Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The myth of "Always and Never"

by Duane Fronek

I recently had an interesting conversation with a very knowledgable Huntress, Skye Goode of western WI. She had been out bowhunting and commented on  how much the deer were moving that night despite what some of the so called experts claim is a bad time to be out hunting because the deer wouldn't be moving. Why? Because of the high 25+ mph winds that were howling that evening. Skye noted that the deer were everywhere despite the wind, shooting may be a challenge from a tree waving in the wind like a flag, but none the less the deer were out and about. Skye mentioned she sees things  like this happen often, what is claimed as gospel turns out to not be so. And myself  I couldn't agree more.
   I call it the "Always and Never" myth or rut. So many times we hear the phrase "this always happens" or "this never does" and/or "Always do this" and "Never do that" and its usually from those that claim they've seen it all. When I hear people use those two words when it comes to hunting or trapping it makes me question the level of the individuals experience. And for new recruits to hunting it can be a real hinderence because they are putting their faith in what that individual is telling them and can leave them in a rut and eventually keep them from reaching their goals and improving their skills and knowledge making a longer learning curve.
  So what made Skye go out and hunt in those condition despite what she's heard. Well for one she's dedicated and its in her blood, but the other is this, she thinks outside the box and she knows her quarry. Why would an animal that depends on it sense of smell and keen hearing sit like a duck in conditions that severely hinder your senses for survival. No, your gonna be on the move, edgey and wary. Scents and sounds in high winds and the animals ability to use its assests in those conditions is severely dimished. So the claim that deer dont move in high winds is false as is claimed by some as I have witnessed as well.
  Thinking outside the box and using common sense and our own experiences and observations can make us more successful in out smarting the quarry we persue. There are so many variables out there in the wild world that there really isnt a blanket statement for much of what happens out there.
  Take for example, and this may ruffle some feathers, but the wait and let the animal bleed out after a hit before you persue it. Maybe a short wait to collect yourselves after the initial adrenelin rush. But its been my experience to get on that animal right away especially if you didnt see it go down. Why? The longer that animal has to rest the more likely the blood will clot and stop bleeding externally. Take for example a coyote I tracked that was marginally hit at the elbow. It was partially snow covered ground and while tracking this animal I seen where this particular coyote would put that leg into the snow and wait till it was kicked up again and each time the blood trail was lighter and lighter. We did get to that coyote and when we did we found that wound was partially froze and the bleeding looked to have stopped. I dont look at tracking as following the bread crumbs to the prize, I use and look at tracking as a way to keep that animal bleeding out as fast as possible. Ive tracked alot of animals deer and bear for others over the years and found the longer they left that animal the more difficult the retrieval. When an animal is out of gas its out of gas and that faster you can make that happen the better off you'll be. I'll be writing more on tracking in another article, so lets move along.
  Another one of those things that ''never" happens is getting a second crack at a deer in the same spot you missed the day before. I've had it happen three times that I recall where I missed a buck and spooked him only to come back the next day to the same stand and hunt and the missed buck comes back down the same trail same time or close to it and this time I connect. Why? Because animals are creatures of habit and routine. The only thing different that each of these animals did, was when they approached the spot the arrow missed them, they just made a wide berth around the spot. Two of the three instances I got the buck. The third went behind me. My point is this. Many times I've heard if you miss and spook a particular deer you wont get a second chance.  And again I've found thats not always the case.
  Or take for instance when it comes to trapping, canines for example. You've heard it said to keep things clean, use clean traps with no rust, dont spit or pee around a set. Although as a general rule this is true to an extent but there is a lot of lead way. I use to be very meticulous about clean trapping to the point it bordered on insanity when it came to canines. I wore hip boots, rubber cloves, traps clean enough to be used in surgery if need be,lol. But I still wasn't connecting like I wanted and couldn't figure out why. I was doing everything the experts claimed, always wear rubber boots and gloves, never set a trap with rust etc. Then I started thinking more about this stuff harder, did I really have to go and re-dye and wax all my traps because I got stuck waiting behind a potato truck pouring black smoke down on me for 15 min. in traffic. (that really happend) the answer was no and it was slowly coming to me, I started thinking outside the box and looking at what is really happening in my case. First I was wearing so much rubber to keep from being detected by that fox or coyote that I sweat more on the line, giving off even more human scent. So I start dressing more comfortable, wearing my hunting boots wearing leather gloves etc. I once had a fellow trapper along and he watched me smooth out a set with my bare hands that a deer messed up. He said you touched that set bare handed aren't you worried about scent. I said no. The next day he got to see a coyote bouncing in that set and he said he would have never believed it if he hadn't of seen it. So many times we believe too much of what we hear it actually hinders our success. Take for example about the fact of human scent and not peeing around a set, yet how many trappers set traps at farm gates back in the fields. The trapper might not relieve himself there, but just about every farmer and farmhand does when opening a gate if the need arises. Yet thousands of canines are caught at those locations every year. And the rust issue when it comes to traps, theres rusted wire, fence posts, hardware all over farm fields buried over the years but you don't see coyotes digging them up. One other fact about human scent, its all over in the woods in the fall from bird hunters to deer hunters, we just need to understand whats detrimental and whats tolerated.
   So what does all this mean? Simply, think for yourself and outside the box. There are basics in hunting and trapping, but there is a lot more gray area that varies in each situation. Test what you hear, try what your gut tells you regardless of what you heard. I've learned more from my mistakes than I have from my successes and to be honest I would not trade my mistakes for anything, they taught me a lot that has been invaluable over the years that have improved my successes. I've also found a lot of times that gut feeling is spot on and its in all of us.
  So the next time you hear a self proclaimed pro telling you never or always when it comes to this or that, really think about it and compare it to what you've seen or experienced. You just may realize the answers you seek are in you and like Skye and others like her you'll be further ahead and have the edge over the competition and the quarry you persue. And the other is that feeling of accomplishment in becoming a better hunter and/or trapper. Let me leave you with one last thing to think about. The next time you go buy yourself a $5 stick of hunting deodorant/anti-perspirant just compare the ingredients to the $2 name branded unscented ones. I think you'll be surprised. Good luck!

