Rodakowski’s Tips for Taking a Westside Blacktail

Dubbed the “grey ghost” blacktail have earned the reputation as one of the toughest big game species to hunt in the world. (Troy Rodakowski)

By Troy Rodakowski

There are only a few magical days a season when mature blacktail show themselves during daylight hours and if you plan on having some success you need to make sure you are in the woods when these days happen. Every year people ask me what it takes to harvest a mature blacktail and why are some folks successful while others are not. Simply answered, you need to be out there with the deer when they are active and that peak activity usually occurs in late October through the month of November when the rut occurs. The rest of the time they are extremely nocturnal and you’ll rarely catch a glimpse of them during daylight hours.

September blacktails rub their velvet and transition to a more nocturnal pattern. (Troy Rodakowski)

The first cold snap of the season usually hits during the month of October and makes for some great hunting. By then the rain has dampened the forest floor and made for some very quiet hiking enabling hunters to sneak to tree stands, ground blinds, and elevated vantage points. Of course, finding trophy deer is not easy but with does beginning to come into estrus bucks will be more visible during daylight hours especially first thing in the morning and just before dark. During these times you’ll want to meticulously scan the densest cover with optics before giving up on a good looking location. The bottom line is that blacktail relish the thickest cover and they tunnel and weave themselves through it which enables them to go nearly undetected for much of their lives. As a hunter you need to put yourself in the cover or very near it to be successful. The biggest of blacktail won’t be too far from the edge of a field or clear cut and you want to take your time glassing these areas.

The Coast Range: Deer on the coast typically have smaller racks due to genetics, thick cover, and slightly less nutrients in their feed. There are exceptions to this rule though and larger deer can be found near old burns and logged locations that have opened up the canopies. These areas can produce some real monsters that score well into the 130 to 140 class. Hunters need to spend time near the perimeters of likely locations like this that have the lowest human activity. Tree stands or elevated locations that allow hunters to watch the thickest cover around these cuts can provide some excellent opportunities at bigger bucks. Large bucks often spend the majority of their time in thick cover and seldom step out into the center of the cuts in broad daylight. You can sometimes coax them out with fawn and doe bleats but make sure to use them sparingly. These calls can spike their curiosity and entice them to pop their heads out of the dense cover.

Public land hunting is becoming more difficult. However, finding road systems closed to motorized travel will help put you on deer. (Troy Rodakowski)

Valley Deer: Lowland blacktail thrive in small patches of woods near rivers and agricultural grounds. Access can be difficult though because most of these lands are private. If you can gain access to some of this ground, however, you might be surprised by how many blacktails roam these lowland areas. Deer numbers have slowly grown in many lowland locations and numerous farmers and private landowners have seen increased blacktail traffic and agricultural damage from the increase in population. Establishing good relationships with multiple landowners is essential in order to find trophy deer in these locations. Due to increased human activity deer here frequently move under the cover of darkness even more so than in the coastal clear cuts. Finding a place to hunt that’s close to home will be of great benefit for scouting and the number of hours that you are able to spend in the field picking apart these areas to pattern the deer. Binoculars and spotting scopes are a great tool here because of how open most of these farmlands are and you can increase your odds by scouting the cover in the intersecting areas between agricultural tracts. These lowland blacktails behave much like whitetails in the midwest. Hunt them like you would an ag-land whitetail and you’ll be in the game.

Rub lines and areas with multiple rubs are sure signs that a blacktail buck is in the area. Focusing on these places will tip the scale in your favor. (T. Rodakowski)

Deer in these areas will usually feed into the edges of agricultural fields at twilight and dusk. Plan to be in the field and set up before dark in the morning and an hour or two before dusk in the afternoon. Ground blinds and tree stand can be the ticket once a buck is patterned or a good field is located with a lot of deer activity. I have seen deer exhibiting rut activity in mid to late October or even earlier and I definitely hit the field early every year to get a handle of what the blacktails are up to. I’ve also seen a good number of bucks chasing does well into the month of December. Fellow blacktail hunter and ODFW biologist Brian Wolfer from the Springfield ODFW office prefers hunting when the bucks are most active during the pre-rut. “I have observed the most buck activity during the pre-rut in late October and early November when deer are chasing each other around,“ says Wolfer.

On dry years animals will gravitate to local water sources near irrigation ditches, slough bottoms, and ponds near river systems. Seasons with higher rainfall and early fall rains seem to encourage deer to rut much sooner and will also become extended into early December. Heavy rains will also push deer out of slough bottoms as they begin to fill with water. “We have been trying to get a better idea on migration and movements from collaring and collecting harvest data over the last few years,” adds Wolfer. Even though state game officials are learning more and more about blacktails these deer continue to remind us how mysterious and illusive they are.

