The Trout Also Rises

"A blog upon my estutcheon" A weblog about fishing, hunting, hiking, cycling, books, beer, and other random musings. Any humor contained in this site is entirely unintentional and has not been tested on animals. e mail aaaaargh at msndotcom

Location: California

A hunter and fisherman, fascinated with books and history.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Hunting, fishing, fitness, and nutrition

If you are like me and like to spend a lot of time in the outdoors climbing down steep canyons after game, backpacking to remote fishing spots, and generally just getting out there, here is some advice on how to condition your aging body, whether you are twenty or sixty.

Exercise: your first priority
First you need to exercise regularly, aerobic exercise that conditions your legs, builds your stamina, and burns some calories. I do this by riding a bike three or four hours a week. Since I usually use a racing bike, that means I'm riding about fifty or sixty miles a week. But it is not distance that matters, it is the time and effort expended. Vigorous bike riding burns hundreds of calories an hour, and gives you a great workout. Plus, you will feel better. Jogging, power walking, or running will give the same benefits.

I prefer cycling because it is low impact, my knees can still handle it, and I dislike running. For most guys, I would recommend starting out on a modestly priced mountain bike. If you feel like splurging, you can get one of the increasingly popular hybrids, which are faster. They have some of the features of mountain bikes, and are more comfortable to ride than a racing bike. Unless you are an experienced cyclist, or have a good friend who can guide you, you should probably not start out with a racing bike.

Whatever bike you get, I cannot overstress the importance of proper fit, kevlar-belted tires to eliminate frequent flat tires, and a well padded seat. You'll have to pay a bit extra for the kevlar tires, but they are well worth it. The padded seat is a must for most people. Get a thick gel pad; you'll be happy you did. A safety green jersey is a good investment if you are sharing your ride with motor vehicles. The green color is visible for hundreds of yards away. You don't want to become roadkill because some moron or moronette was busy on their cell phone.

Always take a drink with you when you are riding. For rides longer than one hour take a sports drink and an energy bar (Payday bars are good) or a banana.

Don't worry too much about stretching. Start your ride (or walk, or jog, or run) out slow and build up to your target pace. At the midway point, take a break and stretch the hamstrings, calves, and thighs. Your break should also be a refueling point; drink your fluids and eat your snack. Stretch again when you get home (and have a beer, you've earned it, and the chromium and carbs in beer will speed up muscle recovery).

After a few months of regular aerobic exercise, you will feel better, your reflexes will be sharper, and your pulse should be noticably lower. After I started cycling regularly, my heart rate went from ninety to the mid-fifties within six months.

There is so much advice, hyperbole, and BS out there that I have little to add. Just like sin, most people know "bad" food when they see it. The key words are discipline and common sense. Your goal should be to eat right eighty percent of the time; if you are active the other twenty percent will take care of itself.

A sensible diet includes lots of vegetables and fresh fruit, modest amounts of meats, fats, and grain products. Worried about getting fat? Cut down on processed foods. The closer your food is to its natural state, the less it will convert to fat.

In the field
You are out in the desert, you've been hunting up and down hills for two hours, you've got some quail and would like more, but your legs are dead. You need sugar!

Why? Because you've used up your muscle glycogen, and not replaced it. Muscle glycogen is what makes muscles work, and carbs are the fuel you need. Any form of sugar will do; your system needs the carbohydrates. When you replace what you've used up, you are ready to go some more.

Your nutrition strategy for hunting (or any other strenuous activity) should be to replace muscle glycogen as it is used. That means carrying around anything that will replace glycogen. Energy bars, candy bars, trail mix; as long as it is sweet, you need it. In hot weather, salt is good too. Salt promotes water retention, and you won't need as many fluids. Regular Coke is not a bad choice, since it has lots of carbs, and the sodium it contains pretty much cancels out the diuretic effect of the caffeine.

Things to avoid on an active day are big fatty breakfasts, too much coffee, too much alcohol, and excessive fats and meats. That big plate of eggs, hash browns, and bacon will not give you the instant energy you need, coffee is a diuretic and will make you lose fluids during the day, and fats and meats slow you down. Carbohydrates are easily digested; fats and meats require energy to digest, energy that will not be available to your legs and reflexes.

Just to help everyone out, here is a list of stuff to have in your cooler:
Grapes, apples, oranges, bananas
Gatorade or similar sports drinks
Sausage (moderate use, the salt is useful)
and some non-perishables:
Bread or crackers
Power bars, candy bars, trail mix
In cold, cold weather, a thermos full of dry sherry and hot consomme can be a real reviver, though commonsense is required if you are driving.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Jackrabbit in German is Hasenpfeffer

California desert and upland hunters usually have a few chances to shoot a jackrabbit every season. Some even make special trips, but are not sure what to do with a big jack after they've bagged it. Your problems are over. Hasenpfeffer, the German recipe for the European hare, works great with our jackrabbits. You may even decide it is the best meat you ever had (I'm not making this up!).

