By Richard Brady
Dear friends, it is just about time to be finished with the garden work and to start thinking about rounding up a little wild protein for your palate and your diet. Here in God’s country, the archery season for deer begins October 6 and runs through November 16. Black powder or muzzle loading season begins November 5 and goes through November 16. Then you can get your favorite deer rifle out and hunt from November 17 until January 5, 2019. That should be enough time for most of us to get what we need and want to get us through until next year.
As most of you know who follow such things, Rappahannock County remains an Earn A Buck (EAB) county at the written request of your Board of Supervisors some years ago. What that means is if the first deer you take is an antlered deer, you are not allowed to take a second antlered deer until you have “earned it” by first taking a doe. This provision might make some sense in areas where there are more deer than the carrying capacity, but if you follow the numbers closely what you see is a decline in the number of deer taken, which can more reasonably be ascribed to a diminishing number of hunters than to any other single trait.
The rule book for what you can do and what you can’t do in the hunting woods gets longer and more complicated every year. Is it any wonder more and more people are saying it just isn’t worth it? I fear that by the time my grandchildren are ready to try their hand at hunting it will be a lost tradition. I realize that some of you feel that time can’t come soon enough. Others of us, who live a bit closer to the ground, will hate to see that day arrive. How will you then control the number of bear and deer that roam the woods and fields? Here in Flint Hill we have what looks to be about a 3-year old bear messing around our house for the last week. We have seen him twice.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is well aware of the problem of fewer hunters, but there seems to be precious little they can do to forestall it. One thing that I will give them credit for is a program called Youth and Apprentice Deer Hunting Weekend. This year it is the weekend of September 29th and 30th. Hunters aged 15 years and younger, accompanied by an adult, will be given this first chance to take a deer, either sex. Please see the regulations as there are a number of boxes that need to be checked before you go afield, e.g., what kinds of licenses are required, etc.
As for me, I am falling behind. Squirrel season came in September 1st and I have yet to get into the woods. As a youngster my happiest hunting experiences were hunting rabbits and squirrels. We looked forward to the first day of hunting season like it was Christmas. And on that first day, they might as well have shut down the public schools. Most of the boys were in the woods and fields making memories for the future and just waiting for the next day of school so they could compare their stories with the rest of their friends. I say “boys” because that is mainly what it was in the 1950’s. I am sure there must have been a young lady here and there whose dad or mom went hunting with them. I wish there had been a few more.
If you enjoy going afield with bow or gun, please be safe out there. And if you can find a young fellow or young lady to take with you, you may be doing yourself and the youngster and all the youngsters to come a big favor. As I said, be safe and enjoy this great tradition while you still can.
An intriguing recipe for Brunswick Stew (aka Squirrel Stew or Squirrel Muddle), submitted by D.J. of Fodderstack Road.
Squirrel Stew is “no fuss,” she insists, especially for a large gathering such as a fundraising event, where it can be cooked outdoors over coals in an iron kettle for all to enjoy.
Here’s D.J.’s recipe (reduce ingredients for smaller gatherings):
About 70 squirrels, cut up
2 large stewing chickens, cut up
6 gals. water
2 lbs. salt pork, chopped
2 gals. butter beans (lima beans)
3 gals. cubed peeled potatoes
4 gals. chopped peeled tomatoes
1 gal. cubed peeled carrots
2 gals. freshly cut corn
1 gal. shredded cabbage (optional)
1 pod red pepper, chopped
¾ c. black better
1 ¾ c. salt
2 ¼ c. sugar
Clean, dress and cut up squirrels and chickens. Bring water to a boil and add meat, stirring often, until it slides off the bone (remove bones before serving to small children). Add vegetables and cook until tender. Serve with cornbread. Enjoy!