Venison Burgers

For years my family has been indulging my unhealthy fantasies of someday becoming a professional hunter, chef, and writer (see Steven Rinella and his extensive collection of hunting and cooking books along with a TV show that features both). So it seems every birthday and Christmas I am given a wild game cookbook from someone. They are fantastic and I use them all the time but one problem they all seem to have, is that no one seems to know how to make a good burger. They all say the same thing, take the ground meat and shape it into patties and cook in the oven. To me thats the same as boiling a steak (no, I’m not talking about Sous-Vide), sure you can do it and its technically edible but you are really missing out. So here is my version of a proper venison burger. Please note that this recipe works well with any red meat. My dad showed me how to make these burgers years ago with beef, from there I made some adjustments, its a simple recipe to remember and I have used it while travelling to make friends more than once. Cooking on a barbecue works best, but I have baked them in an oven and a fried them on a stove top and they were just fine. I have never fed these burgers to someone and not had them seem overjoyed by them… unlike a few recipes of mine that I am still tweaking… thank you, Erin, for your patience.

 

The ingredients are all pretty forgiving and interchangeable with anything similar, its a hard recipe to mess up as long as you do not over spice it, that can make it salty.. but even then you can just drown it in ketchup. So you have no reason not to try this recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 lb of ground venison (or any other red meat)
  • 1/4 lb of bacon (this is not required if you are using a fattier meat such as beef)
  • tortilla chips (tortilla chips work best but any kind of cracker, chip, croutons or shredded bread works)
  • 1/2 of a medium sized onion
  • one egg
  • steak spice
  • the softest buns you can find (I usually go with kaiser or onion buns)
  • all the regular fixings for burgers: ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, lettuce, onions, tomato etc

Step 1. Chop the bacon into as small of bits as possible usually about 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares. Typically I use the fattiest pieces of bacon from the pack, the purpose of the bacon is to add a bit of fat and grease to the venison for taste, texture, and making them hold together. Throw the chopped bacon in a large bowl with the full pound of venison. You can skip the bacon in the mix if you are using beef. I usually buy a full pound of bacon so that the remainder can be fried and used to top the burgers afterwards.

Chopped Bacon

Step 2. Finely chop the 1/2 of the onion and add it to the bowl with the meat. I usually buy a whole onion and use half for in the burgers and then slice the other half to go on the burgers after the fact.

Chopped onions

Step 3. Add an egg and a handful of tortilla chips to the bowl with the meat and onion. The egg and the chips work to hold the burger together, the chips also add a bit of flavour. This is also where I add some steak spice, make sure to use just a little as the chips make it salty and cooking the spices in the burgers really strengthens their flavour.

All the ingredients in the bowl

Step 4. Now mix all the ingredients with your hands, try to beak down the chips as much as possible and make sure all the other ingredients are evenly distributed

After mixing

Step 5. Form the meat into equal sized patties, I usually make 6 so that it lines up with the number of buns I buy but the size isn’t super important as long as they are all close to the same size. Make sure to pack them as tight as you can.

Formed into patties

Step 6. Place the burgers on the barbecue on medium heat. With my grill I find I have to flip them after about ten to fifteen minutes, they change colour a bit and the exposed chips will start to burn a little. Try to flip them only once or twice. After about 15 minutes on each side (every grill is different so dont hold me to this time) cut one in half and make sure it is cooked all the way through, typically that means no pink in the middle, however the bacon adds a bit of pink so go by texture and evenness of overall colour.. This is also the time to toast the buns and place some cheese on the burger so it melts nicely.

On the grill

Step 7. Take the burgers off of the grill and let them cool for about five minutes (lets all be honest, I often skip this). Then put the patty on a bun top it with bacon and all the other fixings. Enjoy!

Finished product, some squeezing required

Step 8. Tell everyone where you go this great recipe!


Posted in How-To, Recipewith no comments yet.

Hunting Photos

Hunting photos, trophy pictures, grip-n-grins, field photos… its all the same thing. If you have been on the internet there is a chance you have seen a hunting photo or two. Usually with a caption about the people in it being monsters or murderers. If you’ve posted a hunting picture on the internet, you’ve probably been called a murderer or a monster. It would appear that is the price a modern sportsman pays… one of many payments it would seem.