Here is the recipe; good hunting and a hearty appetite to all:

jackrabbit, cut into stew sized pieces
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup dry red wine
1 can chicken stock
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves, crushed
2 tsp lemon or lime juice
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1 tbsp currant jelly
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp dried thyme leaves

Cooking: Combine flour, salt and pepper in plastic bag, add hare and shake until hare is well coated.
Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp, remove bacon and drain on paper towels.
Brown a few pieces of rabbit in hot bacon fat, remove browned pieces. Repeat with remaining rabbit.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons fat. Cook and stir shallots and garlic in hot fat in Dutch oven until shallots are tender, about 4 minutes.
Add wine and chicken stock to cooking pot. Heat to boiling. Stir in jelly, peppercorns, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Return hare and bacon to Dutch oven. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer until rabbit is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaf and discard. Stir lemon or lime juice into sauce, thicken gravy with flour mixed with water (stirred until smooth and free of lumps). You can add a shot of whiskey and some port at this point as well.

Serve with egg noodles or spƤtzle, the little egg dumplings of southern Germany. A good red wine goes well with this. For a blowout feast, try serving quail, dove, Hasenpfeffer and some venison chops.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Quail hunting photos

The pictures below were taken while quail hunting on October 16. They show the area we hunted, part of the bag, myself in the field, and the first game dinner.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Quail report

Our 2004 quail season began in a steep glen in the southern Sierra near Ridgecrest, California. In contrast to last year, there were a fair number of bird shooters out.

We headed down through the brush and Joshua trees before sunrise, and heard shooting ahead of us soon afterwards. Steve, Mike, and I split up and I continued down towards the shooting, but working the high ground on the hill, roughly parallel to the winding of the glen. Since the men who had got there before us had busted the covey, I hoped that a lot of the birds would have fled to the high ground.

Sure enough, a cock quail erupted from the brush in front of me. Both barrels blasted out after him, but for naught. Another chance came soon after, and I got my first bird of the morning. Continuing to work the high ground, I hit my stride, shooting a lot of singles with one shot.

A group of three quail contributed one of their number to the bag, and soon after I found a small covey of twenty or so, and picked up a double. Surprised, because I hadn't realized it was a double until I started down to retrieve the bird I'd marked, and saw another fluttering on the ground about 15 yards away. This brought me to seven in the bag. I followed the rest of them, uphill of course, but did not bag any. Heading back, I worked the little brae where they'd first flushed to, and picked up a straggler.

Getting a bit lightheaded from all the climbing and shooting, I headed further down, cutting into the bottom of the wash, and flushed birds, but did not get any clear shots.

Have heard frequent shots from up the hill, I popped some dextrose tablets for the climb, and made my way back, working the cover, needing two more birds (the daily bag limit for quail in California is ten). The bottom of the wash was clearly devoid of birds in its middle reaches, so I headed up to higher ground, and soon had a quail flush wild. The hillside was crisscrossed with little quail highways, their tracks clearly visible in the sandy soil. Another dextrose tablet (this is great stuff, replenishes muscle glycogen as fast as anything, and is very portable). Soon I picked up another bird.

After Quail No. 9 was in the bag, I spotted Mike below me. I told him I needed one more, and worked an area of thick brush and Joshua trees (these are strangely shaped cacti and can be up to 12 feet tall). A hen quail flushed out of the brush and tried evasive action in the Joshuas, but at this point I was at the top of my game, and she had no chance. Retrieving her from among the trees, I headed down to Mike. We exchanged news (he hadn't seen Steve), and I gave him the rest of my shells as he was running low. Back to the truck for the really fun part of bird shooting (removing bird innards) and a well earned beer and a pipe.

Mike returned to the truck later in the morning with his ten, and we moved on to another spot in a fruitless attempt to locate some partridge. We left Steve a beer in the wheelwell of his rig, and note explaining where it was and where we were headed.

By mid-afternoon our legs were on strike, and we called it a day. After a long drive back to the city, we found ourselves at Trout Manor with a wee bit of old port and reminiscences about game book entries from years past. The amazing thing is that the old entries, while more frequent, are sadly lacking in numbers. Four here, three there. The odd rabbit. We did have fun back then, but there is a lot of satisfaction in making an entry for twenty quail on opening day. Again. This is the second time; we did it last year, too.

Photos of dead birds and the reprehensible, ruffianly humans responsible for their demise, plus the landscape in which the deed was done, will follow in due course.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Chuckar update

Jim Matthews reports huge numbers of chuckar in the West Mojave here. The best in years.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Imperial Valley Pheasants

I've got some updated information to my post of September 17, which is great news for Southern California bird shooters. According to Leon Lesicka, a Brawley area resident and founder of Desert Wildlife Unlimited, some of the 2,800 acres of fields shown on this map will be receiving an influx of 5,000 cock pheasants shortly before and during the 2004 pheasant season.