Checking for fresh sign and focusing on those locations will put a hunter one step closer to harvesting a deer. (Bill Wellette)

Cascade Blacktail: Snowfall at higher elevations will push deer into migratory mode and with the rut progressively ramping up bucks will continue to breed does on the move. Deer here will travel greater distances in comparison to others at lower elevations. Snowline hunting is the norm for many late season hunters as numerous deer will drop in elevation with accumulating snow. Even though the snows usually push them down I’m amazed every year at trail cam footage and reports of large bucks taken in several inches of snow. There are some larger, mature blacktails that are much slower to migrate and can be found at elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 ft. through much of November. If you can be in the field in late October or mid-November when there’s snow on the ground the odds go up dramatically.

Once the weather changes deer will begin to migrate. The author took this buck on a late season hunt. (Troy Rodakowski)

Finding migration routes is helpful for high country blacktail but in the lowlands finding isolated hidey holes for these deer is the key and many hunters have had success, calling, rattling and hunting from tree stands in these lower areas. Bucks at higher elevation are quite difficult to pattern because they are on the move, especially late in the season as the weather and rut greatly affect their habitual patterns.

If you plan on hunting the general firearm season this year I highly recommend getting out there and doing your homework early to see where a buck might be hanging out. Chances are he’s not going to go far and if you’re in the field when rut activity starts ramping up he might give you an opportunity during shooting hours.

Troy Rodakowski
Outdoor Line Blogger
Western Oregon Region
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

EXO Mountain Gear Backcountry Hunting Packs - Boise, Idaho

Blacktail Success – Reading the Sign

By Rob Endsley

Blacktails will drive you to madness!

For starters they live in the dense jungle known as the Pacific Northwest rainforest. Chest-high salal brush, re-prod, salmonberry’s, alder thickets, and some of the deepest, darkest pockets of timber you can imagine is what you’ll find in blacktail country. And you can expect rain and lots of it. The rain is punishing at times.

One minute they are right there in broad daylight and half a second later they are gone, never to be seen again. A study printed in Northwest Sportsman magazine several years ago concluded that lowland blacktails in Western Washington live in about a two square Kilometer area. They don’t migrate long distances and they know every stick, stump, bush, rock, and brush-tunnel in their environment.

I start every season by tromping around the open country of Okanogan County in Eastern Washington hoping to spot a big buck from a mile away and then move in for the shot. When that doesn’t happen, and it usually doesn’t, I head home to Gig Harbor and mentally prepare myself for hunting jungle blacktails on the Olympic Peninsula.

That mental preparation is what helped me this year. It kept from from quitting and saying to heck with blacktails.

On day one of my blacktail mis-adventure it was a balmy 61 degrees and I didn’t see a single deer. What I did see though were rubs, a lot of rubs, and fresh tracks and sign everywhere. That led me to believe they were still nocturnal. It was October 24th and I knew that my best chance wasn’t until the end of the general season on Halloween or perhaps the late hunt the third week of November.

I had focused my attention on some of the more open clear cuts on day one so I shifted to the re-prod on day two, thinking the deer might be opting for a little more cover. That hunch turned up three does and a bunch more sign. Since I seemed to be onto something I checked a rather large clearcut that was around seven or eight years old and full or re-prod. My brief scouting mission into that cut turned up a bunch of rubs that were less than a day old. It was mid day and temp’s were again around 60 degrees so I headed home.

On day three I awoke to pounding rain on the roof of our home. This is one of the many reasons why blacktail hunting is so brutal here in Western Washington. You can plan on your binoculars and scope being fogged up and covered in rain drops non-stop all day long and even with the finest rain gear you’ll be soaking wet. On this particular morning it was coming down in sheets. I’m not gonna lie, dragging myself out of the sack was tough that morning.

I made my way to the edge of the clearcut with the fresh rubs around twenty minutes before shooting light and sat atop a large mound that overlooked a good portion of the cut. It was POURING down rain. I turned off my headlamp and sat in the darkness wondering what the hell I was doing there.

As it began to get light I started glassing the reprod for signs of life. I keep my binocs holstered in a  KUIU binocular harness that helps to keep them dry a little, but I was still having to use a paper towel that I stuffed in a pocket before I left the house on the lenses.

After twenty to thirty minutes or so I decided to move to another mound in the cut that overlooked a series of draws. That’s where the freshest rubs were the day before and I was hoping maybe the decreased light level from the black dinge overhead would keep that buck out in the open a few minutes longer.

Slowly creeping up to that mound I noticed two white spots in the salal brush in the distance on the other side of a draw. I skipped the binoculars entirely and quickly set up my Primos Trigger Stickknowing darn well that I might have two seconds to get a shot if it was indeed a buck.

I popped the scope covers off and settled the rifle into the notch on the stick and quickly determined that it was a decent blacktail buck in the salal brush. The white spots were the tip of his nose and his throat patch.

