind the house when we were kids. He started out selling sandwiches from his yard, then got a small building, then moved into a large building and now has a very successful business. BBQ is not hard to find in Texas, we all know that but there is some bad Q around. Clayton’s is not one of those, its good smoked meat with good sides but for me the banana pudding puts it over the top. Mrs Clayton even gave me a t-shirt for free, thanks Mrs Clayton.

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That’s it 3 cafes 2 fish and a carnival.

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Making Brats

I don’t wanna turn this site into a recipe blog but I do get asked all the time, if your always eating at the cafes then what are you doing with all the meat you kill? Well I eat it, almost everyday at one of our meals there is a wild animal involved, wether it be breakfast sausage or fish for supper or a smoked hog quarter, we eat everything we kill. I give meat to family and friends and will on occasion share some summer sausage too. So here are few pics of me and Patrick making brats this weekend. I made some oryx and bacon brats a couple years ago and really liked using the bacon ends as the fat so we went with that again but this time the meat was likely the most mixed up batch of brats anyone has ever seen. I had bits and pieces of several critters so what better way to clean some out than mix it all up with some bacon and brat seasoning. These would be mule deer from Montana, hog from Jack county, turkey I killed a few weeks back, a couple squirrels, and half a dozen or so duck breast for some stronger flavor.

Cutting the meat from some squirrel and a hog quarter.

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Wild turkey thighs and legs are usually tough and have a ton of convective tissue so I cut most of the meat off I can and add it to the mix.

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More cutting and adding the bacon ends. These are just random size pieces of fat and meat that was trimmed off when they cut the bacon after it was cured. It adds a smokey flavor and good fat content, I’ve found about 30% is a good balance of not being too fatty and still get good flavor. Hell I don’t need to explain why I put bacon in them, its bacon that’s why you put bacon, name one thing that’s not better with bacon.

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The mix we use requires you add water so for brats I cut up all meats and fat then mix the pieces real good then grind and mix again as I add the seasoning. When making a breakfast or smoked sausage that uses a dry seasoning I would add the seasoning on the cut up meat then mix then grind. Adding the seasoned liquid to the ground meat seems to get a more even flavor.

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Its an old school sausage stuffer but its effective, one day I will upgrade my equipment but for doing small batches this is not bad. I have a small grinder that does about three pounds a minute and my stuffer holds three pounds also, so its not a commercial operation but if you’re not a little tired when you get done the brats just don’t seem to taste as good.

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Once we get all the meat mixed and ground and let sit in the fridge for a bit to soak up the seasoning its just a matter of making brats then. I only use natural hog casing and if you don’t know, that’s a real nice way of saying pig intestine, I know it sounds gross and I guess if you think about it, it kinda is but hey I put bacon in it so its all good. You simply slide the casing over the end of the stuffer and as you pull down on the handle the meat is forced into the casing and beautiful brats come sliding out.

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You can twist as you go or just fill the full length of the casing then twist to get more uniform length. Patrick made me laugh as he was the “twister” and we had brats shorter than a hot dog bun and some twice as long but that’s ok, that reminds you they’re home made and as he said when he twisted one out about 2″ long one time, “hey kids gotta eat too”.

We made 20 pounds, which depending on your “twister” will be somewhere between 70-80 brats. A quarter pound brat is pretty big but I like them that way.

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Everybody has their way of cooking I guess but for me its a little boil in beer and onions and then onto the grill, if you’re cooking a bunch or need to keep them warm I just put them back in the beer with the onion to stay warm. I usually pull the onions out and add a little bacon grease to a pan to sauté the onions in. Yep that’s right bacon brats with bacon grease sautéed onions, I swear I don’t hate my heart I just really like food.

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One of these and some sweet tea and you’re set for awhile. We did all this in about three hours, and an hours worth of clean up. One of the disadvantages of doing small batches is the clean up is the same for ten pounds as it is for a hundred pounds but that’s ok with me I kind of enjoy the whole process and I never hear any complaints when I’m grilling brats around the pool, it makes you think of the hunt again. There’s nothing better than remembering how cold you were in Montana or the morning you swore you had frost bite on your toes when duck hunting or when Alex jumped in the icy pond to get the very duck that you are eating when its 110 degrees in July. Its a lot of why I do what I do. I’ve introduced a lot of people to wild game and hunting with good food. Many people think they don’t like deer or will say I just can’t eat that, all the while they are eating my “beef” enchiladas and telling me how good they are. After they get done I’ll let them know that the “beef” they just ate was a big fat white tail doe that I killed on the food plot that I grew and that meat was processed by me in the kitchen they are eating in and it really makes them think about what they think they know.

