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Cooking in the West

As another general season deer and elk season ends, many hunters are contemplating robbing a bank or at least a convenience store to make ends meet AND stay within the hunting budget their wives have given them.

You see, phonier than any hunting or fishing story you have ever heard is the myth that hunting saves money. At our house, the hunters definitely boost the local economy and the economy of several brick and mortar sporting goods stores and a couple online sites. I figure that every meal of wild game we consume costs roughly $5,792.68 per pound.

I arrived at this precise figure very scientifically by sitting home alone each weekend calculating such things, because the people I ordinarily amuse myself by nagging or bossing around were out hunting. The easiest calculation was for how much diesel fuel it costs to put two antelope, two deer, and two elk in the freezer, which was at least $1200.00. Although we raise deer, elk, bear, turkeys, and antelope, it is apparently necessary to drive around three or four counties and a neighboring state for six weekends before filling the tags in the backyard in the waning light of the last day of the season.

Another large expenditure is hunting food. Packing a lunch requires too much advance planning, so it is better to stop at the Fort in Big Timber and buy $40.00 worth of chips, doughnuts, packaged sandwiches, and $3.00 per ounce jerky, which adds up to $580.00 per season.

Tires, tow trucks, auto body repair, and beverages are other miscellaneous expenses that most hunters incur annually, but since these costs vary from year to year I will benevolently overlook them.

However, the initial start-up cost of hunting cannot be overlooked. Before a self-respecting hunter enters the field, he has spent a minimum of $6,000.00 on state of the art equipment. He owns a rifle that would drop an elephant at 500 yards. It is equipped with a telescope that could be substituted for the Hubble if the need arose. He has a range finder, spotting scope, GPS, game cameras, and every other gadget that he can possibly lug in his cool camo backpack with a built-in water bladder. He even has his super dooper hearing amplification device shoved in his ear, which he will throw into the woods after his hunting partner touches off the aforementioned elephant gun right next to his ear without warning. His Cabela’s camouflage scent-locked wardrobe is so complete that he should be indistinguishable in the woods except for his 400 square inches of hunter orange, which makes him easily identifiable to all the woodland creatures except the fairly non-typical blind and/or nasally-impaired ones and other hunters. It would seem that this expense could be amortized over several years, but by next year there will be even more really cool hunting stuff that must be purchased before an animal for the freezer can be bagged, so the $6000.00 has to be factored in to this year’s expense calculation.

In our situation, the deer and elk eat acres of pasture, tons of hay, and bushels of grain. Ironically, we cannot even shoot most of the elk that devastate our bottom line, because the neighboring 20 acre landowners spend the season hazing the majestic ravenous herbivores out of harvest’s way. I am not sure how to put a value on the cost of insanity, but it has to be about $30,000.00 per acre.

Nevertheless, at the end of the season, if you add all the costs and divide by the number of filled tags, it equals broke happy hunters and one hunting widow who should but doesn’t have her Christmas shopping done.

Oh, but wait. . . there’s still lots of time, because hunting season is never really over. There are still ducks, geese, pheasants, lions, coyotes, prairie dogs, and before you know it, it starts all over with spring turkey and bear season before bow season and upland bird seasons begins next fall!

I have one of my favorite wild game jerky recipes from my late father-in-law to share this week. I also have a foolproof favorite from Jenna Finn of Midland, SD who wrote, “Dear Susan, below is a recipe that your readers may enjoy, as it is a fool-proof crust recipe that my mother in law Deanna Finn gave to me... good for upcoming holiday dinner pies!” The other recipe is a homemade mushroom soup recipe sent in by Sue Gallo of Miles City, Montana. Thanks, Jenna and Sue!

Deanna’s Pie Crust

2-1/2 C. flour

1 C. shortening (I use butter-flavored)

1/2 t. salt

1 egg yolk, plus enough milk to measure 2/3 C.

Use a fork to mix all together. Makes 2-3 crusts.

Kim’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

12 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms

2 C. chopped onion

4 T. butter

3 t. flour

1 C. milk

1 t. dill weed

1 T. paprika

1 t. salt

2 C. stock or water

3 t. fresh lemon juice

1/2 C. sour cream

pepper to taste

Sauté onions in butter, salt lightly. Add mushrooms, dill, 1/2 C. water, and paprika. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Melt remaining butter in large saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking in milk. Cook, stirring frequently over low heat for ten minutes until thick. Stir in mushroom mix and remaining stock. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and sour cream, and serve.

Roy Metcalf’s Jerky

1/3 C. sugar

1/4 C. salt

2 C. soy sauce

1 C. water

1 C. red wine

1/2 t. onion powder

1/2 t. pepper

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/2 t. Tabasco sauce

Mix all ingredients to form a marinade brine. Trim all fat from several pounds of wild game. Slice with the grain to make 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch slices. (This is easier if it is slightly frozen.) Place meat in marinade in refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Remove and allow to air dry without rinsing. Smoke for 12 to 16 hours in smoker until jerky is as dry as you want it to be.


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