Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

In April, I ordered a Etekcity backpacker sized stove with self-ignition in the hopes that I could use it to make a hot beverage or heat water to use with a dehydrated meal on the trail sometime during the year.  I didn’t end up hiking as much as I wanted to (my work schedule was changed multiple times, making it difficult to tie in with my wife’s days off, so when our days off coincided we would use the time to catch up on housework etc.) so I hadn’t used it.

Elekcity

Etekcity Ultralight Portable stove with piezo ignition – this image is from Amazon.com

Recently, I watched quite a few bushcraft videos, mostly Joe Robinet and McQ Bushcraft, and remembered that I’d bought this tiny stove, but hadn’t used or tested it yet.

The stove takes butane-propane mix canisters, so on a recent shopping trip, I picked one up at REI for under $5 to test the stove out.  Be careful when buying this kind of stuff, my first stop for most gear is Amazon, but always, always double check prices with other sites and/or physical stores.  REI doesn’t even list this item on their website, and Amazon has it listed for $18.99, but it was $4.95 at the REI near Kennesaw, GA.  (In the past, I’ve found quite a few items listed by third party sellers that was outrageously priced.  One item was $8 per can at Academy Sports, and $49.00 from a third party seller on Amazon.)

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To test this, I used a tin cup I picked up in Afghanistan about ten years ago, two cups of cold tap water, and put the stove on the railing of my back porch.  I wanted to see how long it would take to bring the water to a rolling boil.  According to our outdoor thermometer, it was 34′ outside,  and Intellicast.com shows a 10-15 mph NW wind.  I don’t have a lid for the cup, and for the first seven minutes of the test, I didn’t block the wind.

The little stove heated the water very quickly, but it wouldn’t come to a boil until I stood blocking the wind, at which point roughly one minute later I had a rolling boil.  If I had a lid for the cup, and had blocked the wind from the beginning, I have no doubt that this tiny stove would have had the water boiling quite fast.

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The water started to steam in the cold air in under a minute

I really like it – the package lists the output as 6,666 BTU, which I think is really good for something under $12 that can fit in a shirt pocket.  I don’t know if I would rely on this kind of thing for long-term survival, but as a short term, light weight option for camping trips and backpacking trips, it would certainly be much faster than cutting firewood and starting a full campfire when all you want is to re-hydrate a meal and have a cup of tea before moving on. It cools down very quickly, by the time you have the meal ready to eat, it should be cool enough to put back in the carrying case.

The stove comes with an orange plastic two piece carrying case.

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This shows the stove when out of the case, in the case, and when the case is closed – Image is from Amazon.com

*WHEW* Home again, finally.  The shows are fun, but when you’re on a shoestring budget, and the hotel doesn’t have hot water for two days, you get a little yearning for the power of a hot shower.  I had a LOT of fun today, including hanging out with the Martin Archery team and having my photo taken with Sara Lamson, who is the nicest person you could meet at a show.

See? I am Bigfoot sized!

See? I am Bigfoot sized!

 I’ll get into more details in the next few days as I write up new products, new companies, and some fun places in Nashville, but here are the rest of the photographs from the 2014 ATA Show. 

I will say this: the Martin recurves that I spent a lot of time shooting today reminded me of how I used to feel shooting a recurve in the 1970’s, that I could hit ANYTHING, reliably, with a stick, string, and arrow.  Loved every bow they let me shoot. (I tried to sneak off with the Nemesis, but they were watching me.)

Other great companies: Real Avid, Zippo Outdoors, Hips Archery Targets, Dead-Tek, Flex-Fletch, Ambush, Q.A.D., so many different moments to try to remember and put down for others to read.  And unlike Bowhunting.com, there was just me, with a $70 Samsung camera about the size of a pack of cards, to try to record all of this. 

Next year I’ll have a plan! (Which is what I said LAST year.  Heh…. 😉 )

I will say that I was disappointed that the building layout forced the seminars and Innovation rooms to be quite a hike from the main hall.  Several of the Innovation vendors actually took to wandering the main hall with their display, trying to get some folks to look at their product.

Oh well, onward and forward, time for the final gallery of the 2014 ATA Show!

 

 

 

Rome Smith bagged a nice buck using Big Deer Hunter’s scent products this last weekend.

Chasing does and the "Come and get" stick actually made him stop and make a scrape under my drag rag! Had 5 different bucks come to the scent this morning. Thanks for a great product!!!

Chasing does and the “Come and get” stick actually made him stop and make a scrape under my drag rag! Had 5 different bucks come to the scent this morning. Thanks for a great product!!!