A second chance buck. I missed him the day before, got him the same spot the next day. A nice 9 pt. 198#

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So, You Want to Eat a Beaver

By: Duane Fronek

So, you want to eat a beaver (Castor Canadensis). I’m asked many times if I eat the animals I trap and the answer is occasionally I do. And one of the things I get asked is do I eat the beaver I trap and yes I do. As a matter of fact it was pretty much the only meat I ate in the winter of 2008, I had just went thru a separation and money was tight as it is at times with these sorta things and was trapping to make a living. And beaver meat is high in protein and probably better than beef and supplemented well, well except for a good ribeye. So, where do ya start, well first you have to find one. Beaver are pretty much located throughout N. America. Most are trapped and some are shot depending on your state regulations. It’s really not hard to find one or you may know a trapper or a landowner that may have them in a pond or river etc. I prefer to eat a fresh beaver for the reason that when trapped they are not bled out. If it’s trapped I would go 2 days max to have good tasting meat. We’ll take care of the blood shortly.
Taking care of a beaver you’re planning to eat is important as it is with most game, to ensure the quality of the meat. Beaver are mainly caught in or near the water and are pretty much clean to begin with. Skinning them and the way you do it is important to have good tasting meat.
First lay the beaver on its back on a table or tailgate that’s clean, if it’s not clean layout a garbage bag to lay the beaver on. For your initial cuts I like to use a filet knife. I start out by sticking the knife in at the base of the tail with the sharp edge up and just below the skin, then run your knife up to the vent but stopping about an inch away and then run the knife around the vent till you’ve cut the hide all the way around the vent. It’s important to add that any juicy liquid coming out of the vent if any, needs to be dabbed off with paper towel so that any of that juice does not leak onto the meat. This stuff is oil from the castor gland and has an interesting odor, not a real bad odor just interesting but can ruin the flavor of the meat in an instant, Castor is used in cosmetics and at times goes for $50.00 a pound, but we’ll touch on that later. Once the vent is circled, run your knife straight up the center of the belly just under the skin, you don’t have to get into the thin layer between the hide and stomach. Continue all the way up to the chin until you come through the bottom lip. Next, make a cut through the skin at the base of the tail where the fur stops and the tail begins and cut all the way around the base. Basically ringing it. Once that’s done you need to next cut off the feet. The diagram shows where these cuts are. Start by cutting from the underside of the foot where the heel pad meets the fur and then cut all the way around the foot, once the foot is ringed cut deeper into the underside where you started, this will cut the tendons. Beaver have soft or weak joints by design that aid in swimming and once you make that cut you can grab the foot and twist it off, you might have to aid it with cutting to completely take it off, but it’s relatively easy.
Initial cuts
Front foot
Back foot