The fields in which the birds will be released are: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 19, 20, 21, and 26.

All the fields shown on the map have been planted with safflower, milo, wheat, or Sudan grass. The Sudan grass is up to six feet high, in wide strips, so a dog (with real long legs) is needed if you plan to work those fields. Quail have taken up residence in many of the planted fields, and dove hunting was quite good here on opening day this year, with many white wing doves taken.

In addition to the Niland area upland fields, Desert Wildlife Unlimited's projects include desert guzzlers, and wetland projects on the New River to help the Salton Sea.

Pheasant season opens November 13, which is also the first day of the second dove season.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Quail season

2004's quail season looks to be very good, if not great, in the Mojave desert and southern Sierra.

"Bird numbers jump way up over last year.

Dove, quail, and chukar numbers are all up significantly from last year in spite of continued drought. Rains came at the right time in desert and foothill areas of Southern California to spur production this spring, and Department of Fish and Game biologists are saying this is going to be a banner year for bird hunters.

"I've got good news -- I've got record bird numbers," said Rocky Thompson, a DFG biologist from Lake Isabella. "These are the highest counts I've had since I've been doing this. If you liked last year, you're going to love this year."

Thompson does his quail and chukar composition counts in the popular hunting areas in the Red Mountain region and the southern Sierra. He classified 2,781 chukar from just 14 different locations, and the average brood size was just over nine birds. While that is below the incredible brood size of 16 he recorded last year, there were so many adult holdover birds that Thompson said he counted 900 more chukar this year than his previous best count.

Andy Pauli, the DFG biologist for the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County classified 665 Gambel's quail at just two desert water sources in the Mojave National Preserve and reported that the average brood size was 10 young per pair, and his West Mojave chukar tallies showed an average brood size of 13 1/2 young per pair.

"It's definitely going to be a good year," said Pauli."

This is from Jim Matthews outdoor column at Jesse's Hunting Page.

I've also talked to residents of Inyokern, who say their are more birds around than usual. Add to this the reports discussed in my report of September 17, and it looks real good.

Let's go, gentlemen.

There are quite a few posts on the upcoming bird season at Jesse's Hunting Page Upland and Small Game forum. Few specifics as to location, other than Red Mountain for chuckar.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Rattlesnakes on strike

I recently reread Colin Fletcher's classic, The New Complete Walker, after an interval of many years. Since the book was written in the sixties, and revised in the early seventies, many of his observations on backpacking gear are of only historical interest. But a lot of his ruminations, opinions, and advice are still good.

Fletcher devoted a number of pages to rattlesnakes, which should be required reading for anyone who spends much time in the California wildlands. Some stuff to remember:

Rattlesnakes, being cold-blooded, operate best in the range of 80'-90' Fahrenheit. Below that they are sluggish, at 110' they die of heatstroke. So don't worry too much about them on a hot desert day.

What is important to note is that these are their temperatures, the temperatures they attain through contact with the ground and the surrounding air. These temperatures vary wildly from the official weather readings, which are taken in the shade five feet above the ground. An area with an official reading of 60' may have temperatures of 100' on sunlit sand, and the lowest inch of air may be 80'. This means that a rattler might feel just fine in an area with a weather temperature of 60'. On the other hand, a desert location with a weather temperature of 80' might have ground temperatures of 130'.

The prime feeding time in for rattlers in warm weather is two hours before and after sunset, so if you think that the ground temperature is between 80' and 90', it's time to keep your eyes peeled.

Remember too that rattlers have very poor eyesight, are totally deaf, but are highly sensitive to vibration, and have a sense of smell similar to that of humans. They aim their strike using two pits in their face which sense heat given off by warm-blooded prey. They can strike accurately in complete darkness. They actually smell using their tongue, which picks up particles in the air and transfers them to cavities in their mouths, which interpret them much as do the membranes in a mammal's nose.

And that story about the farmer who died putting on his father's old boots with a fragment of the fang in the leather... It's impossible, snake venom quickly becomes harmless once exposed to air. This story has been around in various forms since at least 1714, when it was reported to the Royal Society in London by a traveller returned from the New World.

Colin Fletcher was born in 1922, so I'm not sure how much backpacking he is doing these days. I remember camping a hundred yards or so from him in Palm Canyon near Borrego Springs, California in the early seventies (once we figured out who he was, we left him alone). Camping near Colin Fletcher? That was like playing football with Joe Namath! I understand that there is now an updated version of the book, The Complete Walker IV, published in 2002.

Just be thankful if you live in California; Eastern Diamondbacks can weigh up to 30 pounds and reach eight feet in length.