The cold days of winter can be difficult for those who aren’t prepared. But savvy woodsmen know how to make winter life easier and more enjoyable. Freezing temperatures, ice and snow don’t have to be a hindrance if you know tips like these to make you a more successful hunter, trapper, angler and cook.
Editor’s Note To All TNP Readers: In the Summer 2015 issue, we regretfully didn’t give writing credit where writing credit was due. Six of the tips in that installment of “Woodsman’s Almanac” were written by Jason Schwartz of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. Author Keith Sutton wants to share the following with all of you: When doing research for the items that appear in the “Woodsman’s Almanac,” I often refer to Rocky Mountain Bushcraft (rockymountainbushcraft.com) by Jason Schwartz, a superb source of information for anyone hoping to learn about woodsmanship in all its many forms. I want to apologize to Mr. Schwartz for not correctly attributing some material from his blog that was used in the Summer 2015 issue of The New Pioneer. The material not correctly attributed was “Aspen Bark Bushcraft,” “Protect Your Hacker,” “Improvised Spark Makers,” “Bandana Wring Out,” “Put a Corkscrew To Work” and “Healing with Honey.” The mistake was mine, and Mr. Schwartz deserves full credit for his excellent work to teach bushcraft to others.
Stir It Up For Ducks
When duck hunting where water is clear, use your feet to muddy the water around your decoys. Duck activity creates muddy water, and a muddy zone in an area of clear water is easy for ducks to spot.
Swan In More Ducks
Because they are large, white and easily seen, swan decoys often are added to spreads of duck decoys to make them more visible to high-flying or distant waterfowl. One or two placed a few yards from the edge of your regular spread may draw ducks that would otherwise pass you by. If you hope to bag some geese as well, however, hunters in the know say to dispense with the swan decoys. Geese apparently won’t land when swans are nearby.
The Trapper’s Meal Ticket
If you’re just learning to trap, consider trapping muskrats. These prolific aquatic rodents are abundant nuisances in many areas (their hole-digging activities often undermine earthen dams and dikes), and they’re easy to catch and skin. Many states impose no limit on the number a trapper can take. A good basic guide to trapping them is found in Guide to Trapping by Jim Spencer (treblehookunlimited.com).
You won’t get rich trapping muskrats, but last year pelts sold for an average of about $10 each in many areas. It’s not unusual to catch 10 or more daily on a short, well-placed
trap line. If you’re particularly industrious, you can use some pelts to make your own hats, earmuffs, gloves and even coats. The felt-like belly fur is practically impermeable to moisture.
Muskrats also make good vittles. If you can get past the name and the rat-like tail, you’ll find that the lean, dark meat is delicious and can be fried, baked, stewed, braised, barbecued and fricasseed to create some scrumptious entrées.
Visit trappersworld.com for even more expert trapping information.
Warm Up A Chopper
When properly tempered, the bit of an ax or hatchet is hard and tough, but frigid winter temperatures can make blades brittle enough to chip or break if they’re not warmed first prior to chopping. Some experts recommend warming the blade in your armpit, but this can obviously be uncomfortable and unsafe. A better way is to make a few light chops into the wood before you start chopping at full strength. This warms the blade quickly due to the friction of the bit striking the wood fibers. You then can begin using increasingly powerful blows without worrying about damaging your hatchet or ax.—Jason Schwartz, rockymountainbushcraft.com
When To Can The WD-40
WD-40 has lots of great uses, but don’t be tempted to spray it or other penetrating lubricants on or near your ammunition. Such products can dissolve waterproofing sealers around the primer and bullet-case mouth and contaminate both the primer and the gunpowder inside the cartridge. At best, you may have a failure to fire (a dud) and, at worst, you may have a hang-fire (a round that goes bang 10 to 15 seconds after you pull the trigger).
Perfect Persimmon Pudding
If you eat them before they’re fully ripe, persimmons are very astringent and make you pucker. By the time of the first winter frost, however, most are soft, sweet and ready to eat. Here’s a classic dish that uses them.
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 cup persimmon pulp
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 cup milk
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind, grated
• 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
DIRECTIONS: Peel the persimmons to remove all the astringent skin. Then strain the flesh of the fruits through a colander to remove all the seeds. Set 1 cup of the pulp, and save any extra for other recipes.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and sugar. Then add the persimmon pulp to the flour mixture along with beaten eggs, milk, lemon rind and butter. Mix well. Turn the batter into a well-greased and floured 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream.
Trash-To-Tasty Duck Marinade
A good marinade can make what many call “trash ducks” very tasty. Wild ducks are naturally low in fat, and soaking them in a marinade for several hours makes them more moist, tender and delicious. Your favorite bottled vinaigrette or Italian-style dressing will work fine in a pinch, but this recipe from wild-game Chef Scott Leysath really rocks.
• 1/2 cup each of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and honey
• 2 cups dry red wine
• 1 cup soy sauce
• 6 garlic cloves, crushed
• 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 2 teaspoons black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup olive oil
DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the olive oil. Continue to whisk while adding the oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Pour over duck meat in a zip-seal plastic freezer bag and refrigerate. Whole ducks should be marinated for three to 12 hours. Duck parts need only three to four hours of marinating.
10 Uses For Aluminum Foil
It’s a good idea to carry a roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil on all your outdoor junkets. The ways it can be used are legion.
Make Cleanup Easier: Line your Dutch oven, pots and pans with foil to keep sticky food residue to a minimum.
Improve Outdoor Lighting: A piece of foil added to one side of your camp lantern will focus light where you need it.
Make A Serving Platter: When you need a disposable platter to serve dinner items, cover a piece of cardboard with foil and voila! You’re ready to serve the food.
Sleep Dry and Warm. Heavy-duty foil placed under your sleeping bag acts as a moisture barrier and warms you with reflected body heat.
Avoid Damp Matches: Keep wooden matches dry by wrapping them tightly in aluminum foil.
Catch A Fish: Bass, panfish and walleyes can be coaxed to bite a makeshift lure made by wrapping foil around a fish hook. Use scissors or a knife to create feathered edges that flutter enticingly on retrieve.
Keep Stinging Bugs At Bay: Bees and other stinging insects won’t get in your soda can or sweetened drink if you fashion a lid out of foil. Poke a straw through it and you can still drink while bugs are blocked.
Warm Your Sleeping Bag: Heat some stones in your campfire coals, wrap them in foil and place by your feet to keep warm on cold nights.
Campfire Cooking: Place seasoned meat and chopped veggies on a sheet of heavy-duty foil, wrap tightly and seal the edges. Place on hot coals and allow to cook until done, turning once.
Improvise A Frying Pan: Use a piece of non-stick foil wrapped around a fork at the end of a long branch to fry eggs and other goodies so you don’t have to lug around a heavy skillet.
Cold, miserable days often provide the best gunning for cottontails and other rabbits. Rabbit fur has poor insulating qualities, so these game animals must take shelter from the weather or find ways to warm themselves. Ask yourself, “Where would I go to escape the cold if all I had to wear was a light jacket?” That’s where rabbits are most likely to be. Hunt in places that are sheltered from wind and cold or open to warm rays of sunshine, then move to other locales offering protection.
Spoon Feed Crappie
Crappie anglers seldom use jigging spoons, but small versions are extremely effective for catching winter crappie suspended in deep water on humps, long points or break lines. When fish are spotted on sonar, the spoon is free-spooled to their depth. The lure is then jigged by raising the rod tip with a slight upward flick of the wrist, then quickly lowering the rod so the spoon falls back on slack line. Crappie usually strike as the lure drops.
This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Winter 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.