Archive for November, 2008

Elk Hunt: A Mixed Bag

November 30, 2008 - 11:09 pm Comments Off on Elk Hunt: A Mixed Bag

As mentioned yesterday, Mike of Sometimes Far Afield and I were going out into the great wilderness in search of elk. After my last hunting experience, nerves at the Nerd Ranch were a tad stretched. For those familiar with the area, we were in unit 6C, which is right up next to the Valles Caldera, and generally around Los Alamos. Pretty much everything was at 8000′ plus at a minimum – not the most oxygen rich of environments.

At any rate, the alarm was set for an hour that in past years I had considered acceptable for going to bed. The night before, LabRat and I had come close to looking up what Sir Edmund Hillary had taken with him to scale Everest as a packing list, so gear was laid out and ready to go. Breakfast was bolted, which turned out to be a bad thing, and I set off to the base of the local ski hill to meet Mike.

After some minor confusion involving a local clusterfuck bypass road, we met up and headed up in the general direction of Camp May. Into steep hills. Hills steep enough to draw folks far and wide for skiing. Hills covered in thornbrush and small aspens, thickly clumped, grow-back after the Cerro Grande fire came through. Did I mention they’re steep? Now at this point, I should say a few words about Mike. Mike looks like a fairly normal guy. A little on the tall side, good build, just your basic mk 1 human male. Looks, in this case, are extremely deceiving. Mike is in actuality some sort of weird human/ATV/Elk hybrid, as he has need of neither oxygen, nor sleep, nor (as we would learn later) even light. Gear shouldered and rifles loaded, we started up the hills to points likely to harbor tasty quadrupeds. After taking a few slightly tentative steps to test the slipperiness of the terrain under the thin layer of snow, I looked up to see Mike already halfway up the mountain, seemingly several thousand vertical yards above me.

“Not a problem,” I thought to myself. “I’m not in great shape, but I’m not that bad either. I should be able to do this.” I checked in with various internal organs for affirmation.
“You’re shitting me,” offered my heart.
“God I hate you,” contributed my lungs.
“Um, boss… about that breakfast…” my intestines attempted to chime in.
“Screw you guys, I’m in charge and we’re going up that hill!”
“No, seriously, boss….”

Several hours later, I caught up with Mike. As he surveyed the hills, sorting out between downed trees and resting elk, he offered a story.
“When I was little, I used to hunt with my grandfather. 60 years old. We’d be out in the mountains and he’d just charge up the hills and leave me in the dust. By the time I’d caught up, he’d caught his breath and we’d be off again.”
“*gasp* *pant* *wheeeeze* Co- *gasp* ol. *pant* *huff*”
“Well, let’s keep going.” He proceeded to gobble up another several dozen vertical yards in two steps.
I checked in with my organs again.
“I hate you.”
“We will kill you in your sleep.”
“No, I’m fucking serious, there’s a problem!”
“Shut up! We’re going!” I replied.

Some yards later, my intestines stopped trying to be subtle or polite. Things had become A Situation. Fortunately, I am (I like to think) as stubborn as I am stupid, and we finished a pretty respectable tour of the draw. With only one snowstorm of the year so far, and it having come through only two days earlier, signs of elk at all were, to put it mildly, sparse. Add to that the fact that I apparently have a Pat McManus-like elk-repellent field (the most concrete thing we encountered was what was probably a pair or three of elk on the far side of some damn thick brush deciding we were too close and taking off – either that, or some trees were really popping and creaking as they warmed in the morning sun). As we worked our way back to the road, I checked in again with my organs.
“I knew you were alright, boss! This downhill part is awesome!” offered my heart.
“Hell yeah, piece of cake! We’re the coolest thing since sliced awesome!” contributed my lungs.
IA! IA! CTHULU FAG’N!” Ok, so it was a mixed bag of better and worse.
“I don’t know why we weren’t consulted,” chimed in my legs, “but we want you all to know we hate you. That is all.”

