Category Archives: big game hunting

Black Bear Bourguignon

There had been four shots all told, and whomever had fired them had not been sitting too far away me. The startled adrenaline was flowing as I quickly went through the mental mathematics on who it could have been, all the while readying my own rifle in case the deer came running past my stand.

It was a cool and calm November evening, the first we had experienced so far for the 2019 deer season, and I strained my ears for hooves thumping through leaves or the snapping of twigs that happen when fleeing whitetails move fast and heedlessly from danger. The reports had come with the cadence of an autoloading rifle, and that disqualified a few hunters in the group from being responsible, and only two or three hunters would be in the vicinity of where all the action was happening so I had my list of suspects fairly soon.

Calming down in the silent minutes after all the noise and having had nothing sprint through the hardwoods around me, I pulled out my phone and texted the group. No one that responded fessed up, so I went back to my business of peering through the woods as darkness descended around me. Before I even broke out of the woods and into the field surrounding the cabin, I could hear the stories being told.

Someone had seen some shooting, and I hoped to find a deer gutted and in the hanging tree. To my surprise though, we were soon talking about a bear, and the only man in camp holding a tag for one was my dad.

The tale was not without drama, and those details are for another day, but when all was said and done, I was happy for dad to get his bear, but I was most excited for the bear meat. I already had my mind well set on a special type of dish. Now, eating predators gets a bad wrap in some circles, and bears in general get their share of flack. But a truly wild bear, cooked correctly, is a rich and complex meat, and to the non-hunter it is not dissimilar to beef.

I have been fortunate enough to have had slow roasted bear, BBQ pulled bear, and bear burgers, and all were exceptional, and yes all were “beefy”, but they were also all deeper than that. I cannot find the word to exactly do the taste justice but heavy, musty, intense, and rich all come to mind, all with the most positive of meanings.

I have always thought that bear stew would be excellent, and I fiddled with Irish Bear Stew or maybe a Bear Brunswick Stew, and those would be excellent choices, but they were just too rough in my mind. As an experiment, I wanted something just slightly more refined, something still rustic but also elegant that would be a way to show that all those bold and concentrated bear flavours could be married with something luxurious and a cut above “stew”.

So, Black Bear Bourguignon became the plan. A once rural preparation of stewed onions mushrooms and beef that had been heightened by French masters, and in place of the beef, we were going to insert the bear. Was it as easy as throwing it in a slow cooker? No. Did it take more than half a day to make? Yes. Am I being a food snob? Maybe. But what matters most was that it was good, in fact it was better than good. It was both objectively and subjectively the best wild game dish I’ve ever eaten. The methodical process, the range of ingredients, and the patience needed all make it worth it, and the taste is something you need to experience to understand.

Shot a bear? Make this. It is worth all the efforts and really the bear deserves no less.

Ingredients

8 slices thick bacon, chopped

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 pound bear roast, cubed roughly

2 medium carrots, sliced into coins

1 medium white onion, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups red wine (authenticity demands Burgundy or Beaujolais, get the real stuff, you won’t regret it)

3 to 4 cups beef stock

1 small can tomato paste

4 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf, crumbled

24-30 pearl onions

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Cut the bacon into chunks and begin crisping them in a dutch oven or deep stock pot. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon, reserving the fat.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230C).
  3. Ensure the bear cubes are dried. Add the bear to the bacon fat and brown on all sides. Do this in small batches so that the bear meat browns and does not steam in a crowded pot. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside with the crisp bacon.
  4. In the same bacon (and now bear) fat, brown the carrot and sliced onion. Once done, pour out as much of the fat as you can.
  5. Return the bear and bacon to the pot on top of the vegetables and stir with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Then sprinkle on the flour and stir to coat the beef lightly. Set pot uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for five minutes.
  7. Stir the meat again and return to oven for four minutes or until the flour is just beginning to brown and make a crust on the meat.
  8. Remove the pot and turn oven down to 325 degrees F (160C).
  9. Pour in the wine and two to three cups beef stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
  10. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
  11. Cover pot and return it to the oven. Let this simmers very slowly for four hours. The meat is done when you can tear it easily with a fork.
  12. Go have a glass of any of that wine that may be leftover. You’ve got time.
  13. When the bear meat has one hour left in the oven prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms.
  14. Heat one and a half tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil in a large pan until the butter is melted and bubbling.
  15. Add the onions and sauté over medium low heat browning them evenly.
  16. Add one half cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste.
  17. Cover and simmer slowly for 45 minutes until the onions are tender and the liquid has evaporated. If the liquid is gone but the onions are still not tender, add more stock and get back to simmering them.
  18. Set the onions aside, and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to bubble again, add the mushrooms. Brown them and then set them aside.
  19. When the meat is finished, strain the meat and vegetables, reserving all the cooking liquid.
  20. Put the bear, vegetables, mushrooms, and pearl onions back in the pot.
  21. Skim as much fat as you can off the cooking liquid, and then boil down the sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. The sauce should coat a spoon lightly when you are done. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper.
  22. Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the meat and vegetables. Simmer two to three minutes, stirring to coat the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
  23. Serve with crusty bread or pour over egg noodles.
  24. Dark beer or good red wine are mandatory when eating this.