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KN Root Beer and more turkeys

This trip was gonna require me to be a taxi driver, turkey caller, baby sitter, and uncle. My nephew Keeton has been asking for a couple years to take him to shoot a turkey and we just haven’t been able to line it up but this weekend we made it work. First off we needed food to get going and I haven’t been to KN Root Beer in Graham in awhile so that was our first stop. Now when I was in high school if you wanted to treat a girl you might be sweet on to a nice lunch you took them to KN and bought them a guacamole burger and frosty mug root beer. This place has been open for over 50 years and was originally a drive up with the girls on skates bringing food and hanging the tray on your window but now there’s no skates just drive up. You can still go in and sit down and the order button is still on the wall at your table. When you push the button the lady comes out to take your order which was always funny to me because the place is so little you could just look over at her and tell her what you want. Anyway Keeton and his brother Landry and myself go over for lunch and root beer and its exactly what I remember. The food is not special but its good and cheap and they have frosty mugs what else do you need?

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I remember when I was a kid I would always scratch letters in the frost on my glass and as soon as the boys got there’s they started doing it, made me laugh.

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We got all our food and drink for $20 and they serve Blue Bell ice cream, man I gotta go back here more.

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We got that done and I had to break the news to Landry that Keeton and I were going hunting and he was staying home but would get to go to an after dark Easter egg hunt. He was not liking the decision at all and it makes it hard on me to see the little dudes face but his day will come in a couple years.
Keeton and I got to the land at 4:30 and the wind was blowing 30 mph and since Keeton didn’t have camo with him I decided to go with my shorts too so he wouldn’t think he wasn’t prepared to hunt. I just told him don’t worry about camo this is how we’er gonna do it today so all was well with our wardrobes and now if I could call loud enough for them to hear it since we were confined to one stand we didn’t have the option of moving closer to the birds I had to make the birds come to us.
Ten minutes into the hunt hens started walking by in singles and pairs until the count got to 19. I had been calling and was getting responses but with the wind it was hard to tell which way the gobblers were. After two hours of the hen parade I was starting to think the gobblers had lost interest in my calls or couldn’t locate us when a gobbler fired off and he was close. I mean really close, I yelped a little and two gobbles came back, but I still don’t see them and how did they get so close without me seeing them. I looked straight down out the back window of the stand and there they were not ten yards from the stand. Now this was a good thing that could go bad quick if we made a wrong move. We needed to spin all the way around and get the gun out the back window and get Keeton lined up without being seen or letting the birds get in the brush. Luck was on Keeton’s side today because both birds started strutting and turned their backs to us. I quickly grabbed the gun stuck it out the window while Keeton spun around to get ready for the shot. By the time we got all lined up the birds were 55 yards and going away so I told Keeton when you get on one take him, he said, “I’m on him now”, I said “shoot him then”. Keeton put him down and the other one went up and straight back down so I worked the bolt and he got back on the scope and got the other one going away. Two shots two birds, not bad for an 11 year old but I wouldn’t expect anything less from kids raised by my brothers.

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We got all this done by 7:30 and was back in time for after dark egg hunt.

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Its not your traditional spring turkey hunt but the boy got his first two birds and we found a way to do it in a lime green shirt and shoes and a bandana and sun glasses, hey you can hunt and look cool too.

Nate had been struggling with birds at his place so we decided to try it on my place the next morning and his luck transferred right over. The wind blew harder than the day before and it sprinkled and lightninged and thundered and the birds just weren’t having any of it. We got to the roost early and sat up where I had followed some birds off the roost the morning before and I thought we would have an easy go at it but like turkeys do they changed their minds and with the wind it was just tough so we gave up early and went for donuts and coffee. Back at Nate’s house I had some more uncle duties to do. Ryley and Cason were just getting up and around and it was Uncle Chris tattoo day. This is one of the cool things you can do with your nieces and nephews and then leave and you don’t have to clean it up or deal with the screaming that comes with washing it off. Ryley got some cool knuck tats and a flower and Cason had to be Superman so that’s what we did. A great big Superman S drawn in marker on his chest.

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Looking like Superman is cool but if you can fly then you are no doubt a super hero. Cason wanted his picture taken flying like superman but in the sky not in the house. Now a good uncle would find a way to make this happen, so a quick app search and $2 later we were flying. I don’t know if there is a Uncle of the year award but this should solidify my nomination if there is.