I had merely peeked my head over the edge of the mound and he was already onto me. Without time to range the animal I cranked my Leupold up to it’s full magnification, settled the crosshairs just behind his shoulder, took a breath to gather myself, and slowly and evenly squeezed the Accutrigger.

My .300 Winnie barked and the muzzle break was so full of water that it looked like I had just fired a shot from a muzzleloader. A massive cloud of steam completely blocked my sight from the buck. I caught a glimpse of him struggling to make his way to the timber and then he was gone. Pulling out my range finder I quickly determined where he was standing was only 127 yards away. I knew the shot was right on the money and I also knew that finding a blacktail in chest high salal brush and timber in the pouring down rain was going to be a challenge. I’ve taken a lot of deer over the years and here I was trembling over a blacktail that would never make any record book.

I made my way to where the buck went into the brush and started walking a grid back and forth in the salal and huckleberries. The rain cranked up another notch and I was nearly drowning. After around fifteen minutes of working a back-and-forth grid I could see his rump underneath some brush ahead of me. The shot had hit him exactly where I aimed and he’d still managed to travel around 40 yards before falling to the 165 grain Barnes X.Washington Blacktail - Rob Endsley - The Outdoor Line

It was a nice, mature 2 x 3 that wouldn’t make any magazine covers but I didn’t care. These lowland blacktails are as challenging a critter to hunt as you’ll find here in the west and the countless days I’ve spent studying them had payed off once again.

I put my tag on him, field dressed him, and slogged my way back to the Can Am 6 x 6 parked over a mile away. Lifestyles Can-Am in Mount Vernon, Washington loaned me this rig for the hunting season. The general manager there told me “this ATV will take you places you shouldn’t be”. He was right. It’s six wheel drive, has a 700 pound dump bed, and 1,000 cc’s to power up and over just about anything that stands in it’s way. It’s simply a killer rig for hunting!rob_2016_5_web

Take Away’s from This Hunt:

Reading the Sign

I used the first two days as more of a scouting mission. The sight of fresh rubs and tracks everywhere led me to believe there were plenty of blacktails in the area but they were feeding and moving at night. This is classic blacktail behavior and the odds of seeing some animals would get better as the season approached Halloween and the rut started to heat up. If it didn’t happen before then I could count on something on the late hunt in November when sixty percent of the blacktails are harvested in Washington.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Hunting mule deer in open country means you’ll probably see some animals every day and sometimes a lot of animals. Even if you can’t get close enough for a shot at least you know they are there. With blacktail hunting I’d say that at least half the time you won’t see a darned thing. It’s all about the sign though. If you can find fresh rubs, tracks, and droppings and can stick around until the rut starts to heat up you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Don’t get me wrong. I get as discouraged and frustrated as anyone. I know how these critters operate though and that’s what keeps me going back. If you’re patient and keep working the sign eventually you’ll get an opportunity.

The blacktail I took this year wasn’t in the rut yet and I had him butchered into boneless steaks and hamburger that our family will enjoy for the next year. If you tag out with a nice buck this year don’t hesitate to post a quick photo on the Outdoor Line forums.

Thanks for checking in and good hunting to you!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle 

The Best Salmon Chips EVER…

Every once in awhile, through trial and error, you come up with something pretty good. That would be the case with my Salmon Chips. Only this time, I came up with something Damn Good….

I started making’em for the guys at work a couple years ago and kept refining it until I had a recipe that has the ability to turn fish-eating nay-sayers into “Salmon Lovers”.

It’s really nothing new, I mean “Fish & Chips” have been around forever. For some folks, Salmon Chips are a pretty recognizable staple in their diet. For others, “Salmon Chips” generate a far off stare as if I am the biggest idiot ever. ” You can’t make Salmon into Fish & Chips”, is usually the response. I simply reply, just keep an open mind and give it a try. The eye opening experience with the first bite, is just that… an eye opening experience.

OK, so how do we make’em….

I think it is important to serve any fish, cooked as a chip, absolutely boneless. This takes a little time but is well worth the effort. After you have your salmon fillets, you need to take the time to remove the pin-bones. A small pair of flat-nose or needle-nose pliers work well.If you are not sure exactly how to remove the pin-bones, here is a helpful quick video. “Remove Pin Bones”  Next you’ll want to remove the skin off the back side of the fillet and be sure to remove the excess brown fatty meat.

With the bones and skin removed, you simply cut your clean salmon fillett into large chip size pieces.

I will generally do this in the morning so that when I am done seasoning the pieces, I can put it in the refrigerator for the better part of the day. This allows for enough time to ensure that your seasonings absorb into the meat. This in turn makes for a much more favorable chip.

Here is were the rubber meats the road. For me, this makes all the difference in how your Salmon Chip will turn out flavorful, lightly breaded and with very little to no oil in the fish.