Just Another Day On The Internet

Just Another Day On The Internet

The question comes up again and again by the masses of the internet: “why would you take a picture of yourself with a dead animal?”. For this question, there are many answers, and from many different people. One common reason, is that its a way to remember the event and the accomplishment. People want photos of themselves at the tops of mountains, the ends of races, and holding trophies after the big game. Hunting is no different, you just spent hours, days, weeks wandering through the woods or mountains trying to find an elusive wild animal. All of that was after months of preparation, planning, and hopefully, practice at the gun or archery range. After putting all this time, effort, and money in, people want a photo to remember that moment of success.

Not Everyone Cares For Hunting Photos

Not Everyone Cares For Hunting Photos

Another reason is so that the photos can be shared with friends, family, and other hunting enthusiasts. This is where the problems start, many people, myself included, love to share hunting photos on the internet. Sharing online is a great way to make digital friends who live a similar analog life. The problem is that those photos inevitably end up in front 0f someone who doesn’t understand why it exists, and often feels the need to say something about it. If you post hunting photos online, you are going to get hatemail, at this point its just a fact of life. I learned this quickly via twitter and instagram. That said, some photos attract more vitriol than others. The photos that create the most hate all seem to have something in common, poor choices in photographic technique.

Ever notice that photo of a girl with her boot on a dead lion and a great big grin makes people angrier than a picture of a professional hunter, with an expression of content, crouched beside an equally dead lion? Its deceptively simple, respect for the animal goes a long way. Even amongst hunters, this comes up and gets debated, but the majority of sportsmen appear to agree. When taking a hunting photo, respect for the animal should be top concern. This animal just died to feed you and your family, it deserves your respect. Keeping this in mind while taking photos can go a long way in improving your final product. Do little things to make the animal look dignified, try to clean blood off of the animals nose and face and tuck its tongue back in. Make sure you don’t stand or sit on the animal. Many people don’t even feel comfortable stepping over the animal.

I have also seen people try to use items for scale, this can be tricky because you do want to show how big your animal is but putting a beer can in a dead lions mouth to show its teeth (yes, I’ve seen this done) might send the wrong message on the respect front. Use yourself for scale, people know how big the average person is and can make sense of it from there. This brings me to my next point, forced perspective. I’ve seen many photos, often of elk hunters it seems, sitting a couple yards behind the animal in hopes of making the antlers look bigger by comparison, its obvious and a little cheesy. If you feel you need to misrepresent the size of the animal, you might be hunting for the wrong reasons.

I should Have Moved The Deer Away From The Pool Of Blood For The Photo

I should Have Moved The Deer Away From The Pool Of Blood For The Photo and Smiled A Little Less

The most commonly debated part about hunting photos is the smile. How much smile is too much? For this there is no real right answer. You just accomplished an amazing thing that you worked hard for, of course you are going to want to smile. But if the smile gets too big it can look a little crazy and send the wrong message. It effectively turns into a tight rope walk. My thoughts are: don’t force a smile. You’re likely in a pretty good mood when you’re taking a hunting photo so just relax and let your natural facial expression be what shines through. If you happen to be a big smile type, try taking a photo of you stifling it and see, it might look a little better. The key to the smile, much like all of life, is to just be yourself.

The quality of the photo is another thing that is important to remember. You put a lot of effort into getting here so you might as well get a good photo. Some simple things can be done to make the picture better: clear the foreground of twigs, branches and tall grass, and try to get a clear or solid background so the antlers don’t fade into brush or trees behind you. Low angles are also your friend, get the photographer to crouch to be at the same level as you and the animal, this will make the animal the focal point of the photo. It will also help you get the sky as the background which will again draw focus to you and the animal. Keep in mind that this is a photo you will likely be showing a lot of people, so you might want to make sure you take a moment and clean yourself up a little. You’re not modelling so don’t get too worried but make sure your hair isn’t a mess from wearing a hat and your hands aren’t covered in blood from field dressing. Having your firearm or bow in the photo is a great idea, just make sure it is pointed in a safe direction. No matter the situation, keep firearm safety in mind. Maybe out of respect, try not to rest the butt of the rifle on the animal.