Once you have the feet off it’s time to start peeling the hide off. Now is the time to swap out the filet knife with a hunting knife, they seem to work best. The best ones I’ve found are the Buck(skinner) or the Shrade (sharp finger) both these knives have the right curve for skinning beaver, but whatever you have is fine, as long as it’s sharp. To start getting the hide, grab the hide about midway between the chin and vent. Note: the reason I call it a vent is because it’s similar to a birds, just one opening and all reproductive parts are inside, even males. Anyway, it doesn’t matter which side of the cut you grab. While grabbing the hide pull it away from the carcass and make a sweeping motion just under the hide going along the belly and ribs, keep working the knife this way while cutting and pulling the hide the whole length of the initial cut. Then do the same with the other side. Once you hit the legs it gets a little tricky, but once you figure it out it’ll be a snap.
Getting the leg through
Pulling the hide away

Pick any leg to start and pull the loose hide over the leg and feel for the leg. I usually grab the hide between the thumb and fore finger and use the other fingers to push against the leg from the fur side until the hide slips over the severed part of the leg bone. This will help push the leg up so you can run the knife along both sides of the leg and keep cutting along the leg until the hide is separate from the leg all the way around. Repeat this with each leg until your hide is basically laying flat and the beaver basically looks like it is just lying on the hide and the legs are out.

Now take the beaver by the head and base of tail and flip it over on its belly on a clean surface. Starting on whichever side you want, take and grasp the loose pelt like you did while skinning down the belly and just continue pulling and cutting along the beavers sides until you’re to the spine, then repeat the same on the other side the whole length of the pelt.

Once you’re to the spine, the hide should be separated from the carcass except for maybe the head. Just pull the pelt over the head and pull and cut as you have been until you cut through the ears, then onto the eyes and finally to and off the nose. Your pelt should be separated from the carcass at this time. 
Working it off the head

Fold the pelt in half skin to skin, then fold in half and again, fur to fur. I will usually then put the pelt in the freezer till another day when I have time to flesh them out or sell just the way they are. Beaver pelts are worth a few bucks if they’re taken in the fall and winter, and in early spring.

Now for the meat. There are only a couple things I take off the beaver for meat, which are the hind quarters and the backstraps. With the beaver still on its belly, take the filet knife and cut along the spine, then peel the meat back and keep cutting along the length of the back, staying close to the bone, working the backstraps off like you would on a deer. 
Cutting out the straps
A nice beaver backstrap

Once the straps are removed move to the hind quarters. Grab a hind quarter and move it around so you know where the hip joint is close to the spine and make a cut to the joint. Do this on both hinds. Now you can flip the beaver onto its back. You should be able to see or tell where the joint is from this side by now and cut into that joint and then all around. Now just bend the whole quarter back to pop and reveal the joint and finish severing the joint and hind quarter. 
Cutting off a hind quarter
Hind quarter off

Now that you have the hind quarters off that’s pretty much it, for the meat that is. Now just set the meat aside for a minute or two. You’ll notice if you look at the vent that behind it there is a gray mass on both sides, these are the castor glands and fur buyers buy these, basically take and cut away the membrane that holds them in place. But don’t cut into the gray, just the thin, basically clear membrane and gently work the castors out peeling it away from the membrane. When you’re close to getting it out you’ll notice they are joined together at the vent, just cut the vent off with the castor. It’ll kind of resemble rounded saddle bags.
Beaver Castor glands 

You can put them in a Ziploc and freeze fresh or hang them on a nail in a shed out of sunlight to dry as well.  If you get enough of them they’re worth saving, fur buyers pay by the pound.
With clean hands take the meat you just cut off and trim any fat that you can, then rinse under cold water washing whatever blood you can. Now take a large bowl and throw in a table spoon of salt and start filling with water to dissolve the salt, then add in the beaver meat. Once you have everything covered in the salt water put it into the fridge until the next day. The next day take and rinse the meat under cold water. Then proceed to cut the meat off the bone on the hind quarters and any fat that you missed the first time.

At this point there is a couple things you can do. You can freeze it in freezer bags for a later date or prepare it. If you’re going to prepare it you can do a couple things. One is you can chunk up the meat and throw it in a slow cooker until the meat just falls apart then just add your favorite barbeque ingredients and finish cooking. Or you can par boil it for about  20 minutes and drain. Then you can flour it with a mixture of salt and pepper or your favorite spices then pan fry. My favorite is to just chunk or cube it raw, then fry/sauté in butter and salt and pepper until done add in fried onions and mushrooms. Then add in fried potatoes and cover the whole thing in shredded Colby or Monterey jack cheese, cover with a lid under low heat until the cheese is melted and serve. Most people who have tried and ate the beaver I have cooked in these 2 ways said they could not tell the difference between beef or beaver and said the beaver actually tasted better. I sometimes grind the beaver into burger and they taste great. Anything you can do with beef, you can do with beaver, well except a good steak. Take a walk on the wild side and give it a try. Beaver, it's what's for Dinner.