My choice of seasonings are pretty simple, Pepper, Garlic Salt and “Tony Chachere’s original Creole Seasoning”. If I want to make my Salmon Chips with a little extra bite, I’ll also add Tony’s Cajun seasoning as well. Season your chunks of fish generously, as you want the flavor to wake up your taste-buds…

I like to use McCormick’s Fish & Chips batter. The key here is that you need to make sure you mix it thin. Extra water in the batter, is a good thing. I like a very thin layer of batter coating my fish. We have all had those pieces of fish, heavily caked in dough, soaked with oil and lets face it, they taste nasty.

A light coating of batter means that you won’t have a ton of extra oil soaked into your chip. I also use a very light oil. I like the end product I get when using a light blend of Canola Oil and Light Olive Oil, made by “Smart Balance omega”.

I heat my oil in a large sauce pan, on the stove top. A medium high heat usually gets the job done. I’m not trying to flash-cook my fish, I want it a bit slower and controlled so I end up with golden brown pieces of fish.

I cook the pieces of fish, until they turn that light golden brown texture I’m looking for. Then I remove each piece and place them on stacked paper towels. This helps to draw any extra oil, out of the fish.

With paper towels underneath, I’ll continue to place more paper towels on top and continue to stack on more fish. I keep adding layers until all my fish is cooked. Stacking the fish on paper towels and covering the top with a piece of foil actually keeps the fish warm until they are ready to be served.

Spicy Salmon Chips with some Sweet Potato Fires and Cole-Slaw…. It doesn’t get much healthier then that for “Fish & Chips”. More importantly, the flavor will make you think twice about ever going back to Cod, when it comes to choosing what type of fish to consider to make your chips….

Bone Appetit ….

The Worlds Best Smoked Duck

The reality is, there is more than one way to cook a duck. The first time I brought my limit of seven ducks home I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to cook’em or what I wanted to try.

The one thing I knew for certain, is that after I breasted-out my ducks I needed to get the blood out of the meat. Robbo gave me a great tip. An over night soak in a mixture of kosher salt and water did the trick. By the next morning pretty much all the blood was out.

While my duck breasts were soaking I had time to get on the internet and research some recipes. I found a few that looked interesting and I settled on one that gave me an idea.

I was going to smoke my duck breast and I was also going to change a recipe that I found for a brine…just a bit.

Here’s the ingredients that I settled on:

2 quarts apple cider
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
2 crushed bay leafs
1 tea sp. cracked peppercorn
1 tea sp. minced garlic
1 tea sp. garlic pepper

Mix your ingredients thoroughly with a wisp until the salts and sugars are dissolved.

This time I am actually going to smoke duck breasts and goose thighs. For the breast prior to brining I cut them in half length wise. For larger breasts such as big mallards I will even cut those into three pieces.

I will let this meat soak for a good twenty four hours. It’s all about adding flavor and ensuring that your meat will be nice and tender when the smoking is complete.

When you remove your breast and thighs form the brine you’ll notice a slight color change. No worries, this is the result of the salts and sugars absorbing into the meat.

Now here is the game changer. Knowing that duck and goose are extremely lean and free of fat also means that it is very easy to over-cook and have it end up chewy and tough. That is exactly what we don’t want.

I knew I needed to add some fat to the meat prior to smoking. In my mind I thought, “why not wrap each piece in bacon”. Everyone knows that anything cooked in bacon is a sure hit. Make sure you get the “Thick Cut Bacon”. It will cost a little more, but the amount of fat in each piece protecting your prized duck or goose is well worth it.

Wrapping each piece of duck and goose is pretty simple. For the duck strips I just take a single piece of bacon and go around it length wise and pin it in place with a tooth-pick. I make sure the tooth-pick is pushed all the way in on the bottom so it’s not in the way when setting your wrapped meat on your smoking rack. It’s OK if it sticks out of the top a bit. For the goose thighs I basically spiral wrap the bacon around the thigh from top to bottom.

Because duck and goose meat is so dense, it’s not like smoking fish. I find that you really do need to smoke at higher temperatures. I use a Little Chief and put it in an insulated box that I built. This works great in getting my smoker up to the temps that I need. Something else I do to get my smoker up in temperature is a combination of chips and pucks.

I like to use the Peterson Smoke Pucks, as they really aid in getting the smoker to the higher temps that I need. I also use smoking chips for flavor. When smoking fish or fowl fruit chips are always a great choice. For this recipe I use apple chips as it complements the apple cider brine very nicely.

The overall smoking time will vary. I usually keep the smoker between 140 and 160 for six to seven hours. As the meat in the smoker warms up I eventually get it up to about 180 for at least the last hour to hour and a half.

Overall smoking time tends to be about eight hours depending on your temps. I want the bacon on the outside of the duck done but not burned.
Because of the bones in the goose thigh meat it actually takes a bit longer to smoke. Once I removed the duck from the smoker the goose thighs were left in the smoker for another hour and a half. Total smoke time for the goose was about nine and a half to ten hours. Again, total time will depend on your smoker temperature control.