Example Of A Bad High Angle Shot

Example Of A Bad High Angle Shot

I don’t know that I have ever taken a “perfect” hunting photo, nor do I think anyone has. The best we as hunters can do is try, just remember to respect the animal and try to make it a quality photo. As long as we are trying, I think the effort and intention will shine through to people we show them to. Lastly, make sure you take a lot of pictures. With digital cameras you can take multiple pictures from slightly different angles and see which looks better once you see it full sized. Some of my most memorable hunts I have made the mistake of taking only a single blurred cell phone picture simply because I was excited and didn’t think to take more than one snapshot. Which reminds me, don’t forget to bring your camera.

I Forgot My Camera, A Friends Blurry Cell Phone Picture Is All I Have

I Forgot My Camera, A Friends Quick Cell Phone Picture Is All I Have

The Best Hunting Photo I Have Taken Yet

The Best Hunting Photo I Have Taken Yet, and I Still See Things I Should Do Better Next Time


Posted in How-To, Huntingwith 1 comment.

Gun Buying Tips

In my university days I spent the majority of my free time working the gun counter at a hunting store, this was primarily to have extra money to spend on frivolous things like food and rent. It was a good job, and much like hunting, I began to spot patterns. In this case it was in customers and their approach to purchasing. A common question from customers was “What do you have in a 308?” my response, depending on the customer and how much I had been able to sleep the night before, was often either to simply turn around and face the large wall covered with rifles and sarcastically say “these”. Usually, I would explain that we carry a wide variety of rifles in a variety of calibers and then proceed to ask about other sought after features to narrow the search field. The problem is simple, most people know, more or less, what they are after it just doesn’t seem that way because they go about it almost backwards. Its an easy mistake to make but one that low paid employees working early weekend mornings during the busy season lose patience for. Gun shops typically sort their inventory by type of firearm, then brand, then model, then calibre. So I have decided to try and lend a hand to help everyone get what they want faster.

It is important to first know what you want the gun to be used for: is it for hunting, defense, target practice, long range shooting? From there break it down farther: what kind of hunting? What distances? From there it’s a good idea to have features in mind such as wood or synthetic stock? Blued or stainless barrel? Next suggest brands that you like or would like to avoid. Within this previous criteria be clear on which features you are or are not flexible on, there might be the exact gun you want except it will be blued and not stainless would that be ok? From there if you have a price or price range in mind say so. Many retail stores have a strict policy where employees are not allowed to ask this because it’s a bit too personal of a question. But knowing this can really help the salesman get you something reasonable and spare you the awkwardness of them digging out a top of the line HS Precision, when you are more in the market for a Mossberg (Both fine rifles in their own way). After all that, suggest a few calibers that you would be interested in, keep in mind with a hunting rifle most calibers are pretty similar performance-wise within 300 yards which is a pretty far shot for most hunting situations. If you do have a specific calibre in mind, that’s not a bad thing, but it will be helpful to explain why, otherwise the salesman might suggest other calibres that are equally suitable but more available at that time ex: “I’ve had a lot of luck with it”, “I already have most of the reloading equipment for that calibre”, “me and my hunting friends decided to all get the same calibre so we can share ammo in a pinch”, “Me, my son, wife, or daughter have shot this calibre before and found the recoil to be manageable.” These are all reasons I have heard and respected.

From there it’s just a matter keeping a few small tips in mind. First always try to be polite, the quality of service you receive in ANY business is really proportional to how nice or rude you are to the staff. Its also not uncommon for salesmen to give slight discounts to polite customers, I know I’ve done this more than once. Also keep in mind that not every gun in every calibre will be available especially in smaller shops. If there’s something specific you want you may have to order it, even if it’s common (common usually means a lot of people are buying them).

Don’t be afraid to ask other customers their opinions of guns and calibres, they are there because they are into guns. Make sure to ask the employees their opinions of guns and calibres because these are the people that hear about the success and failures of equipment from customers coming back, they also process any warranty issues and can tell you which companies are having a bad run of guns. Keep in mind, from both customers and employees, you often hear opinions which are easily, and often, bias. I once worked with a man who felt Weatherby brand rifles were the only ones worth owning.

Lastly make sure you hold every gun you are considering buying to make sure that the fit, finish, and feel is there. Every gun feels a bit different to every person and you want to be sure before you buy because most shops won’t take a gun back based on not liking the look or the feel, especially if it has been fired.

