Archive for the 'Hunting' Category

First Time Adult Hunters

Monday, February 27th, 2017
A white-tailed buck.

A white-tailed buck.

This is Passport to Texas

It’s a bit of a phenomenon. Adults without previous exposure to hunting are expressing interest in learning the skills necessary to harvest big game. Texas Parks and Wildlife responded by developing a mentored deer hunt for adult novices, and offered its first workshop in December. Coordinator, Chris Hall.

The interest was overwhelming. We had it set up to ensure that we gave a quality program and had ample one-on-one time with hunters to address each individual’s needs. And I believe we were successful in what they were trying to get and achieve and where they were with their level of hunting and shooting.

Brad Sheffield, and engineer from Grapevine, took part in the three day program. Day one involved classroom and shooting range work; days 2 & 3 were devoted to putting new knowledge and skills to work.

We went out this morning to go hunting, and I passed on a button buck. And so I decided to see if there was more coming out—and there wasn’t. That was my only chance to shoot him.

Brad had success that afternoon. After waiting two and half hours in the blind, a group of deer came into view.

I was waiting for the doe to get in the right position because she turned around to go the other way, was behind the feeder, and then she finally got in a good spot. And I took my shot and dropped her—just like that.  [Cecilia] And do you think you’ll be doing more deer hunting. Absolutely. I’ll be taking my kids deer hunting as well.

More adult novice mentored hunts are being developed.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Suggestions for Preparing Your Spring Turkey

Friday, February 24th, 2017
Roasted Wild Turkey Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Roasted Wild Turkey Recipe photo by Taste of Home

This is Passport to Texas

If you harvest a wild turkey, you can find techniques for preparing it from online experts who are hunters and chefs. A wild turkey has a rich flavor—some say gamey—and is quite lean, which makes it a little tricky to prepare.

Steve Rinella, the outdoorsman known as The Meat Eater, recommends brining wild harvested turkeys to keep them juicy.

Fill a large pot—one big enough to hold the turkey and brine—with a gallon of water. Next add 1 cup of Kosher Salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, the juice of three lemons, and a sliced onion. Heat the mixture to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let cool, and then submerge the bird in the brine and allow it to soak for 24 to 48 hours in the fridge.

Remove it from the brine, blot the moisture from the bird with paper towels, and then place it in a shallow baking dish on top of a rack, or on a bed of root vegetables. Rub the turkey with oil, and sprinkle it inside and out with your favorite seasonings.

Place it into an oven, preheated to 375 degrees. Roast the bird until an instant read thermometer registers an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Let the turkey rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

Steve Rinella says a hunting license should say “all hunters must brine their turkeys before cooking them—no matter the cooking method.” I say that’s a good idea.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Spring Turkey Bag Limits

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
Imagine seeing this sight when you go turkey hunting this spring.

Imagine seeing this sight when you go turkey hunting this spring.

This is Passport to Texas

Eastern wild turkeys thrived from the coastal prairies to the Red River until the early 1900s when commercial hunting and development drove the birds to near extinction. Hunting these birds was off limits until years of restocking efforts created a huntable population.

We’ve spent a lot of time stocking birds into East Texas. We’ve had some really good success in some areas, and not as much success in others. So, we don’t have the densities that we have of Rio Grande…and we’re trying to keep a real good record of what’s happening with that population.

Jason Hardin, Turkey program leader for Parks and Wildlife, says Rio Grande turkeys, found in most of the state are plentiful; this spring, hunters have a four bird bag limit.

The bag limit is one for the Eastern Turkey, and it must be reported on Texas Parks and Wildlife’s My Hunt Harvest app for smart phones or online at Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Wild Turkey Page. Physical check stations for Eastern wild turkeys are no longer open in Texas.

The data helps Parks and Wildlife manage the species. Need a place to hunt the Eastern gobbler?

Some of our WMAs provide good Eastern turkey hunting as well.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series; it’s funded by your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motor boat fuel.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Spring is Turkey Time in Texas

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017
A fine Tom turkey in Texas.

A fine Tom turkey in Texas.

This is Passport to Texas

Thanksgiving may be three months behind us—or nine months ahead of us depending upon how you view things—but that won’t stop turkey hunters from bagging big birds this spring.

