Friday night we ate some fresh deer. The loin had been sitting in the fridge for 48 hours, covered in a dry rub of black pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Sear all sides in a smoking hot cast iron skillet, then finish under the broiler with a dash of dark lager and white vinegar in the bottom of the pan.
You can, and should, eat prime cuts from deer and their relations at least a bit rare. It was absolutely fantastic; served with a winter stew of new potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, ham, and bell peppers.
Most of the weekend I rested, from hunting. It snowed for almost 36 hours straight from Friday night through this morning. I mounted bindings on some new-to-me skis, worked on a few articles, and went for a snow bike ride. But this afternoon, with blue skis and inches of fresh snow, I couldn’t resist taking the rifle out for a walk.
With my deer tag punched, and elk a scarce commodity anywhere within an easy drive, I had no particular goals in mind other than seeing somewhere new and getting in a good walk. I found a place to park where our little car wouldn’t get stuck, and headed back into the thick woods. Deer tracks were everywhere, and within 30 minutes I cut fresh griz tracks. You can’t shoot griz, but following them in 8 inches of new snow is good fun. After an hour of wandering through spruce swamps and across frozen marshes, the tracks headed towards a thick grove of trees with a bunch of loud ravens roosted up high. I circled right, and found fresh wolf tracks, and two sets of bear prints going the same direction. Did I just run two bears off a wolf kill? I flicked the safety off, made a bit of noise, and edged closer. There wasn’t much left of whatever critter everyone had been eating, but there was a lot of blood and tracks all over. Maybe aggressively tracking a griz isn’t such a good idea, even if you are carrying a .308.
That didn’t stop me from following the two bears who had run off, one following the other. Soon enough they split, which let me see that the smaller one was actually a black bear. Presumably the griz I had been following had run the blackie off, and followed it when I ran him off. Game on.
I followed that black bear for another two hours. Up hill, down hill, across creeks, and through some of the most horrid pine thickets I’ve ever seen. Based on a sample of two, I am convinced that when bears know they’re being followed, they intentionally dive straight through the thickest stuff they can find to scrape off pursuit. It worked. After three hours of tracking two different bears I was tired, sick of shaking snow and larch needles out of everything, soaked, loosing daylight, had only a dim idea of where I was in relation to the road and my car, and was no nearer to seeing a bear than I had been two hours before. I ate the rest of my chocolate bar, toasted the bear with some slushy water, and followed a compass bearing west back towards the road. After some serious bushwacking and a number of deer sightings, I intersected the pipeline cut which took me back to the two track, which took me back to the car. I barely made those landmarks before headlamp time, and ran the heater full bore all the way home, my drying clothes steaming the windows.
Most of the time hunting is just fine without shooting.