Wasted Gifts

I was doing laundry and taking stock of my equipment for the upcoming second round of my rifle season for deer here in Ontario when the storm broke on all of my social media platforms. Another “TV hunter” or “hunting-industry celebrity” or “outdoors personality” or whatever term is in style right now was allegedly caught poaching deer. I was instantly depressed, but I had to know more.

The case in question is of one Chris Brackett, host of “Fear No Evil”. Video surfaced yesterday of what is allegedly him shooting two deer in Indiana, when he was only licensed for one. There is also the nature of the killings, which I’ll touch more on below, and the aftermath which I’ll also delve into, but what I want to primarily focus on here is the alleged act.

Never mind that this person has a litany of detractors for his personality and how he generally comports himself; I can excuse being a bad person to a degree because there are a lot of bad people all over the place in the world. I do not really expect a man or woman to be a good person just because they hunt too.

This video has apparently been suppressed frequently in the past 36 hours, and the most recent place where I can still find it as at http://whackstarhunters.com/chris-brackett-accused-poaching/ so check it out for yourself, but know that it is not pretty and for sensitive viewers there is some language and some cringe-worthy visuals.

The short version of the story has it that while hunting in Indiana with a muzzleloader a few years ago, Chris Brackett was instructed by a landowner to shoot a 10-point buck on the landowner’s property, but to pass on a younger, tall-racked 8-point buck, which the landowner wanted to continue maturing. Video has surfaced with purports to contain Chris Brackett not only defying the landowner request and making what clearly looks like a fatal shot on the 8-pointer, but then (with no cutaway and on the same reel of film, if you will) making a critically wounding shot on the 10-pointer. The 10-pointer is obviously paralyzed from being hit in the rear of the spine (which is commonly known as a “Texas Heart Shot”, and in my strictly personal opinion is an absolutely unacceptable shot to take on any deer, let alone a huge trophy whitetail) and it crawls and struggles off frame, with no documented follow-up finishing shot. The accusation continues that the 8-pointer was never recovered, and the 10-pointer was recovered quite some time after the shot, so I can presume that trophy animal suffered a very painful and unpleasant death. Audio on the video even states that someone (either the cameraman or the shooter) has no idea where the 8-pointer ran off to.

So, two dead deer, one tag, one hunter disobeying a landlord request, one arguably unethical and cruelly wounding shot later, here we find ourselves.  It is tough to watch.  Without hyperbole, I can say I was legitimately sick to my stomach watching it all unfold, especially after the hunter cripples an absolutely huge and beautiful deer.

Apparently, the video is surfacing now because the cameraman had been struggling with his conscience, the landowner was also looking to go public with footage, etc, etc. Again, these are likely all valid reasons, but they are corollary to the actual allegations of poaching.

Now this video quality isn’t great, and defenders of all sorts are saying that it proves nothing other than ‘someone’ shot two deer (one very badly) and then at the very least did not document any recovery efforts. I’ll grant that, but there are apparently also supporting statements from the cameraman and the landowner to back up the allegation, and the Chris Brackett camp has been suspiciously quiet. All social media for the accused has either gone silent or has been shut down, no official defending statements have come out, and his television sponsors in the industry are either making ominous statements or dropping him outright.

I believe in “innocent until proven guilty”, but the internet and corporate sponsors are not necessarily of the same mind. It is a big, unpleasant mess to say the least.

So, what are we, the hunting laity, to do? Does it matter if a handful of us stop watching his show? Are product or network boycotts effective? Or have we become so jaded to this that it just meets our expectations of what televised hunting is?

Because the real issue here is that the public-facing arm of the hunting tradition, which is no doubt an ‘industry’ and as such is tasked with making content, selling advertising, and generally being profitable is more and more often being exposed to the public as a field littered with questionable characters that are not really conservationists, or stewards of the resources, or anything other than opportunists interested in fame and growing nominally wealthy via hunting.