Goose thighs on the top rack and the duck strips on the other three racks.

A good look at what the bacon wrapped pieces look like right out of the smoker. Again, the bacon is done but not burned.

Finally I simply unwrap the bacon and prepare the meat for serving. With the duck, I like to cut it into strips. You can see how the meat ends up medium rare and moist. You will not believe the amount of smoke flavor on this fowl, it’s amazing. For the goose thighs, I strip as much meat off the bone as I can. You will find that the goose tends to be just a bit tougher then the duck, however it’s still very flavorful.

Give this smoke duck or goose recipe a try, I think you’ll find a new favorite to serve to your friends and family around the holidays.

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

Hidden Gem, Ranch House BBQ

When you see a bunch of Harley’s parked outside a restaurant on the weekend you can bet there’s some good eats to be had inside. There’s one thing that bikers and outdoorsman have in common…they love to eat good food!

I’ve been driving by Ranch House BBQ on Hwy 101 west of Olympia, Washington for years en route to fishing, hunting, and clamming destinations on the Olympic Peninsula.

Nearly every time I cruise past the Ranch House the parking lot is stuffed with cars and bikes. Since I am usually towing a boat I opt out of stopping, but I made note that this place was probably worth hitting when the time was right.

On our way to dig razor clams back on the Washington coast back in November I was astonished to see only a half full parking lot so I whipped in there with the wife. The time was right to see what this place was all about.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the Ranch House is that these folks take their bbq seriously. Ranch House BBQ has won bbq awards all over America…and all over the world. From the trophy case up front to the walls around the restaurant there are trophies, banners, and ribbons literally everywhere.

Everything on the menu looked awfully tasty but I stuck with the old bbq standby…a full rack of ribs with a cold Fish Tale ale. My wife ordered a full bbq’d chicken and of course half of that ended up on my plate. Both the chicken and the ribs were awesome.

Some of the bbq joints that I’ve visited here in Northwest toss some bbq sauce on their meats and called it “barbecue” without actually getting that smokey flavor into the meat. At the Ranch House all the meats are slow smoked with tasty rubs and little to no sauce added while they are cooking. They’ve got their own great barbecue sauce on the table to douse your food with, but the meats are so tender and delicious the sauce really isn’t necessary.

Ranch House was crowned World Champion at the BBQ World Championship in Ireland in 2000 and has won titles in Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and even Canada. In addition to all the awards owner Amy Anderson and her all-girl grill team have been featured on the Food Network numerous times. This place is the real deal!

Even if the parking lots full you owe it to yur-bad-self to stop by Ranch House BBQ in Olympia and enjoy some of Amy Anderson’s award-winning bbq. Rest assured we will be stopping in to see these nice folks as often as possible from now on. This place is a hidden gem!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Steelhead Egg Candy in a Wet Brine

I recently received a small cooler with 24 fresh Steelhead skeins in it from a good buddy of mine. “Thank You Andy”. The timing is perfect as I was hoping to get some more eggs and get them cured up in one of my favorite and easiest Steelhead cures, that I have been using the past couple seasons.

As with any eggs, to create great baits you have to start with great eggs. These eggs are fantastic, however even really good eggs won’t fish well, if you leave the blood in them.

Getting the blood out is really pretty simple. I just take the flat long blade of my scissors and lightly drag it against the skein, pushing all the blood from the smaller veins, into the large vein at the lower inside base the skein. Then I make a couple small cuts with my scissors and run them along the vein, pushing all the blood out of the small snip, into a paper towel. The paper towel should actually wick the blood away from the skein.

If you take your time, you will not tear the skein and all the blood should be removed.

Once you get all the blood out and the skeins are clean, you are ready to cure.

You have several choices, for me it’s a matter of a wet or dry cure. My “Go-To” cure for Steelies anymore is my wet-cure. It’s so simple and truly creates a bait that is exactly how I want my Steelhead baits to be; “Nice and Gummy”.

In my opinion, you will be hard-pressed to find a better egg cure for creating Steelhead baits, that will out fish BorX O Fire, by Pautzke’s bait company. It works great right out of the bottle. Of course with my bait lab, I can never just cure baits as everyone else does. I could, but where is the fun in that?
One thing that I usually do with my BorX O Fire is a little mixing. I also like to add sugar, as Steelhead do crave sweets. The best combination that I have come up with is mixing the dark red with pink. Or, pink with the orange. I will mix two brand new jars together and to that, I will add one full cup of refined white sugar. If I don’t mix two bottles together and want to add the sweetness, I’ll simply mix a ½ cup of sugar to one full bottle of BorX O Fire.
After my two bottles of BorX O Fire are mixed with one cup of sugar, I am ready to go.