After a bit of consultation, wherein my guts provided an uncharacteristically audible contribution, we packed in and headed back for the Nerd Ranch. Discussion, recap, theories about what the hell happened to me*, and an introduction to the dogs (who opted to be assholes for the day), and we all decided that LabRat and Mike should go out and scout for signs while I would hang back and compose loving arias to the porcelain altar. I will omit the rest of my morning for benefit of the reader. I wish only that I could omit it from memory.

At any rate, LabRat and Mike came back a few hours later. More discussion, and Mike decided he wanted to check a few low-odds areas just on the off chance we’d have a better option for Sunday. I continued my love affair with the fixtures. Finally, just as the light was almost faded (and my various anti-evil charms warding off the demons of my digestive tract), my phone rang. Without the handicap of my anti-elk field, diminutive lung capacity, and priest-frightening guts, he had managed to find and kill a nice cow near the Valles Grande. We gathered our coats, knives, and lights and made best time into the mountains.

After some rather interesting driving over unpaved mountain roads with a nice layer of snow which had had a day to thaw, then a cold evening to re-ice, punctuated with a couple exchanges of “Is this the right road? Did you guys come this way before?” we found Mike’s truck and saw lights at a distance up the hill which, given all tales I have heard of getting elk from mountain to truck, must’ve been impossible. Climbing the hill, not only was it possible, but he had already managed to remove the guts. At this sight, my own decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and that they shouldn’t tempt me into performing a similar operation on myself, and remained quiet for the rest of the night. Whatever it takes, I suppose.

From there, we went about the business of skinning and quartering the beast for the mosey pack out. The last time I had skinned anything was at a summer camp in roughly 1994, so I was just a tad less than skilled. While Mike was apparently comfortable working in near darkness with a small LED based headlamp offering, to my eyes, only enough illumination to distinguish knife from thumb after a few expeditionary slices, I was calling to LabRat for more light in much the same manner as a bumbling surgeon calls for more suction while the patient bleeds from several major arteries at once. His patience and restraint in not simply stabbing my hand to get me distracted and out of the way was admirable.

Eventually we got the beast broken down, and managed to get out of the mountains with no more than minor (read: major) jostling over some seriously washboard roads. We split up the meat, and Mike began the hour and a half drive back to Albuquerque with some home-made beer in the cooler with the rest of the day’s spoils (which given that he left same that morning to meet me at the ski hill leads to our theory that he doesn’t actually require sleep), and we called it a day. While there are some large portions I would be quite happy to never think of or duplicate again, other parts flat out kicked ass. Since the season runs to Wednesday, LabRat and I are going to use our local advantage and try again for another cow before time runs out. The odds are still pretty low, and even if we do manage one, without a pro on hand to guide the gutting and quartering, we may well waste more meat than we’d like, but you don’t learn to butcher without slicing a few primals.

Just don’t ask what my organs think about this plan.

Update: Mike offers an alternative view!

*Once the dust settled, we came to the conclusion that the most likely culprit was some apparently slightly off cottage cheese I’d eaten that morning. Our only local grocery store has been remodeling lately, and the refrigeration units were recently replaced. Best bet is that the curds we took home just spent a little too long outside the cooled areas and, well, you can imagine the rest.

Wish me luck…

November 29, 2008 - 5:47 am Comments Off on Wish me luck…

Morning comes a lot quicker when you’re trying to get the drop on big-ass quadrupeds. Today marks the first time I’ll be going into the field armed with intent to kill something bigger than me. The good news is I’ve got an excellent partner. The bad news is the last time I was hunting was about 12 years ago, and then it was for dove, not elk.

If anybody has any spare good will laying around, I could use it for a few days.

So, yeah…

November 28, 2008 - 8:02 pm Comments Off on So, yeah…

That thing where there’s no content? That’s likely to continue for awhile, as this weekend is the one we drew for an elk hunt. Very exciting stuff- for us.

In the meantime, have a Weird Science Thing Of The Day.

You know how, in cartoons and when we’re acting silly, the eyes are drawn/rolled in various non-aligned directions in order to indicate “crazy!”?


Turns out? This is one more stereotype that is grounded in truth.