I mentioned earlier in the week that I would be reviewing Hank Shaw’s new cookbook, “Duck, Duck, Goose.”   The full title is “Duck, Duck, Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese, both Wild and Domesticated,” and Mr. Shaw named the book perfectly.

Click to go to Amazon.com's  listing for the book

Click to go to Amazon.com’s listing for the book

I’ve never hunted waterfowl of any kind, all of my wingshooting adventures have been ringneck pheasant and ruffled grouse (though, to be honest, the ruffled grouse hunting was actually revenge for all the micro-heart attacks those loud ambush artists have given me, and with my usual luck, I didn’t see ANY ruffled grouse while hunting them, only to have one scare me half to death four days later IN THE EXACT SAME WOOD while deer hunting…).   After reading “Duck, Duck, Goose,” I now want to hunt waterfowl, badly.

Before I dig into what made the book so interesting, and motivating, here are a few facts to get out of the way: I am not, nor have I ever been, a professional writer, critic, or hunter.  I shoot archery for a shop, cook what I feel like cooking (I have salmon marinating for the grill at the moment), read a lot and write when I feel like it.  I think the 795 posts on this website, over half of which are original writing, and one self-published-on-Kindle book of my own (seriously, that isn’t an accomplishment, you could bang your forehead on the keyboard for half an hour in Microsoft Word and upload it after making a free account, and Amazon will put it out there for you) shows that I do what I like.

Professionally, I am an IT analyst – which means I pretend to listen to the engineers when they whine about not having enough memory on a server that shows months of 4% memory usage in the logs. (It means the engineers don’t understand the difference between bad code and hardware performance, that’s what it means.)

So, take my review for what it is: somebody who likes to cook, hunt, and write passing their humble opinion on for folks who might be interested. 

Back to the book:

“Duck, Duck, Goose” really nailed down several points before I even got to the first recipe – Hank Shaw can WRITE, his knowledge of how to find and prepare wild ingredients is exhaustive, and he doesn’t assume you are a trained chef when he puts his thoughts in writing.

From the very beginning of the book, Mr. Shaw’s enthusiasm for what, in my moderate experience east of the Mississippi, is something of a lost cuisine is an amazing thing to read.  Take the very first paragraph of the book as an example:

Cooking a duck or goose in today’s world is an act of expression. It is a way to find that forgotten feast we Americans once enjoyed, to free ourselves from the Tyranny of the Chicken and shake our fists at the notion that fat is our enemy. Mastering these birds will make you a more competent carnivore.  It will help you regain the skills needed to tackle more challenging morsels, such as giblets and wings and rendered fat.  Cooking a duck or goose – a whole bird, from bill to feet – is real cooking. True, honest cooking.

I’ve eaten in upstate New York (all of the Southern Tier really) all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Jamaica, the United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan, and while I will admit, VERY few of the restaurants would show up in a foodie’s guidebook, the only, ONLY time’s I’ve EVER seen duck on the menu was in Chinese restaurants and at Number 5’s in Binghamton, New York.  The Peking Duck at the Chinese restaurant tasted like it had been dipped in kerosene and left on blacktop for a week, while the wild boar bacon wrapped duck tenderloin appetizer at Number 5’s was phenomenal.  So, two experiences, in just shy of 44 years, is not really a wide base from which to compare waterfowl cookery, but I’m damn well going to do it anyway.

Mr. Shaw approaches the topic of how to cook the birds from the very start of the process – what to do after you’ve shot a bird out in the marshes or fields.  He addresses hanging the birds versus not hanging the birds, which approach to use in different situations, how each SPECIES of duck or goose might be cared for, and how to use each species, and each part of the bird, for best effect.  In fact, because like all hunting, you may NOT get the bird you want, Mr. Shaw even addresses how to use store-bought birds in the same recipes.

That’s one of the wonderful, wonderful things about this book – if you spend the day duck hunting, and end up with four different species, this book will enable you to cook all of them without having to think to yourself “Two pintails, a mallard and a teal, what now?”

Some of the birds discussed in the book are:

  • Mallard
  • Teal
  • Bluebill (Scaup)
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler (Spoonie)
  • Wigeon
  • Redhead
  • Canvasback (King Can)
  • Wood Duck (Woodies)
  • Ringneck
  • Surf Scoter
  • Ruddy

Domestic bird breeds and geese are also covered, and I mean COVERED – in the kitchen, this book will tell you which birds to break down, which ones to keep whole, how to break them down, how to store them, how to render the fat, how to sear, how to make your own duck sausage or salami, everything from confit to jerky.