This ratio works great as a sprinkle on dry cure and I will usually pour some into an old sprinkle bottle to ease the application and to not over-apply. Both my combination colors are proven and work very well.

Now here comes the ultimate tweak; “Ya ready”?

2 cups Red Fire Brine, into a gallon Zip-Lock Bag.
½ cup of my pre-mixed double color and sugar BorX O Fire (red/pink)
1 teaspoon krill powder.

Shake the bag with all the contents to mix and then add your egg skeins.

I will usually place at least six skeins in the bag and then seal up. This is about a six hour soak rolling the bag around every fifteen minutes or so, for the first two hours. Then I simply flip the bag over about every hour, until I hit the six hour mark.

Once they are soaked, they are cured. I have also left the eggs soaking in the wet cure for up to 10 hours and they do just fine. After the eggs are cured, I dump them out into a strainer and leave them there for about ten minutes.

After they have dripped for about 10 minutes, I place the eggs into containers, lined with a couple layers of paper towels. I make sure I place the skeins into the containers, egg side down, skin side up. This is to allow the excess cure to drain-out of the eggs. I then place them in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight and they are ready to fish by morning.
You’ll notice that I have four trays with slightly different colors.

The different colors are created by simply mixing and matching. I can choose to use dark red BorX O Fire, with the sugar added and which goes into red Fire Brine. This will create a very dark red egg. If it is the combo red/pink BorX O Fire into the red Fire Brine, will creat a slightly different red.

The pink/orange BorX O fire into orange Fire Brine, creates a very nice orange egg, however the pink/orange BorX O fire combo into clear Fire Brine,, creates an amaxing peach egg.

It’s really up to you to mix and match the colors of BorX O Fire with the Fire Brine.

Give it a try, it’s a great and simple wet brine that flat out produces…

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

Duck in Bourbon Cream Sauce

I’m always surprised at how many people grumble about the edibility of ducks and geese. Sure they’re not a ribeye steak, but given the right recipe they can be delicious.

We’ve got a family bacon braised goose recipe that even your yoga class instructor would horse down without blinking an eye. We use that one often and man is it good. There’s a new recipe on the block, however, that is threatening to knock this one off it’s thrown.

After hunting with Don Fenton from Truck Vault last week he emailed me the worlds best duck recipe. Nicole and I cooked up some Canada goose breasts last night with it and WOWZA!!!

Here’s Don’s incredible Duck in Bourbon Cream Sauce recipe:

The alcohol primarily burns off during the cooking process but some will still remain. This recipe is also delicious with venison, goose, pork, beef and pheasant or quail.

You can marinate duck breasts in saltwater brine or Dr. Pepper overnight before cooking but it is not necessary.

CAUTION: When you add bourbon to the pan it may ignite! Slowly pour the bourbon into the pan without sticking your head or face over the pan. Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to burn off.

4 servings – you can adjust the recipe for the number of ducks you are cooking. 2 breasts equals one duck.

6-8 duck breast halves (or diced) skin can be in tact or removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves of garlic minced
¼ cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup beef or chicken broth
¼ cup bourbon
1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Season duck breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breasts whole or diced and cook until seared medium brown, approximately three minutes. Flip breast over and cook for two minutes more. Remove meat and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Add garlic, onion, and brown sugar to the pan. Stir to blend and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in beef or chicken broth and reduce liquid by one half. Add bourbon very carefully (see CAUTION above) and cook for two minutes more. Add cream and cook until sauce thickens. Return duck to the pan to warm, try not to cook past medium rare or to your liking.

Enjoy!

(Note from the editor – The sauce is so good you’ll want to double the recipe for more, more, more.)

Don Fenton
Truck Vault
Sedro Wooley, Washington

It’s Oyster:30 in G-Town!

It didn't take long to polish off 6 dozen oysters at my good buddy Geoff's going away party last night here in Gig Harbor. Geoff just got called up for 400 days of active duty in Afghanistan and what better way to send him off than with a bunch of fresh Hood Canal oysters cooked up Endsley-style on the barbecue. Oh, and a little 15 year Glenlevit scotch didn't hurt either!

My aunt and uncle have a waterfront cabin on the Hood Canal with a beach that is literally polluted with oysters. When the tide goes out the filter feeders are 18 inches think and it's nothing to pluck a couple of 5 gallon bucket-fulls for a feast. And before you accuse me of poaching oysters it's perfectly legal to take them shell-and-all from a private beach. On public beaches, however, you must shuck your limit of 18 oysters and leaves the shells on the beach to reseed the area. Not to worry, these shells will also end up back on the Endsley oyster beach where they belong.

I rustled up all the ingredients for a killer batch'a barbecued oysters before heading off to Smyth's house last night. I posted the Endsley family oyster recipe here on my Outdoor Line blog a couple of years ago and it's to die for. If you're looking for a new way to barbecue oysters…this is da bomb!  

