Recently, I interviewed 12-year-old Zachery McKinney of Monmouth about his first deer success after three seasons of hunting – a 70-pound, button-horn buck, killed cleanly with his 7mm-08 Remington last season.
Zachery furnished details of the November hunt with short, quiet but confident answers that reminded me of my youth on the Windsor Grammar School playground so many years ago, listening to friends’ stories of recent hunts or telling of my occasional hunts.
This young fellow told me that shooting the deer was exciting, and that he and his friends had talked about the deer at school – just as my friends and I had done back in the day. Traditions haven’t changed.
According to Zachery, the meat was tender, as anyone would expect from a young whitetail. I asked his favorite recipe for the deer.
“Steak bombs,” he said.
Quietly serious up to that point, his voice took on a ebullient tone with that two-word answer.
I might have known steak bombs would top his list of favorites. His grandfather, Bill Woodward, also of Monmouth, often talks to me about eating steak bombs made with venison. Zach’s choice highlighted a sandwich tradition that has been kept alive through three generations in the family.
Zachery also mentioned venison sausage made from the deer – a recipe that came from his granddad and a second example of a family tradition.
Two or three years ago, I included Bill’s deer-sausage recipe in this column, and it is excellent – words from a man with a finicky palate. I have again added the recipe to the end of this column.
This past deer season, Zachery went hunting with his grandfather five times, staying for about two hours on each outing. On four of the hunts they at least spotted a deer. According to Zach, the sightings kept his interest up last season.
One time an 8-pointer walked within 150 yards. This occurred near the end of shooting time and was not a good shot, so Zach passed on the chance. When telling me about it, he didn’t sound disappointed – a typical attitude for serious hunters.
When that happens to me, I know that the big one that got away will probably be there next season. Something to dream about all year.
When Bill and his grandson were hunting together last November, Bill often told me stories of their hunts. His voice conveyed the message that their hunting excursions were proud moments, destined to become lifetime memories.
Bill taught his grandson how to eviscerate the little buck, and Zachery told me he could do it by himself the next time. The youngster also learned to call deer with grunt and bleat calls, to identify deer tracks, rubs and scrapes, and to improve the success odds by noticing wind direction – a few basics he’d use for all of his hunting life.
Bill didn’t forget safety, either. He taught Zachery the importance of not pointing the firearm in a companion’s direction and to be sure of the target.
Bill also noted that Zach had showed commendable good sense at a young age when he passed up that iffy, fading light shot at the 8-pointer.
It’s common for one generation to criticize a younger generation. History buffs know that many centuries ago, famous Greek philosophers wrote about the evils of the younger people following them – a perennial worry, it seems.
And yet, here we are.
During the interview, Zachery sounded like my childhood hunting buddies decades ago, and it gave me hope for his generation.
Tools, gear and hunting laws may change, but the experiences of the chase are constant. A hunter is a hunter is a hunter.
WOODWARD’S SWEET VENISON SAUSAGE
Grind up 11/2 pounds of venison with a half-pound of pork fat. Woodward sometimes changes the latter to ground pork or beef instead of “unhealthy pork fat” (his words, not mine).
Before Bill makes patties or stuffs the seasoned meat mixture into sausage casings, he thoroughly mixes a half-teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, a half-teaspoon garlic powder, a half-teaspoon fennel seed, a half-teaspoon lemon pepper, a half-teaspoon paprika, a quarter-teaspoon celery salt, a quarter-teaspoon ground sage, a quarter-teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
(No one can go wrong by adding fennel seed, sage and celery salt to sausage, so this recipe appeals to me.)
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at: [email protected]