Below is a checklist I have made that might be helpful. Also, here is a downloadable version (gun buying checklist), you can print it, fill it out, and take it in with you next time. Hopefully its helpful. Make sure to comment below and let me know what you think, what I should add, and what I should change?

 

Gun Buying


Posted in How-To, Hunting, Marksmanshipwith no comments yet.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies: How to Make Friends Anywhere

“When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence” – Unknown

I have been carrying around this cookie recipe for a while now. It’s proved useful more than once, so I thought I should share it. I modified an existing chocolate chip recipe by adding peanut butter and reducing regular butter. The reason I am a fan of this recipe is that it’s easy, it’s forgiving, and it’s delicious. I once cooked them when we had some downtime on an oil rig. Everybody on that location stopped by to say “Hello” once the word got out. They were gone before the next shift showed up. Most recently, I made two batches for the family Erin and I were staying with in Ecuador. The hardest part was paying for the peanut butter. It can get a little pricy in some countries. The first batch disappeared within a day, so a few days later when we had a power outage, Erin and I lit every candle we could find, and I started baking. Luckily the stove and oven ran on propane. Some day, I intend to try cooking these on an open fire and eventually a car engine… just to prove it can be done… I’ll keep you all posted.

I Like To Start With Candles To Set The Mood, But Its Not Necessary For The Recipe.

I Like To Light Some Candles To Set The Mood, But Its Not Necessary For The Recipe.

Ingredients:                                     Imperial         or             Grams          or         Millilitres

Margarine (or butter)                    1 Cup                               227 g                        237 ml

Brown Sugar                                    2 Cups                             440 g                       474 ml

Granulated (white) Sugar              1 Cup                               220 g                       237 ml

Large Eggs                                        4                                       4                               4

Vanilla Extract                                 3 Tsp                                15 g                          15 ml

Peanut Butter                                   1 Cup                                340 g                      237 ml

Flour                                                   4 Cups                             500 g                      948 ml

Baking Soda                                      2 Tsp                                10 g                         10 ml

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips         1 Cup                               190 g                       237 ml

 

Bake at 350° Fahrenheit or 177° Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 1:Mix brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, and baking soda together in a large bowl.

Dry Goods Mixed Together

Dry Goods Mixed Together

Step 2: On low heat, melt the margarine (or butter) and the peanut butter together.

This Part Smells Really Good

This Part Smells Really Good

Step 3: Pour peanut butter and butter mixture into bowl with dry goods and mix.

Now Mix

Now Mix

Step 4: Add vanilla extract and eggs. Be cautious that the mixture isn’t too hot still from the stove as it will cook the eggs. If mixture is hot, simply wait for it to cool  a bit before adding the eggs.

Step 5: If the dough appears too dry (crumbly or powdery), add an extra egg since some eggs are simply smaller than others. If the mixture appears too moist (if you are unable to roll it into small balls the size of an egg), add a small amount of flour and reassess.

Step 6: Add chocolate chips. They are added last to avoid melting into the dough.

Its Pretty Tasty at This Point

Its Pretty Tasty at This Point

Step 7: Roll the dough into a ball about the size of an egg (you can go larger or small if you desire, but try to be consistent). Place the balls of dough spaced apart on a cookie sheet (give each ball about 2 times its width on each side as they will expand out as they cook). After your first tray of cookies, you will have a better idea of spacing and cook time, so don’t stress. Once on the sheet press them down with a fork.

Make Them Into Balls

Make Them Into Balls

Press With A Fork

Press With A Fork

Step 8: Bake cookies in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch for the edges starting to darken and the over all gloss of the cookies to change.

What They Look Like Coming Out. I Had To Bend The Cookies Sheet Edges To Make It Fit.

What They Look Like Coming Out. I Had To Bend The Cookies Sheet Ends To Make It Fit In The Oven.

Step 9: Remove cookies from the oven, allow to cool for a minute or two before removing from the pan, as it will allow them to firm up and come off easier. Place them on a cooling rack, wax paper, a large plate, really anything that they can sit on and cool for a while. Inspect to see if they are too doughy inside or burnt on the bottom and adjust the cook time on the next batch to go into the oven.