They have been given the gift of being able to live out their lives hunting beautiful wild game in beautiful places for hundreds of thousands of viewers, and time and again these gifts are wasted, not only at their personal cost, but at the cost of another public black-eye for the hunting tradition. It’s truly upsetting and although I do not in any way doubt their ‘love’ of hunting, which I honestly believe is the same love you and I have for the outdoors, I do doubt their character, and will keep doubting it until I see compelling reasons to stop.

Are these celebrity hunters ‘under the microscope’ or subject to greater scrutiny? Probably and that’s a good thing.  It is a common theme on this forum and it bears repeating again, even if I do sometimes feel like the lone voice crying in the night.

How hunting is popularly represented is far more important than what hunting truly is.

Like it or not, the violations committed on camera and the dodgy ethical decisions made by a Bill Busbice or a Chris Brackett or a Ted Nugent, or a Warren Spann, or whomever inevitably comes next are the demons we’ll have to fight with. These things become the fodder for anti-hunters and they poison the opinions of the neutrals.

Let there be no doubt about it, we need the ‘neutrals’ more than anything.

So, in all it has been an unpleasant 36 hours or so for me and my mindset on ‘the industry’, but hey, at least I’m back in the woods in a day-and-a-half, which will ease some of the pain. Maybe I’ll put some venison in the freezer this week…stranger things have happened after all.

Likewise, I’m sure (even if he arguably does not deserve any sympathy) it has been a real shit-kicking for Chris Brackett the past day or so.  If anything positive can come out of this wasteful, morally ambiguous situation unfolding in the public sphere, it is that we will all hold these heroes and celebrities to the highest standards, and perhaps those heroes and celebrities will take notice and hold themselves to the same level. But sadly, I’m not hopeful.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the woods everyone.

The Mission Statement

Welcome to Get Out & Go Hunting, a blog for the men, women, and young people who enjoy hunting North America’s big game, small game, waterfowl, and upland game birds.
I’m a talker and I’m a writer: for better or for worse I’m chatty, and sometimes I am provocative and opinionated.  Due to, or maybe as a consequence of this trait I have spoken to many other hunters (in the field and online forums) of their desire to have an agenda-free, non-commercial outlet for hunting stories, general hunting information, and entertaining discussions focusing on the outdoors.  This blog will be my modest attempt to provide some service in that respect.
A number of hunters I’ve spoken to are of the opinion (and I agree with them) that some of the hunting-centred print magazines, television shows, and blogs currently out there have been swayed by product marketers, interest-groups, and political agendas.  This may not in and of itself be a negative; after all everyone has to make a living.  When this does become problematic is when the end result is a decreased focus on the good stories that are out there that actually talk about hunting or when the focus shifts to an detrimental public representation of hunting and those who participate in it.  For the sake of moving this along, I won’t go into what forms of media (in my opinion) do and do not add value to the hunting landscape currently; I’ll leave that for future posts.  What I will go into is a bit about what I hope “Get Out & Go Hunting” will be at first, and what it will hopefully evolve into.
  1. First and foremost, my goal will be that Get Out & Go Hunting will not sacrifice the integrity of the hunting tradition and the positive public representation of the hunting community for personal, financial, or commercial reasons.  Pretty heady stuff, eh?
  2. I’d like for this blog to be about hunting and the outdoors.  That is to say I do not intend to preach about my views on gun control, wildlife management, or the current social/political/religious climate.  Why not, you ask?  Primarily because I do not consider myself expert enough to pontificate about such things.  I may float some ideas that I feel strongly about for discussion, but ultimately I’d like to focus on the experience in the outdoors.
  3. While this blog will be about hunting and the outdoors, I do not intend to frame myself as an expert on either topic.  I will not tell you how to hunt, where to go to hunt, what outfitter(s) to use, or what equipment to buy.  I might tell you how and where I hunt, what I use, why I use it, and how I think it works, but that in no way means that you ought to listen to me.  I’d rather just like to make this a nice, friendly place to hear some stories or news about hunting.
For over twenty years I’ve been chasing ducks, geese, rabbits, grouse, deer, and wild turkeys.  I am passionate about the conservation of wildlife and wild spaces, but I likewise do not believe that conservation and environmentalism stand in opposition to long-standing hunting traditions.
But most importantly I have a belief in the future of hunting and the next generation of hunters.  The ultimate goal is that this will be a forum to inspire, educate, entertain, and engage both current and future outdoor enthusiasts.
That’s the mission; I hope you’ll join me here often.
Good hunting,
Shawn