There are going to be a lot of two-year-old gobblers for harvest this year.

Jason Hardin is Turkey Program Leader for Parks and Wildlife. Adequate rainfall statewide and excellent habitat conditions overall, add up to a good season ahead.

We had really good production across the Rio Grande range, which is the central portion of the state, so I would expect a really good season.

In addition to hunting Rio Grande Turkeys in Texas brush country, hunters can also find Eastern Turkey in the woodlands of East Texas.

The eastern is found in the eastern third of the state. It’s a little bit of a larger, darker colored, bird compared to the Rio, which is quite numerous. We have more Rios in Texas than anywhere else in the country. The bird’s a little bit smaller and has a little lighter coloration. But, other than that, they gobble fairly similarly and they’re both pretty tough to hunt.

There is a statewide bag limit of four turkeys in Texas with no more than one Eastern Turkey.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series; it’s funded by your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motor boat fuel.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Cooking up Cottontail Carnitas

Thursday, February 16th, 2017
Cottontail carnitas a la Evin Cooper

Cottontail carnitas a la Evin Cooper

This is Passport to Texas

I think the late chef and cookbook author, Julia Child coined the expression: Easter Bunny Syndrome. It’s when we decide which animals not to eat based on their perceived cuteness. Rabbits fall into that category.

As Central Texas writer, cook and mom, Evin Cooper tells us, rabbits are as delicious as they are cute, and even better than pork in carnitas. She says her first attempt using cottontails was a success, and began with two rabbits in a slow cooker.

And, I stewed them all day with some beer and some homemade salsa, and let them cook and cook and cook. And then, let them cool—and then I deboned the meat. Then, I let the meat sit in the fridge overnight, and the next day I seasoned it up a little bit more with chili powder and cumin and all those wonderful Mexican spices. And I fried them in some hot oil—just the shredded meat—almost like hash browns. It got really crispy on the bottom, and I flipped it over and got it crispy on the other side—almost to the point of burnt. Then, I put it in warm corn tortillas with avocado slices and lime juice. It was so good. I mean, I’ve given up pork for my carnitas. And I want to use almost entirely cottontail now. It’s just delicious.

Find Evin Cooper’s Cottontail Carnitas recipe at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Rabbit Carnitas
Evin Cooper says to make this flavorful dish is a two-day process, and well worth the effort.

Day One
• 2-3* good size jackrabbits/cottontails, skinned and cleaned
• 1 cup salsa
• 1 beer
Day Two
• Corn or canola oil
• taco seasoning**
• prepared rabbit meat
• corn tortillas
• cilantro
• diced onion
• avocado
• lime

For the meat:
The day before you want to serve the tacos, wash the rabbits and pat dry. In a crockpot or a large stock pot, add the rabbits, salsa and beer. Use both your favorite salsa and beer. (Stick with a lighter beer. Dark beers will overpower the flavor of the meat.) Cook the rabbits until they are fall-off-the-bone tender (3-4 hours on the stove, 4-6 hours in a crockpot) and allow to cool a bit. When you can handle the rabbits, pull the meat off the bone and discard the bones. Add the juices from the pot to the shredded meat and refrigerate overnight.
To prepare the tacos:
Heat about ½ inch of oil in a shallow, wide skillet. Toss the cold meat with the taco seasoning and the reserved juices until well combined – use your hands for even distribution. When the oil shimmers, grab a handful of the shredded rabbit and squeeze out most of the juice and put it into the hot oil. Repeat the squeezing process until there is an even layer of meat in the pan, and press down with a spatula once, then leave it alone. Let the bottom get crispy, then toss the meat and press the non-crispy side into the pan to crisp. When crispy, remove from the pan and drain, and repeat with the rest of the meat until all the rabbit has had a turn in the hot oil.
Meanwhile warm corn tortillas on a comal (or in a heavy skillet), dice red onions, chop cilantro, slice limes and cube some avocado, crumble some cotija cheese (optional)
Top a warm corn tortilla with about ¼ cup of the crispy meat, and the toppings of your choice.

*I got about 8 tacos per rabbit, but it really depends on the size of your kill and how stuffed you like your tacos!
**Please don’t use a packet from the grocery store! If you don’t already have a taco mix recipe that you love, find one! Or, you can just season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, Mexican oregano and chile.