Geoff got first dibs on the tastey oysters as soon as batch numero uno was finished. Uncle Pete called to tell Geoff thanks for his service to our country as we were gorging our bad selves on his oysters. That goes for all of us Geoff…thanks man!

These oysters usually don't make it off the barbecue. Just grab a fork and put the hammer down! If you cue up a bunch'o oysters on your barbecue make a big aluminum tray like you see in the photo below to cook them on, as the oysters juice will destroy the barbecue in a short amount of time. Oyster juice is 14,000 times more salty then reg'lur old saltwater, or so it seems.  

Montana transplant Justin and his girlfriend Bob diggin' in. Halfway thru the feast I ran out of Tillamook butter and we switched over to olive oil, which is ten times more healthy and just as tastey.

A couple of rounds of oysters actually made it past all of us vultures and into the house where the other party-goers could enjoy them.  

This is the absolute best time of year to eat oysters from the Hood Canal, as they are firm, cold, and clean during the winter months. With this recipe in your cooking quiver you can grab a cheapo portable barbecue and some local micro brews and impress your friends or family with one heckuva cookout at one of the public beaches on the Hood Canal.

And to my friend Geoff who is heading to the middle east as we speak…godspeed my friend! We'll have some oysters waiting for you when you get home safe and sound.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com 

A Story About the Fishiest Dude I Know

BY JOHN WHITLATCH. It all started with an unexpected phone call about 18 yrs ago. I had just graduated from high school and was struggling to become a professional fishing guide. The summer days were growing long and warm when my neighbor and long time family friend Randy Bovy called. He wanted to take his son, Kyle on his first fishing trip. He had a plan, and like I said I was trying to guide but lacking the solid client list I have today, I had plenty of time on my hands. Randy wanted to drive 8 hrs north of our home in Palmer, Alaska to just outside the tiny town of Tok near the Canadian border and take young Kyle Northern Pike fishing. Did I mention Kyle was 3?

Randy was loaded, ready to roll and in less than an hour I found myself searching for a place to shove my quiver of rods and bag of tackle in his 1990 Toyota pickup. There was already an inflatable Zodiac, outboard motor, tent and various camping equipment under the canopy of that little truck but with a little effort we made some room for my gear as well. Climbing in up front I quickly realized that we were fully loaded. Kyle was riding the jump seat in the back of the little super cab, I was riding shotgun, playing DJ, and Randy was driving.  Only 8 hours until I could get out stretch my legs and crawl into an even more cramped rubber boat with a 3 year old and treble hooks. This is going to be fun! The drive actually went very smoothly. We got to show Kyle his very first bear between his frequent naps, and we arrived at the deserted lake to a beautiful sunny morning.

Now if you are a big guy like me and get a little stove up after 8 full hours in the seat of a little Toyota pickup, I got a cure for ya. Upon reaching your destination, jump right out and spend two hrs pumping up an inflatable boat and mounting the motor. Then rig up a full quiver of rods and pack it all down a 100 foot bank through Alaska’s thick brush to the lakes edge. If you’re not loosened back up and stretched out yet, make sure you have a stubborn, aging outboard with some old fuel to give your shoulder a good workout too. Oh and do it all with an anxious 3 year old wondering how much longer this is going to take.

Croaking frogs, bath toys, and the luck of babes.

We had allowed Kyle to pick a lure at the tackle shop the night before so of course he wanted to use his new frog lure first. The frog in question was not particularly special in appearance, in fact it really looked like a piece of junk. Its uniqueness wasn’t apparent until it hit the water, upon which time it would let out a loud audible “rrrriiiiiibet”. I got to admit Randy and I both found it as amusing as Kyle at first before it became annoying in both the sound it made, and the obscene number of fish Kyle was catching. He was kicking our tails!

I blamed getting out fished that first day on Kyle of course. Randy allowing me that courtesy, decided that Kyle was his excuse as well. My reason was that I was distracted and too busy dodging Kyle’s massive, treble hook laden, obnoxious frog all day to really get serious about fishing. Randy agreed and proclaimed that he was too busy coaching Kyle and making sure he would not hook me or the rubber boat to really fish himself. We agreed that all things considered we really didn’t get out fished by young Kyle after all and turned in for the night.

Day two came early. It was apparent that inflating the boat and packing it down that brushy bank really didn’t stretch my back out enough after all. I woke up sore and stiff. Sleeping in a tent on the rough ground seemed to affect Randy and me more than it did Kyle. He was ready to go; Randy and I were trying to stretch out breakfast a bit.

Once we got on the water, Kyle pretty much started out right where he left off, only maybe his luck had gotten even better. It got so good in fact, that two things dawned on me that morning. One, Kyle hadn’t lost that lure in the brush yet, and two, it was almost completely destroyed beyond repair from these large, toothy Pike. Shortly afterward it finally came completely apart. The green rubber and plastic body had been left presumably in the gut of that last monster and there was nothing left but some wire and a mangled hook that used to be a 2/0 treble. To fully appreciate this turn of events, I feel I should tell you some of the other things that had transpired in that first day and a half.