November 27, 2008 - 9:34 pm Comments Off on T-day

’twas good. Alton Brown is the man, turkeywise. Limited family thing, suited us just fine.

Off to let the insulin shock wear off now.

Things That Make Me Go "Bwuh?"

November 26, 2008 - 2:29 pm Comments Off on Things That Make Me Go "Bwuh?"

Posting snippets and links because I’m stressed and burnt out and want to fast-forward to approximately February of next year? Would I do that?

Everybody is familiar with the big banner ads in various places that are pretty transparently “take this quiz WAIT FIRST SIT THROUGH OUR AD”. But usually the quiz makes some sort of sense; people seem to love nothing more than to run through a magazine or internet quiz that will tell them what their inner animal is or what actress they’re most like or even what career they should pursue.

Two banner-ad quizzes I have seen over the past two days: “Is Your Husband Gay?” and “Are You Bi?”

If ever there was a definition of “things you should not be asking the internet about”…

New Vocabulary Word

November 26, 2008 - 1:54 pm Comments Off on New Vocabulary Word

I shouldn’t have left off on going through Blunt Object’s archives. Linked in a recent post is this past gem of a term I never thought of but suspect I cannot now live without.

Go thee forth and read the whole thing.


November 25, 2008 - 5:28 pm Comments Off on …Seriously?

This National Post story reports the eyebrow-raising story that the Carleton University student council voted to end their 24-year-old tradition of fundraising for a cystic fibrosis charity because the disease “has recently been revealed to only affect white males”. According to their council defending themselves, it was about rotating the charity rather than just flat “fuck white males”, but this was still apparently the rationale that the motion was raised under.

I’m not familiar with Canadian papers. If any of you Canadians out there want to tell if the National Post is more equivalent in tone to the New York Times or the New York Sun, now would be a good time…

Needless to say, CF doesn’t affect only “white males”. It’s an autosomal recessive that affects males and females in the same ratio, and while it mostly affects those of European descent, that’s hardly universal- one might point out that there has been more than a little gene flow on this continent in the last couple hundred years.

Exit question: are they going to avoid sickle-cell charities as being similarly not inclusive enough a disease?

Turkey Tuesday Mashup

November 25, 2008 - 5:21 pm Comments Off on Turkey Tuesday Mashup

Picking up on a theme for the week yet? I knew you folks were clever. Santa Fe, perhaps by dint of having all our errands at the south end of town allowing us to take the bypass and avoid the worst of the traffic, actually did not suck for once. LabRat picked up some new boots which are theoretically going to act less as barely cohesive bits of leather and rubber and more as actual foot insulating devices, and at the same time we managed to pick up a few “Why the hell don’t we already have this?” pieces of kit like emergency blankets for the car. We didn’t end up leaving with any new firepower, but that’s because they didn’t sell any at this store, and the dedicated gun store in Santa Fe sucks (while the other one isn’t gun-only, and thus scattered and varied of selection with prices generally set at “Hahahahaha, no, seriously, what are y’all asking for this?”)

The beer store, as always, was awesome. Even better, the nut brown ale brewed during the last visit was ready for bottling. With an offering of our more successful recipes in hand (an Irish Red based off Papazian’s “No Sham Shamrock,” and a standard English-ish Ale brewed during a downpour), we continued our exploration of the notion that after you spend enough money, homemade beer is cheaper than store bought. Oh well, at least it tastes better for the most part. On top of that, Jamie sent us home with a couple gallons of the aforementioned nut-brown. This way, if the turkey sucks on Thursday, at least we’re not gonna care. Please note, these growlers are scientifically calibrated to maximize feeling like a bootlegger. I’ve been humming Thunder Road under my breath since we left the store.

Thunder was his engine and white lightning was his load

On top of all that, we even managed to find a birthday present for my Mom. Just on the off chance she’s found this place, I’ll hold off mentioning what it is until I find out how she likes it.