PHOTOS taken by Duane Fronek or Renee Vitale.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coyotes, Keeping it Simple for Success

So what does it take to be successful at calling coyotes? Which call is the best? Which E-caller should I buy that’ll call em’ all in, what’s the best camo or rifle or decoy?
 Read more at Foremost Coyote......

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter Time Coyote Hunt

The other day did some calling so I did a video story on the hunt. Its not long, but gives you an idea of the type of coyote hunting I do with the type of terrain and using it to my advantage, Northern WI style. I haven't blogged in a while because I've been trapping and calling coyotes, but when it dwindles down, I'll have more articles for you, its been an interesting season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some days ya just gotta go with the flow

Sometimes the trapline throws ya a curve ball. Well mine came today. Wasn't sure if I should just burn it and bury it, or try to pull it out. Well I didnt have enough matches so I opted for the latter. In the end everything worked out fine with a little brut persuasion.

And then help arrived

My partner standing in the hole.
But all's well ends well. Helped out on a cull hunt and got me a nice meat doe for the freezer,so all was not lost.
So, that was my day,it was alright though, I was in the outdoors like everyday and wouldn't trade it for the world, I belong out there. All in a days work chasing and killing coyotes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011



The headline in this morning’s Saint Paul paper reads, “80,000 ACRES AND GROWING – Smoke reaches Chicago as BWCA fire forces families from homes”.  For the non-canoeing public, BWCA stands for the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness that is protected from forest management; wildlife management; natural resource management and use; access roads (that would double as fire breaks and firefighting enablers); and other such human benefits such as downed timber (fire fuel) removal and use after storms by that federal ostrich behemoth the National Park Service.

The past two weeks I have read several reports about how the Bob Marshall Wilderness (that was, until recently, a very popular hunting destination for elk, deer, and moose) is now literally devoid of elk, deer, and moose as a result of federal introduction, protection, and spread of wolves and grizzly bears that have decimated the calves, fawns, and reproductive females of the elk, deer, and moose.  Thousands of these desirable and useful animals have been replaced by hundreds of deadly, dangerous, and destructive animals.  Also lost were 200-plus years of state and local Constitutional authority over what and how many wild animals would exist within each state and be allowed to coexist with local communities.  The Bob Marshall Wilderness (named after a “founder” of The Wilderness Society) encompasses over a Million Acres south of Glacier National Park in Montana and like the BWCA is “protected” from all manner of human prosperity by the National Forest Service that was originally staffed with foresters (i.e. “one who practices or is versed in forestry”) and today is simply a hodgepodge of hacks, diversity (sex and race NOT “bio”) programs, and environmental zealots.

So, what’s so funny about a popular canoeing destination going up in flames and a big-game hunting area’s big-game decimated of all the big game?  Good question.

Next summer Minnesota canoeists will “ooh” and “ahhh” as they pass by ashen campsites and barren hillsides.  Scout leaders will tell their paddling munchkins about the “natural processes” resulting from Mother Nature’s fire.  Visitor Centers will explain how the ashen runoff and formerly shaded shorelines will enjoy all manner of benefit from the fire.  There will be displays about how in 200 years it will once again be the pristine “native ecosystem” they saw only last year.  Asthmatic Milwaukeeans and Chicagoans that are coughing today will take their kids to the Park Service films in the Visitor Centers to let the Park Service propaganda about good old Mother Nature wash over the kids like Aryan claptrap drenching German kids in the 1930’s.

This fall local big-game outfitters will find few hunters willing to pay for being “guided” through the biological vacuum that is the Bob Marshall Wilderness today.  Despite the Forest Service website touting “The Bob” as “Home to lynx, grizzly bears, and bull trout”: who pays to find lynx?  Who pays to engage grizzly bears in remote areas where death and injury are the only real results?  Who pays to see a bull trout that was purposely replaced by other more abundant and appreciated trout?

Environmentalists and government bureaucrats are wont to tout wolves as killing coyotes that in  turn encourages “more” lynx.  Aside from that being a lie (resulting in “more” lynx since the northern 48 states have always been the southern fringe of lynx habitat where historically scattered and variable lynx populations are entirely dependent on cyclic rabbit/hare populations); these same zealots work to ban trapping, throw paint on fur coats, and demean trappers as perverts abused in their own childhoods.  “More lynx”?  For what??  But that’s not the joke.