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Ok, its a little cheesy but do you realize that in a five year olds brain Uncle Chris just gave him a Superman tattoo and made him fly over the mountains of Montana where he hunted mule deer and that is likely way cooler than any of the other kids at schools uncle? I think the picture is funnier that it looks so bad, either way my mission was done here. One nephew got his first turkeys, one nephew got to go eat and have frosty mug root beers, one was turned into a super hero and got a tattoo and little Ryley would be laying down some punishment at the day care with her new ink. Good weekend right there!

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Two in the hand is better than one in the bush

Two in the hand is better than one in the bush. That’s the text I got from Nate when I told him I shot two jakes but the big Tom hung up in the brush. I read it and said, wait what, that don’t seem right. I laughed but he is right he just didn’t get the saying quite right.

Me and Patrick were out this time for some big gobblers and we had the perfect set up. We got to the roost just in time and got set up, Patrick on the camcorder and me on the 12 gauge. The birds starting flying down and I started making some sweet love sounds at them, at least I thought they were sweet. One gobbler didn’t think so but he had a girlfriend with him and he probably didn’t want to get hen pecked so he never looked at me but his buddy figured he’d take his chances with me.

I had set my decoy, Henrietta, up on the road for all to see but big Tom didn’t come down the road like I had planned, he came from below. Since he couldn’t see Henrietta from below he hung up at 55 yards and did his dance for 5 minutes trying to get the sexy sounding hen to come down to him. No matter what I did he wouldn’t budge. I whispered sweet nothing’s in his ear for about 7-8 minutes but it wasn’t enough. I should’ve tried the shot at 55 but I thought he would come on around through the brush, I was wrong, man I hate turkeys sometimes.

Round two was gonna be an ambush. I knew where they were going and if I could get there before them and sound like a hot chick I just might make the hens with them jealous enough to come check me out and that would drag the gobblers in too. The set up was just right, the birds were gobbling and hens yelping and they were headed my way. I glanced at Patrick he’s got camera rolling and we are about to be carrying birds to the truck. This is the part where I found a way to screw it up. I honestly think had I not made a sound the whole flock would’ve passed within range but like an idiot I yelped and the hen yelped back so I cut a little at her and the gobblers all fired off. This was enough for the hen. She turned and yelped and took all the boys with her. I’m not a good turkey caller but I get it done but no matter what I wasn’t gonna sound better than a live hen that the gobblers can see and with that we lost round two also. Have I said I hate turkeys sometimes?

Not only is it turkey season its opening day for the Graham little league baseball and my two nephews play on the same team and I wouldn’t miss it. Its a 30 mile drive and I doubt since they are five years old they will even remember I was there in a few years but I was there and we were gonna cheer like it was the World Series. We won 11-10 in a game that had about 37 errors, two kids that ran to the mound after they hit the ball, one kid that rounded first base going to second through right field, his name happened to be Cook we are gonna work on that, one kid break dancing as the ball went by, he happened to be a Cook also but we gonna work on that too, and I think in 6 innings there were about 10 outs made total, man you gotta love little kid baseball.

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After the game we had a little cook out which made me get lazy and we didn’t get back to the woods in time to kill a turkey but it was worth it.

Going through Jacksboro we seen this. I’m not sure what they were doing or why they wanted you to pull over but they had an opinion and wanted everybody to know it. I gave em a little honk and wave on the way by.

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Next morning I had a plan that would put us a little closer to the roost and hopefully that would make the big gobblers fly down right to our set up so I didn’t have to deal with the hens. I’m a big dummy and took my coffee pot home to wash and forgot it and I do not function well without it so of course I was running late to the roost because I had to McGuyver a coffee maker.

It was getting light and I didn’t want the birds to spot us going in so we didn’t get as close as I wanted but still closer than the day before. I seen the birds coming off the roost and the gobblers were fired up this morning. They gobbled at every call I made which made me think I was the world champion caller but then they gobbled at the thunder and the rain and the crows and the birds and everything else that made a noise so I may not be the world champion but I’m good enough to fool a few birds.

I watched as one hen after another landed and the gobblers right behind em. I didn’t like the way this was going and I was hating turkeys more every second. We called back and forth for 20 minutes or so but I could hear the distance between us growing. I was already planning the ambush again but without calling when two gobbles came from my left and close. I turned slowly and looked there were two jakes with about 4″ beards and they were lighting up the morning with the gobbles, if you’ve never been on the ground and had gobblers in your face screaming then, brotha trust me you’re missing out. Suddenly I love turkeys again and although there’s not really a better sight in the woods than a red headed turkey strutting around my decoy I was gonna do my best to end this scene with the old Mossberg.