Also, since this is still a turkey mashup, reader Dave requested our turkey brine recipe in the comments to yesterday’s post. Here you go.
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar (dark brown won’t hurt anything)
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 Tbs black peppercorns
1/2 Tbs allspice berries
1/2 Tbs candied ginger
1 gallon ice water

Combine everything but the ice water in a stockpot and boil it. Stir to dissolve what solids will dissolve, then remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until chilled. If you’ve got room in the fridge for a 5 gallon bucket, you can do this more easily overnight. Likewise if your garage is cool enough without getting to freezing, or you have some similar method of temperature control. Either way, at least six hours before you start cooking the bird, mix the brine with the gallon of ice water in a 5 gallon bucket. Put the turkey in breast side down, and let sit somewhere cool for three hours. Turn the bird, let it sit another three hours. Rinse inside and out with cold water before cooking.

Cooking the bird? Hmm… I might need more mashup filler for tomorrow.

Turkey Monday Mashup

November 24, 2008 - 5:50 pm Comments Off on Turkey Monday Mashup

Things discovered today:
First, three days in my fridge is not enough to even begin to thaw a 12lb turkey. An afternoon in a spare fermenting bucket with a trickle of cold water running has improved matters slightly, but not significantly. With luck, sitting like that overnight will do the trick without bringing in all sorts of unwanted microbial guests so I can get it in a brine* tomorrow for cooking Thursday.

Next, LabRat and rifle scopes are still enemies. 7mm rem. mag is, as we discovered previously, not too thumpy for her, but that doesn’t mean much when the eye relief of the scope combined with the eye relief of prescription glasses to put the target image somewhere completely unrelated to where her cornea/retina were. We’ll figure this out sooner or later, but in the meanwhile it’s more than a little frustrating. At least I got a reasonably nifty shot with some muzzle-blast in frame.

From the good news department, Stingray and premium ammo are best friends. Previous range trips with the Bambimatic 7000 had been less than rewarding, as the only .30-06 ammo on hand was de-linked milsurp purchased to feed a Garand (and screw you for not knowing Garand, wordpress/firefox spell check!). Strangely, said nasty looking green-can special wouldn’t so much form a group as it would occasionally put a couple of shots on the paper at opposite ends if you were lucky. Amazingly enough, switching to 180gr Federal Fusion popped a nice group right off the bat. It certainly wasn’t the tightest group I’d ever shot (off a sling instead of a bipod, so there’s a little wiggle), but it was certainly minute-of-elk. From this point any failure to shoot sub-MOE is operator error (and I wouldn’t rule out sub-MOA with more practice in the future).

Also discovered, at closer ranges I can still pull the occasional nifty shot. To keep the day from being just rote trudge-trudge-bang-bang-little to the left-bang-bang, we hauled along a 7lb can of ketchup. Setting it up on the 75 yard berm (since we were the only ones at the range), we found an intact clay pigeon. Since something was gonna get shot anyway, the only logical thing to do was to prop the clay up on top of the ketchup can and play William Tell. We duly gave the can its last cigarette, and miracle of miracles the apple pigeon neatly went poof off the can without so much as a scratch to the label. Unfortunately, the camera we brought wouldn’t zoom tight enough to show anything really nifty, but in the clip below you can see the effects of the second shot were somewhat more traumatic to our tomato-based buddy. Also, 180gr .30-06 and ketchup cans are apparently natural enemies.

Ok, seeing it now that it’s uploaded, that clips sucks overall. You can see better in fullscreen. Next time we’ll haul along a proper video camera if we’re gonna do something fun like that.

While the curse of November/December is still going strong, things appear to be under control for the moment (knock on wood). Tomorrow will find us in Santa Fe raiding for beer supplies, a few last minute outdoor supplies, and general and sundry shopping of the season. If normal patterns hold, this will go horribly and will produce a good rant. In the meanwhile, I’m going to go stare furiously at the turkey thawing in my bathtub until the heat of my frustration with these clunky laws of thermodynamics causes it to finish melting.

*You don’t brine your bird? Short of going out to eat, how do you keep something that big from turning to plywood in the oven without a brine?

What He Said

November 23, 2008 - 5:26 pm Comments Off on What He Said

Good fucking god it’s been a long weekend, and not in the nice, lying-around-with-a-drink-and-a-book kind of way.