These former wolf-loving advocates (i.e. the “usual suspects”) are no longer touting the wolves they love so much.  Despite “The Bob” being as infested with wolves as a Minnesota wolf is infested with disease-carrying fleas and ticks in summer, the website oddly doesn’t mention them as a destination highlight.  Could this be because they don’t want any member of the “general public” to associate “no elk, deer, or moose” with lots of wolves?  But that’s not the joke.

Here’s the joke.  If Weyerhaeuser (or any other “fat-cat”, corporate, “land-raping” land owner) had let hundreds of thousands of woodland acres in Northern Minnesota burn down and spread “aerial pollutants” from Duluth to Chicago and beyond… all “H@#*” would have broken loose.  The EPA would be flooding the Upper Midwest with Regulation Writers, Special Agents, US Attorneys, and a train of Camp-Followers made up of private lawyers from the environmental alphabet soup such as NRDC, CBD, WS, etc.  The papers would be interviewing children hacking outside their school in Michigan.  State and federal lawyers would join the enviro-lawyers to sue for all the lost wildlife and environmental harms verified by University eco-zealots from San Diego to Orono, Maine.  There would be pictures of logging slash (called “downed timber” on public lands) that was the “fuel” for the “conflagration”.  Canoe outfitters and fishing organizations (strangely silent today) would be warbling on Radio and TV about the need for federal intervention to save the land from these “robber barons”.  Universities would admit with their heads down that hunting and fishing will probably never recover to previous levels.  Politicians would appear in groups of thirty or more in one Washington corridor picture looking grim as they assure us that they will “do something”.

What if the Bob Marshall “elk, deer, and moose” had been decimated by hunters, poachers, and local “rednecks”?  Imagine.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service would assist (like we “assisted” Iraq) state fish and wildlife agencies to “crack-down” on interstate commerce in animals.  Phone taps and “No-Knock” search warrants would be ubiquitous along with undercover operations, draconian prison sentences and fines for hapless local residents.  Local residents that fit the media image of “poachers” will find themselves targets of both law enforcement and media reporters.  Road blocks and a need for cameras and satellite photography would begin as soon as new federal funding (from that corridor-full of Washington pols noted above) was forthcoming.  This federal/state Anschluss would also discourage any hunting or trapping while spreading more wolves and grizzlies (but not lynx) over more and more area which in turn depopulates rural environs, drives down rural land values, AND makes more rural land available to federal agencies (i.e. a “win-win” all around, except for a “few” folks that didn’t belong there anyway).

The joke?
If federal agencies burn and waste millions of acres of woodlands while polluting the air for millions of people it is “natural”.  Such bureaucrats are rewarded and government gives millions to Universities and other propagandists to explain the benefits of unplanned fires.
If private businesses or other private property owners burned and wasted millions of acres while polluting the air for millions of people it is a catastrophe.  Owners and others responsible are imprisoned, fined, ruined, and vilified.  Lawsuits, government seizures, and Grand Juries would extend far into the future while creating hundreds of newly-rich “John Edwards’s” as campaigning lawyers championing all the “little guys” irreparably harmed by the thoughtless and cruel capitalist land owners.

If federal agencies introduce, spread, and protect wolves and grizzly bears that decimate elk, deer, and moose it is “natural”.  Such bureaucrats are rewarded and government gives millions to Universities and other propagandists to explain the benefits of “native species”.
If hunters, poachers, and local “rednecks” decimate elk, deer, and moose it is Armageddon.  Public outcry for harsher penalties and no mercy for suspects would abound.  Hapless hunters would be apprehended and incarcerated for everything from lead bullets in their pocket to failure to unload their gun before entering the road ditch before crossing the road.  Mothers and children in wolf and grizzly country left abandoned by jailed husbands would be considered as getting their just deserts by smarmy big-city environmentalist newspaper articles.

If that isn’t “Grim Humor” I don’t know what is.  It is the darkest of dark humor.  It is the despairing humor common to Russia under Stalin.  It is the stark result of governmental abuse before which the individual is helpless.  It is one more clue that it is not only our national economy that is in decline.

To quote a somewhat famous Russian-American comedian, “Is this a great country, or what?”  It is sad to say, the answer today is “what”.

Jim Beers
14 Se. 2011           ........................If you like, Share it...