Because most wild game recipes are linked to a story worth telling, whether it be one of our own, or one that has been passed down. There's always a story. My dad, a storyteller at heart shared this with me and I can't think of anything more fitting to share after opening weekend of gun season here in Louisiana.
Our elders, yes even our parents, have a lot to teach us if we are willing to listen. They aren't necessarily begging to be heard or seen, but that does not mean their stories, lessons, and experiences lack value. In fact, it's usually the opposite. I'm certain that we all need to be listening a lot more.
The time was January 1976 or 1977. The place was a big cypress hardwood swamp located at the intersect of the Mississippi and Homochitto Rivers.
It was about 20 degrees that morning. The sun was up. Robert and I rounded up the dogs, loaded our horses and left our tent camp. Our horses were frisky, bucking and kicking a little. When we left camp we turned the dogs loose. They darted off through the woods, nose to the ground.
The sun piercing through ice crystals, slowly warming us up. The forest was still covered in frost. There was no wind. We could hear every thing.
A slow trot, waiting on the dogs to hit their marks. And they soon did. First a yelp, then a full blown chorus of hound dogs echoing through the woods. The sound of music.
My horse, A three your old named Chief knew the program. His ears perked up as we picked up our pace moving towards the dogs. Chief was a "woods" horse. He had never seen a cow. We continued on our way through the woods gracefully, swift and controlled.
Robert's mare was a better horse. She was a Tennessee Walker. Her walking gait was as fast as Chief. She was smaller, more agile, and better trained.
We continued on our way, trying to get out in front of the deer which would be around a hundred or so yards in front of the dogs. More than likely the deer would be moving in a slow deliberate pace, not quite at full speed.
These dogs were more of an aggravation to the deer, than a threat. Any mature buck could loose them by going into some water, or simply outdistancing them until they gave out.
We bred and trained these dogs to be slow and methodical. They were part Walker Hound, part Beagle. A pure bred Walker Hound would trail a deers scent for five, maybe ten miles. We had lost a few before. A Beagle on the other hand, is a short legged dog. They don't go too far and are easier to catch up with.
These dogs were perfect for our way of hunting.
Robert and I had already taken our shotguns out of our saddle boots. We covered another half mile riding parallel to the dogs. Stopping frequently to look, and listen.
The dogs finally opened up about 150 yards in front of us. By then we were moving through the woods at a fast clip. The horses instinctively avoiding over hangs from trees, briars, and buck vines.
Horses will always see a deer first, and they did! There he was about 60 yards in front of us. A magnificent buck. He was slipping through. I could see his tall shiny antlers easily, without a squint. He never saw us.
We fired at the same time. It was a clean kill. We loaded the buck on Chief's back and headed back to camp.
One month later I packed up my campsite and left that swamp and never returned. Soon after my leaving, that forest was destroyed, decimated, pushed down, and burned for agriculture, just as thousands and thousands acres more had been cleared along the river.
I moved into town, and began to live a more domesticated way of life. I haven't been on a deer hunt in over 40 years. Still, every winter as the season approaches my thoughts and memories bring me back to that special place.
As a smile creases my face, I know again that in that time and place, in those woods, I became much more than a deer hunter.
Experienced, Told, and Written by : Johnny Loomis
Smokey Venison Ham
1 Venison Ham Quarter
Things you may need:
Pairing knife, or pocket knife
For the RUB:
¼ C Olive Oil
¼ C Tbsp Himalayan Salt
¼ C Onion Powder
¼ C Black Pepper
¼ C Granulated Garlic
Mix together, set aside.
8 Oz. Beef Broth
For the Baste:
1 Can of Beer
¼ C Worcestershire Sauce
¼ C Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Whisk until blended together. Set aside.
Note: Add more beer if you run out.
For the Brine:
1 Gallon Water
¾ C Kosher Salt
½ C brown sugar
¼ C Steens Cane Syrup
1 garlic clove (minced)
½ C Teriyaki marinade
Instructions for brine:
- Bring all ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat after sugar, and salt is fully dissolved. Place in refrigerator to cool.
How to make it:
1. Remove all (inside and outside) tendons, ligaments, and silver skin.
This is a tedious process and will require a small sharp knife. Catfish pliers work well on the membrane.
2. Gently Separate the muscles as you continue to remove tendons, and ligaments. Like I said, tedious, but necessary.
3. Once all tendons, ligaments, and silver skin are removed, place the ham in your brining liquid.
4. Allow ham to brine for at least 6 hours, and no longer than 8 hours. If your working with a larger ham go the full 8 hours.
5. Remove the ham from brining liquid and pat dry.
6. Coat with a thin layer of olive oil.
7. Coat with a layer of dry seasoning blend, AKA The Rub.
NOTE: You will likely notice the ham is falling apart. That’s okay! Gently put it back together. Tie up with butcher’s twine.
8. Inject ham with beef broth.
9. Baste, and it’s ready for the pit.
10. Cook at 225 – 250 degrees
NOTE: I cook on a Green Egg, It’s great because heat is distributed evenly and it will hold a steady temperature for hours. I use a Natural Hardwood Charcoal Pecan wood chips.
11. Apply baste every 30 minutes.
12. Flip ham over after 1 ½ hour.
13. After 3 hours check internal temp.
14. When internal temp reaches 140 degrees, remove the ham from pit.
15. Place ham in a meat box, if you have one. If not wrap it in some old towels, or a couple a layers of foil and place in an iceless ice chest for an hour.
16. Slice thin against the grain, and it’s ready to serve!
Recipe by: Johnny Loomis