Mr. Shaw even covers what the various species of birds prefer to eat, and how that affects the flavor considering what part of the migration or mating season they are in, which, for somebody like myself who may now be poking a shotgun barrel into the sky this year, is very important.  I now know that if I am cleaning the bird, and I see orange colored fat, to discard the fat and how to use the bird to avoid the fishy flavor of a crustacean eating duck.

Instructions on how to pluck your waterfowl, or if you should skin them, are also included.

This book provides hunters and foodies a glimpse into WHY ducks are so treasured in haute cuisine, including some tidbits of history, such as how Canvasback ducks were priced for the table a hundred years ago (the cost of several days wages for an average person.)

I gathered from this book that duck and goose is making a culinary comeback.  If so, I’m looking forward to it, though my treadmill might groan at the extra miles I’ll have to put on it to compensate.

Summary

If you like to hunt and read, this book is a fantastic window into the world of waterfowl.  If you like to cook and you don’t hunt, this might get you curious to try hunting, or to branch out into cooking domestic ducks and geese.   This is a wonderful, wonderful bridge between what a lot of the public sees as ‘light beer drinking redneckery’ and ‘pass the canapes,’ which the general public incorrectly sees as a form of snobbery.  (In fact, take the case of Duck Dynasty and put them in Downton Abbey… because that’s how the general public probably sees hunters in comparison to gourmet food.)   Neither stereotype is true – I work with people who are very well educated, have good golf averages, enjoy the arts, and hunt, and anyone who thinks “Downton Abbey” when they think of haute cuisine needs to read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” to dispel that thought.

Hank Shaw has effortlessly* bridged that perception gap with a book that could make the most agoraphobic city-dwelling foodie think “Maybe, if I shoot at the sky to get a duck, I won’t notice the lack of buildings wrapped around me…” and at the same time, might make somebody who’s pickup truck doesn’t fit under the average overpass think “Y’know, maybe going into the city for a bite to eat would be worth it!” (Though, honestly, most of the folks I know who hunt would just damn well read the recipes and cook the birds themselves…)

The Tour

You can follow Mr. Shaw’s food writing at his web site: Honest-food.net, along with the Duck tour he is currently on to promote the book across North America:

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The event here in Atlanta will be at Holeman & Finch Public House, January 19th 2014.  A FaceBook event is listed as “Ducks in Hotlanta,”  I sent an email to Holeman & Finch earlier this week attempting to get more information, such as ticket prices, times, and number of guests possible, however I haven’t heard back from the venue yet.  (And if I can’t get tickets, somebody is going to get mugged in the parking lot, there’s a REASON people think I’m Bigfoot when they see me in the woods.)

Thats it folks – I hope this motivates you to check the book out and, maybe, cook a bit, McDonalds and the like won’t miss us, trust me. 

*I’m certain, having written a bit on my own, that Mr. Shaw would disagree with ‘effortlessly,’ but it fit the sentence nicely…

One of the things I love to do is promote LOCAL business – that’s why I shoot for a Gable Sporting Goods, promote Big Deer Hunters’ products and other local businesses.  On of my friends started a game call business last year, Collum Right Game Calls.

Collum Right Game Calls

Tony is a great guy, and his veteran-owned business is just starting out – he doesn’t even have a web page at this point, just a FaceBook page, but LOOK at the fantastic game calls he’s making!

Head over to FaceBook and give Tony’s “Collum Right Game Calls” a look, hit ‘Like’ while you’re there!

As I said a few days ago, I ordered new Hips Archery Targets after being selected to be on their pro-staff this year.  They arrived this afternoon, and I have to say they are fantastic!  The targets are MUCH lighter that I expected them to be, there won’t be any problems putting these where I want, when I want, other than my backyard range isn’t level, so my arrows tend to knock the targets left or right a bit, making it look like I’m shooting from three different angles.  I’ll probably put together a few sandbags to make a mini ‘bunker’ to hold them in place and all will be well.  (My back yard slopes off sharply at the woodline, giving me 30 yards from my back door, exactly.)

Hips_arrivedHips_Big_Game_shotSadly, after five arrows (four into the Hips target above, one into my River Bottom Buck) I had an equipment malfunction that actually requires some work at the shop before I can shoot that setup again, hopefully tomorrow. The arrows you see there were shot from 20 yards, one after the other, and though I’m not displeased with my accuracy, since it was my arrow rest that failed, I have to wonder if I might not have done a little better if it wasn’t falling apart to begin with.  The arrows pulled out easily, much easier than any 3D target I’ve shot, and easier than most bag targets.