I knew I had these birds fooled because I was their only chance for love this morning as the big gobblers had the hens with them and here was sexy little Henrietta all alone so whichever one of these guys put on the best show would get the girl, they thought. I needed to move the gun left but they were already at 25 yards and getting closer so I did my best to move when they were strutting facing away or walking. I had the gun in position but thought I’d take one last glance at the big gobbler hanging out at 80 yards with his stupid girlfriend and he wasn’t having any of this nonsense so he sealed the fate of the poor jakes.
I put the bead on the far birds head but the closer bird had made me out moving the gun so I switch the bead to his head and filled it full of #4 shot. The far bird went up and back down and tore out running. I pulled the bead up above his head and out front a little and at 50 yards he did a nice barrel roll about 25 yards from his love sick buddy. Sorry guys you gotta be careful chasing them chicks around they’ll get you killed.

Patrick got the whole thing on video and I think he was more pumped up than I was. I had a bruised shoulder from the 3 1/2″ 12 gauge kick because I had to shift the gun down my arm a little to clear some brush and I was hurting. We got all this done before 8 o’clock on one cup of coffee and no breakfast. Man I love hating turkeys.

At the game my brothers father in law ask me how my turkey hunting was going and I told him the only way I can keep turkey hunting is to think that I do everything right every time its the turkeys that do something wrong. I love the turkeys but nothing drives me more crazy than thinking I have them figured out and then they change their mind. One day I’ll learn to stop thinking I’m smarter than a turkey.

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We had to stop and eat and its nothing you haven’t seen on this site before but I’m gonna post it up anyway. Howells cafe omelette, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, sweet tea and coffee, you know standard breakfast.

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Here’s my “coffee maker” I McGuyvered up. The plate is holding the cup with holes in the bottom above my coffee cup. The cup with holes has a filter and coffee in it, then I heated up water and poured it through the top and coffee came out the bottom into my cup and it was pretty good coffee. Not bad at all for a guy who hadn’t had his coffee yet when he thought it up. I plan to have my coffee pot next time though and coffee or no coffee I bet I will still love and hate those turkeys in the same day.

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Opening Day Turkey Season

It wasn’t the start I hoped for but baseball got in the way and we missed the morning hunt. After a stop for food and gas we got to camp at 10:00 AM. I had a big crew with me Saturday. My friend Steve needed firewood and I figured his son Aaron needed to catch a fish so he came along and Alex and Braden came because I tricked them into thinking they were gonna get to do a lot of hunting but first we had a chord of wood to cut, I left that part out when I told them we were going hunting.
Between five of us, me running the saw and the splitter and them on the stacking and loading duties we knocked it out in short order.

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After that we went to do some fishing in what little water we have left in our tanks. Everybody caught something even though most were little but no kids played a video game or watched TV the whole time so it was a success.

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Braden trying to make his fish look bigger.

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Alex with a decent little bass.

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Aaron with a crappie.

Now I said no kids played any video games and they didn’t but apparently when you’re 16 everything you do has to be posted somewhere so there were a lot of “selfies” taken. I laughed at the boys for this telling them it was for girls but they said no. Anyway when I caught the biggest fish of the day and strutted around like a spring time turkey and taunted them with phrases like, ” your 2014 Bass Master Champion of the world, Chris Cook”, then pulled the fish out of the water real high like Kevin Van Dam, they wouldn’t take my picture for me. I had to do what I said I never would do and I took a “selfie” of my fish. This brought big laughs from the crowd as I apparently did it all wrong but whatever. My fish was bigger they suck at fishing and they were bitter.

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We ended the day looking for turkeys and Alex and Braden found some hens and I didn’t see anything but a coyote and a couple deer. Sunday morning Alex went to hunt a feeder and Braden and I decided to do some running and gunning. We did a lot of running but no gunning. Turkeys can be hard to figure sometimes and Sunday was one of those days. Alex had a big gobbler strutting around he couldn’t get a shot at and at one point I was calling close enough to him that I know he heard the call but he didn’t care anything about it. Me and Braden walked a couple miles calling all along the way but a few deer and some ducks was all we could find.

We are in one of the worst droughts in history and I let Alex drive my Cruiser for five minutes and he some how gets it covered in mud. Its ok, nothing wrong with letting the boys go raise some hell in the mud.