Repeat steps 7 through 9 until all cookie dough is gone. This makes about 4 dozen cookies depending on the size of the actual cookies. You may want to half this recipe. Then again, having too many cookies isn’t a problem that I’ve ever had.

Lastly, comment below and let me know how yours turn out!


Posted in How-To, Recipewith 2 comments.

Deer Steak Marinade

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, sorry about that. March tends to be a slow month for anyone who likes the outdoors, its just a long month of snow melting into mud that makes escaping a maintained road nearly impossible. So I decided for a change of pace I would post a bit of an instructive post much like my deer head cleaning post from a while ago (currently my most viewed post, thanks to Pinterest)

 

So this time, instead of a tomahawk or a deer head, I’ve got something almost everyone likes… food. I will share with you my super secret steak marinade recipe. It works with any red meat but I find it especially useful for deer meat, especially if you find its too gamey. So lets begin.

Wait, first I should mention something. This recipe is just a rough guide and open to adjustment and interpretation, all units of measure are somewhere along the lines of dashes, splashes, dollops, hints, and glugs.

First you need meat, you can buy it if you like, ideally round up your own though

First you need meat, you can buy it if you like, ideally go out and round it up yourself if you can

I tend to start with the meat frozen, and put it into a large container with a lid that seals.

It doesn't look particularly appetizing just yet.

It doesn’t look particularly appetizing just yet.

Next I like to add a bit of steak spice, any brand will work and we all have our favorites so just use that. If you don’t have a favorite or a “go to” that’s kinda strange but not a problem, just use the first one you find at the grocery store and see how you like it. Personally I like Montreal Steak spice, though I’m not sure they want to be associated with me so dont judge them based on my usage of their product. If you put too much, that’s OK because most of it will stay in the marinade when you pull the meat out to cook it, and if you think you put too little, you can add some while its grilling. Everyone has their own preference for strength of taste, I tend to put a lot of spice.

Dont worry about putting a bit too much or too little.

Don’t worry about putting a bit too much or too little.

Next I add a bit of BBQ sauce. I usually go with a generic BBQ flavor, but I have, in the past, had good luck with honey garlic and hickory flavor. Just about any BBQ sauce should work.

I tend to use about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup for two steaks use what ever you think is reasonable

I tend to use about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup for two steaks use what ever you think is reasonable

Next is the key ingredient, I find this is what really gets rid of a lot of that gameyness that people often don’t like in wild meat. Worcestershire sauce is the key, so add a bit to the mix. Much like with the steak spice, Lea & Perrins doesn’t know about me or my blog (probably)… So again don’t hold it against them if you happen to not like me.

I find I only need about 2 or 3 tablespoons for two steaks, and even that may be a lot

I find I only need about 2 or 3 tablespoons for two steaks, and even that may be a lot

Last ingredient is any kind of cola, I believe its the carbonation that helps tenderize it, so in theory you could also use beer. If you decide to try beer, let me know how it works out (for science!). I have also, in times of desperation, had good luck with root beer, but it tends to add a bit of a vanilla flavor that some people don’t care for.

You can either use enough to submerge the steaks, or be less wasteful and flip the steaks half way through the marinade process

You can either use enough to submerge the steaks, or be less wasteful and flip the steaks half way through the marinade process

Lastly, put a lit on it and put it in the refrigerator for at least a day. Once you decide its time to eat it, cook it on the barbecue however you see fit. If you are unsure of how to cook steaks properly, that makes two of us. What I tend to do is turn the barbecue on and set it to high heat, once its good and hot I brush and scrape the grill portion. I then throw the steaks on, close the lid and then drop the temperature to low. That way it sears the outside, preventing sticking to the grill and sealing in the moisture, at least that’s my theory on it. All that said, every BBQ is wildly different and there are millions of people, all with their own ideas of the best way to cook a steak. Do what works for you.

I like mine cooked anywhere around medium or medium rare

I like mine cooked anywhere around medium or medium rare

So, just a quick recap:

  • Put the meat into a container
  • Add steak spice
  • Add barbecue sauce
  • Add worcestershire sauce
  • Add cola
  • Refrigerate for at least a day
  • Cook on a grill
  • Eat it
  • Come back and comment with your thoughts on the recipe

One last really useful thing I will share with you, since you’ve read this far. Barbecued perogies.

