What started as a dust storm, turned into misty rain followed by another red dust storm which resulted in a light mud coating on just about everything! The ride “home” of a “high-rack” added another layer of red western Texas dust. Back at camp, I grabbed a towel, removed the five 240-grain XTP Hornady rounds from my Taurus Raging Hunter revolver, then wiped away the dust, dirt and coating of mud, paying particular attention to also clean my Trijicon SRO red-dot’s glass. Rifle taken care of I headed toward Double A Outfitting’s kitchen.
“Bar’s open!” said a smiling David Archer. “Figgered you might need something to clear the dust and mud from your mouth and throat!” A bit of “safe water” did seem appropriate. I commented as much.
“Safe water? Huh!” questioned another hunter in camp. I felt the need to explain. I told him in my travels hunting various parts of the world sometimes the local water was unsafe to drink without being boiled or purified. Distilled spirits however, were always safe because of their alcohol level. David smiled broadly, so did Craig Archer owner of Double A Outfitting. Both were old friends with whom I have hunted whitetails and mule deer for years.
“Wagyu ribeyes tonight.” Said David, strirring a pot of his world famous beans, “Supper’ll be ready in about 30 minutes. Time to shower and kick back a bit.”
Showered and dressed in clean clothes sitting next to a warming fire, my thoughts returned to my African trips, especially those I have booked at the DSC Convention (www.biggame.org). The area of Texas we were hunting looked a whole lot like some of the places I had hunted in Namibia: complete with red soil and dust, a hot shower, clean and fresh clothing, the daily evening “sundowner” around the campfire, followed by a meal fit for kings! The only difference was, I laundered my own clothing, which I did not mind doing.
Ah, the luxury of a comfortable, well appointed hunting camp!
As I poured a second wee dram of single-malt, I recalled some of the other truly wonderful hunting camps I had been in, but also some that were…shall we say meager!
One such camp I shared with two other hunters and a cameraman in Kyrgyzstan hunting ibex. The 20-mile horseback ride to our hunting area was hardly that because the horses we had nearly been starved to death before our arrival. After the “guides” and I use that term very loosely, piled far too much gear on them they kept falling. When we finally reached our camping area, we came to the realization what we had been told to be “luxury tents”, were actually two, two-man tents, that were so small there was only room in them for one person.
Food, described prior to our hunt to be delicious and plentiful, turned out to be the same ancient boiled domestic sheep we had partaken of the night before heading into the mountains. I really do not like the meat of any domestic sheep, in this instance really old mutton. Once at camp the boiled meat had been placed in a plastic bag and hung where the sun could shine on it. Not good! There were no side dishes. But admittedly the tea was delicious!
Second day in camp we learned our cameraman had eaten all the “snacks” we had brought with us, having done so on the ride in and while the rest of us slept. We three hunters were not happy! To say food was scare would have been an understatement, but the fact it was horrible tasting and nearly inedible, helped us accept our newly forced diet. But then meat should not be a problem, soon as we shot an ibex or Siberian roe deer, we would again be living high on meat.
Therein too, was another problem. The area we were hunting had not allowed any legal hunting in 20-years, the key and operative terms here being “legal hunting”. We were indeed the first “legal hunters” in the area. What we had not been told is with no legal hunting, the area it had been poached to the point where there was very little wildlife of any kind left in the thousands of acres we hunted. No animals to shoot, no edible food!
Drinking water came at a premium, hastened by the fact our “guides” had drank nearly all of it by the second day. This, before we realized they had done so.
Obviously we did not starve to death or die of dehydration. But, we came close. The four of us lost a fair amount of weight on that trip.
Back to hunting with Double A Outfitting, over steaks fit for royalty I related the details of my Kyrgyzstan experience and how it contrasted with our current hunt.
During my many years spent in hunting camps across the world I have learned that while delicious and plentiful food is always important, it becomes ever more important when hunting is tough and seeing animals is slim. I have experienced such hunts and remember thinking when no animals were seen about the evening meal that awaited us back at camp.
Having cooked in several hunting camps, including back when I co-owned an outfitting business with Bill Whitfield, I am always anxious to learn about camp cooking and meals.
Years ago I hunted a fair amount in northern Texas on the famous Nail Ranch. Quite often on those hunts we had Bill Cauble, one of the best chuck wagon and camp cooks ever, prepare our meals. Bill with Cliff Teinert wrote the fabulous book, “Barbeque, Biscuits and Beans, Chuck Wagon Cooking”. For our hunts Bill cooked exclusively with cast iron Dutch ovens. His camp meals were second to none. I learned much from Bill. Thankfully many of the recipes Bill shared with me back then ended up in their book. While their book is now out of print, copies are still available. If you enjoy cooking or eating out-of-this-world camp cuisine, I would highly suggest procuring a copy!
For the past fifteen-plus years I have been doing a weekly radio show segment with Luke Clayton. Luke’s “Catfish Radio”, is now also available as a weekly podcast on CarbonTV.com, as is my personal “DSC’s Campfires with Larry Weishuhn”, as is the digital tv show I do with Luke Clayton and Jeff Rice, “A Sportsman’s Life”. Luke and I also do a weekly podcast on Sporting Classics Daily, “Camptalk with Luke and Larry”! I also do another show on CarbonTV.com, co-hosting with Brandon Houston’s, “The Journey”. I know blatant advertising, but would dearly appreciate you watching and listening! But with the things Luke and I do together we nearly always end up talking about food and camp cooking.
Luke is not surprisingly one of the very best camp cooks I have encountered in a lifetime spent in hunting camps. He, like Bill Cauble, prepares most of his meat dishes, sides and desserts in cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. And, he shares his recipes on his “Catfish Radio” show/podcast, but also on our “A Sportsman’s Life” where you can actually see him prepare those meals.
Having mentioned Luke, I think it’s high time I head his way. I’m getting really hungry! Wonder if he will again his fabulous peach and blackberry cobbler? If he does I’ll start my meal with it this time…