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The long walk made me hungry so you know where we headed. Alex chose Outlaw Cafe and we ate like hogs.

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Nice big biscuit with hash browns, chicken fried steak, fried eggs, and gravy on everything.

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That ended our short trip but it was good to be back out before the 100 degree summer days get here and we did have some pictures on our cameras of some nice gobblers so we will try em again in a few days.

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All I know about Minnie Conway

I’ve hunted the same land for near 20 years now and have never known of a grave on the place until recently. Maw, who is not my grandma but is still Maw, is 90 this year she owns this land and has lived on it her whole life, her kids were born on it, her family made a living from it, she knows no other life than being in the country and working on the land. She recently ask me to clean the grave up a little and rebuild the fence around it. Charlie her son told me, “Maw wants the grave cleaned up, that’s our kin some how and she wants new fence up” I said, “grave? I never knew of a grave, where is it” He said, “just down from the old log barn against the road I’ll show you.” So for twenty years Ive been stomping across every inch of this land and never knew of a grave. Its a little creepy now thinking about what else is there or how many other people could be buried there.

Here’s all I know about Minnie Conway. The best we can figure she died in 1890 and was a toddler born a few hundred yards from where she was buried. Only being 2 or 3 years old she got sick and couldn’t recover but part of that was because they had no way to town. Apparently the creek was way up and couldn’t be crossed to get to town for medicine and this is also why Minnie was buried on the land and not next to the rest of her family at the town cemetery. It really amazes me to think of how all this likely happened and the life that these folks had, it was tough but I’m sure they just kept working and didn’t complain. People today are weak and whiners and spoiled and in my opinion not near the quality of these people that just worked and made a living off what they had. Life was simple but damn sure not easy and when your looking down at a little pile of sand stones in a barbed wire pen and know that this is what is marking the grave of a baby, born into these conditions you realize how far we have come but also how far we’ve went backwards.
I did the best I could to clean the area up but it was really just a guess as to where exactly the grave laid. I found some sand stone in a pile but nothing was carved in them. Maw says there was a head stone but she didn’t think it said anything.

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This is about what was left. I trimmed the trees up around it and took down the wire. Those few cedar post were ax cut and buried deep to last and they did, over 110 years. The elm tree obviously wasn’t there in 1890 since its about a 20 year old tree. I suspect a seed landed in the few rocks that were there to mark the grave and the tree grew because the rocks were against and around the tree. Not knowing exactly where the grave was I just used the tree and the rocks as a head stone marker.

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I really feel like I’m not doing justice to it but I don’t know what else to do. Little Minnie has been laying here for a 100+ years in what Im sure is a fairly shallow grave and Ive walked passed her 1000 times and never even knew she was there so I guess anything that lets people know she’s there is better than what she had.
I put up a few panels to keep the cows off of her and trimmed the trees and piled the few stones I found laying there, I walked off a little ways and got her some more just so maybe in another 100 years there will be enough rocks there for somebody to find. I felt weird doing it, it should have been just a little work no different than cutting any tree or putting up any fence but it wasn’t. I couldn’t help but stop and think about this poor little girl and the short life she lived, it saddened me and she wasn’t kin to me at all and I had never even heard of her a few days ago.

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This was Minnie’s house. The center of this barn is the original “house” built here. Look and you can see the parts that were added on after they made it into a barn. The big logs have hand cut notches and the house was built to live in. I assume it was originally a dirt floor because the floor is old but I don’t think it was built when the house was first built.

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The original part is about 12 feet square and the logs are not round they have flat sides. I can’t tell if they were cut with some kind of mill or by hand and I didn’t do enough research to see what tools would have been available to them, sorry. I do know the notches that hold them together are hand cut.

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The old roof was long gone and replaced with tin several times from what I’m told. This started out as a 150 square feet home and over the years was built and rebuilt into a hay barn, and later a barn for animals to get out of the weather and eventually a pen was built around it and chickens were raised in it but it was Minnie’s house. Minnie was born in this house likely without a doctor and to a mother who had minimal medicine if any at all. She lived her short life right here within a few hundred yards of it and it is possible she never even seen town. She had to be buried alone, not near her families graves in a cemetery and I hope I did enough to represent her little grave. Now when I walk by I will at least know somebody is there. I can see the barn from her grave and when I walk up the road it really makes me appreciate what I have because what I’m looking at right at that moment is all Minnie ever had. Her whole world was what is in my view looking up that road and that’s all she had.

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