While Kyle had been catching fish after monster fish, his dad and I had been making excuses for ourselves while losing almost all of the gear we had brought. We had cast them in the brush or got almost all of them snagged in the sunken logs that lined the banks. That’s right, we found ourselves with an almost astonishingly attentive 3 year old Kyle wanting another lure and not having one available. This kid had been fishing for two days without losing interest or really fussing about at all. Luckily Randy had brought along a few toys for Kyle to play with just in case. One of those little toys just happened to be Kyle’s favorite bath toy. That bath toy was a wind up, floating shark. Once wound up you could drop this thing in the water and watch its articulated tail splash back and forth, making it swim. Randy and I thought this could be amusing, so I naturally tied up a 30 lb mono leader with a treble stinger and connected it to the toy with some rubber bands.

That little shark toy didn’t last long but it seemingly turned these Pike into wild Tarpon. The strikes were vicious, like I had never witnessed before. They were flying out of the water on the take, gills flared and shaking wildly before landing with a splash and all we could here were Kyle’s excited giggles. When that shark finally fell apart, Randy and I conceded to Kyle’s superior skills and just sat back and watched the young phenom do his thing with our last two Rapala plugs. For two days no matter how close or far away we drifted from the brush lined bank, Kyle would just wind up and heave his lure as hard as he could always landing within inches of it. Just beginners luck I suppose.

Kyle is a college baseball player now. Last week with a short break in his summer schedule he returned home to Alaska and naturally rang me up. I took Randy and Kyle fishing once again on the Kenai River for King Salmon. About 30 minutes into it Randy’s rod went down and after a short fight the big King came to the surface and with a violent head shake managed to dislodge Randy’s K-16 Kwikfish from his face. As always Kyle was eager to offer his dad a little friendly advice and remind him how he never loses them. He was right, he never does. It wasn’t long after that when Kyle’s rod suddenly got pinned flat along the gunnels. He picked the rod out of the holder with astonishing speed and made a perfect hook set. Not too high, not too hard, just perfect, like you read about. Twenty five minutes later Kyle was releasing yet another trophy fish, with me and his dad watching in admiration.

As that big chrome hen swam from his grasp and disappeared into the shadows of the Kenai, Kyle turned to me and said simply, “100%”.

Since Kyle’s first fishing trip, he has fished with me multiple times every summer. It’s been 18 years now, long enough to have seen some really good fishing along with the really bad days as well. He may have fished with me more than anyone else I know. Certainly he has in fact. Now he explained to me that he is 100% fishing with me. Since that very first time as a 3 year old he has never failed to catch a fish from my boat.

That is why young Kyle has not only grown into one helluva good fisherman; he is without exception the fishiest dude I know. His dad coincidently is 100% as well, having never caught a fish with me in the past 18 years. He’s come close, hooking more than his share, but somehow something always goes wrong. That is fishing though, sometimes you can’t explain it. There’s no telling how much longer this amazing run will last, but for now if you see me with an unusually large grin on my face in the morning Randy and Kyle are probably on their way to fish with me again…

John Whitlatch
Professional Guide/Owner
Reel Adventures
www.kenaireeladventures.com
907-252-7335

What’s in a Boat Name?

BoatUS Releases Annual List of Top Ten Boat Names

ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 10, 2011 – What's in boat name? It's hard to deny taking a guess at the meaning of a name painted across a boat's transom – it can reveal much about the personality of a boat owner. But like the wave tops constantly in motion, the fluid nature of boat names is also often a sign of boater's changing lives.

Have you started fishing? Reel Crazy may be for you. Recently divorced? Alimony says it all. Have kids in school? Tuition says it best.

Regardless of ever-changing lifestyles, marital status, careers or family, choosing a name can be difficult. To help boaters with this task, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has a list of over 8,500 boat names given by boaters across the country over the last 20 years. The list can be found at BoatUS.com/boatgraphics/names.

The national boat owners group has announced its Annual List of Top Ten Boat Names, which it has tracked since 1991. The list is assembled each year by the BoatUS Boat Graphics service that allows boaters to easily custom design and preview boat names online – without having to pay up front.

The top ten names are:
1.    AquaHolic
2.    Andiamo (Let's go)
3.    The Black Pearl
4.    La Belle Vita (The Beautiful Life)
5.    Mojo
6.    Island Time
7.    Second Wind
8.    No Worries
9.    Serenity
10.    Blue Moon

About BoatUS:
BoatUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States – is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing over half a million members with government representation, programs and money-saving services.  For membership information visit www.BoatUS.com or call 800-395-2628.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com