OUTDOOR HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PAST YEAR" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton When we spend time afield or on the water with our family and friends, we arent just catching fish or hunting, were making memories, memories that last a lifetime and give us something good upon which to reflect when were confronted with the curve balls life has a way of throwing at all of us. When looking back over the past 12 months, Ive stored up a kings ransom in good memories while out hunting and fishing. I bet if you spend much time enjoying the outdoor life, you have a list of fond memories at least as long as mine, hopefully longer! Here are some of the places, people and things that left an indelible mark on the pleasure receptors of my brain last year. While penning the words that give account of each of these events, I find myself right back there, reliving the experiences again! The outdoors can be a powerful place of solace, once we slow down and learn to enjoy each outing for what it really is: a change to briefly escape todays often fast paced lifestyles. Hunting and fishing trips should not be judged solely by the amount of fish or game taken but rather these more important little snippets of pleasure that have the potential to give great pleasure long after the outdoor adventure is over. Sights such as the reflection of a flight of mallards mirrored on the still waters of a remote creek, lighted by a full moon or a look up into the heavens on a clear night after spending time in a bow stand are moments when time truly stands still; sights and sounds that you can keep with you forever if you take the time to really absorb them as they occur. A FEW MONTHS AGO, I enjoyed spending a couple days with my younger son hunting deer up on the Ranger Creek Ranch in Knox County. As is often the case, when youngsters, especially boys, reach the teenage years, they spend less time in the outdoors with Ole Dad. After a few seasons without enjoying my son on hunting and fishing trips, we had the opportunity of spending time together in the wilds of Knox County. Drew harvested the biggest whitetail buck of his career and we had the opportunity to spend time together without all the distractions common today. The sight of that big nine pointer walking out of the brush and toward the small mountain upon which our stand was situated is branded into my brains memory bank. The buck disappeared into some thick mesquite brush, and then re-appeared at 75 yards. Drews shot was true and in a couple months, he will have the mounted antlers to remind him forever of the great time we enjoyed hunting in a country that has changed little since the times when the land was home to the Comanche and settlers tough enough to attempt to carve a home from this beautiful and rugged land. Weve already enjoyed many tasty meals from the meat the buck supplied. ALL OUTDOOR ADVENTURES dont necessarily have to include hunting or fishing. A couple weeks ago, we enjoyed a winter skeet shoot at my friend Donny Rices duck hunting and fishing club near Cedar Creek Lake. The outing included 5 of my grandsons, several family members and good friends. We cooked fajitas made from wild turkey breasts, venison and wild pork outside in a big wok a buddy made for me 12 years ago from a plow disk. My old wok has prepared many a meal in past outings and breaking out the cumbersome but highly effective cooking implement helped rekindle the memory of many of the past outings we all had enjoyed together. After a big meal of fajitas and pinto beans, we spent some time working with the boys at the skeet range then, enjoyed a good natured round of skeet, missing more clay targets than we hit but, shooting a perfect score wasnt what this outing was all about. This was about spending time together and we made the most out of it. Photo by Luke Clayton ALMOST A YEAR AGO, I enjoyed our annual winter sausage making day. Several good friends show up at the house, a buddy brings his big smoker over and we pool our game meat, grind and season it with our favorite sausage blends, stuff the meat in casings and smoke it. This is always a great get together. We build up a big campfire near the smoker, keep a big pot of coffee close to the embers and, while the sausage smokes, tell tales of past outdoor adventures and of adventures to come. We will cook anything from grilled duck breasts wrapped in bacon to venison stew and enjoy visiting and eating while the sausage smokes. Later in the day, everyone takes home a share of sausage to enjoy throughout the year. My list of fond outdoor memories goes on and one and I hope yours does as well. If it doesnt, there is no better time than the present to get out there and create a few of your own. OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK- Many of the hunting seasons are closing and chances are good you have an abundance of meat in your freezer. How about putting it to use and creating some of the most tasty treats you can imagine? Do you enjoy corned beef, the treat that is often served around Easter with cabbage or on rye bread with cheese as a sandwich? I recently learned how to corn meats and found the process very simple and the end result quiet tasty. Actually, I made about 8 pounds of corned venison. My friend Mike Pullen with Frisco Spices www.friscospices.com) supplied the cure and all I had to do was defrost the pieces of lean venison ham and follow instructions. The process is simple, simply mix the cure with the appropriate amount of water, add the pieces of meat and place in a cool place for the prescribed number of days. Once the meat is cured (it takes only about 1 day per pound of meat), it is rinsed and either slow baked in a covered pot or boiled. Its good both ways but I prefer it boiled, then sliced thinly and made into corned beef (venison) sandwiches or added to cabbage. Curing pork hams is equally simple. Rather than curing the entire ham, I much prefer to bone out the meat, then cut it into 4-5 pound pieces. These will cure in a brine solution in less than a week. Once the ham is cured, I smoke it for about an hour, then wrap in foil to avoid moisture loss and cook it until an internal temperature of 160 degrees is reached. Frisco Spices also offers a packet of seasoning that mixed with 10 pounds of ground venison and pork (50% pork, 50% venison) to make great tasting bacon. For the spices and a detailed instructions on making these products, contact Mike Pullen at 800-762-6689 or email@example.com. Mike can walk you through the process, which I believe you will find extremely easy and fun. There is something special about setting down to a big breakfast of eggs, potatoes and bacon or ham you have made yourself! Want even more of Luke's hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes etc? Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton for a new show each week at www.catfishradio.com Contact Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!