Perogies are an easy and tasty side dish for almost any meal

Perogies are an easy and tasty side dish for almost any meal

 

If you’ve never had perogies… you need to go buy some now and eat them! You can finish reading this later, perogies take priority. If you’ve never had barbecued perogies, like most people I’ve talked to, this might be life changing for you. Perogies are one of my favourite foods, and always have been. I remember when I was younger, and when I come to visit as an adult, my mom would make perogies her way. She would boil them, fry some bacon, caramelize some onions and boil up some peas. All served with sour cream. This results in an amazing meal but lot of work, 2 dirty pots, and two dirty pans. When I got older someone showed me that you could fry perogies when you had them as leftovers, and that was pretty good but they tended to be greasy that way. Fried is my least favorite method of cooking perogies, but I still wont say no to a plate of them.

Last summer, while I was working on an oil rig, a Directional Driller I was working with was cooking a steak on the barbecue. I saw him pull a bag of pergoies out of the freezer and walk outside. Naturally I had to ask, and he was kind enough to enlighten me. Cooking perogies on the barbecue takes about 5 to 10 minutes, you just lay them on the grill frozen, when they start to get nice grill marks on one side flip them over. Its best to take them off when they just start to split, or if you’re really good just before they split. By the time he was done explaining himself they were ready. He offered me one and I took it… my life hasn’t been the same since. The next day I drove into town and bought a bag of perogies and I dont think I’ve gone a week without barbecued perogies since then. They are a quick side dish with minimal clean up afterward, you can eat them like finger food, and its easy to cook a lot of them if you have guests. They are good dipped in sour cream, barbecue sauce, salad dressing or my personal favorite, sweet chili sauce.

I would also recommend a starter salad or a vegetable side dish

I would also recommend a starter salad or a vegetable side dish

 

If you have any questions don’t be shy! I would love to hear your deer steak recipe, if you care to share, put it in the comments.

 


Posted in How-To, Recipewith 3 comments.

Making a Tomahawk Better

I bought a tomahawk for my mountain hunting trip because its lighter than a hatchet and well… I’ve always wanted a tomahawk. I wasn’t particularly happy with the fit and finish of it so I decided to make it better, with a little help from the internet and my step-dad.

Here it is brand new

Here it is brand new

When I first got it the handle was unfinished and splintered a bit at the bottom and the head was loose. For a quick fix I put a wrap of tape around the handle under the head to keep it from wiggling and wrapped the bottom of the handle with cotton hockey tape to protect myself from the splinters. After the trip I decided to actually do something about it.

Lets look at the handle first since it was the easiest. Basically I took out the set-screw holding the head onto the handle so I could take the head off. Then I removed the tape I had previously put on. I then began sanding the handle down. I found that no matter how much I sanded the last four inches or so of the handle just seemed to be too damaged to be recovered. So I just cut the end off, I decided to do this at a 45 degree angle, I like the way it looks and there was no way I was going to cut it perfectly square with my hand saw.

Pre-sanding and cutting

 

Post-sanding and cutting

Post-sanding and cutting

Next I used a rub-on oil as a finish. I wanted a darker finish so I went with minwax brand antique oil. I just followed the directions and rubbed on a few coats with a cheese cloth.

Now the tomahawk head. After taking the head off I placed it in a plastic grocery bag with some paint stripper and let it sit for about a day, reapplying more paint remover ever few hours. Once all the paint on it was loose and flakey I rinsed it and used some steel wool to remove all the excess.

The tomahawk head after the paint was removed

The tomahawk head after the paint was removed

Next using a metal file, I ground the edges of the eye of the head (the hole that sits around the  handle) this is to make it fit a bit tighter on the handle and prevent it from scraping and splintering the handle when the head is taken on or off.

Just take enough to dull the edge

Just take enough to dull the edge

Next I decided to give my tomahawk a little more character, I wanted to patina the head making it look much older than it was. I decided I wanted a bit of an uneven patina, to me that looks more “authentic” so first I cleaned the head thoroughly with nail polish remover to get any grease or oils off of it. From this point on I was careful to never actually touch the head with my hands, I just handled it with paper towel, rubber gloves would also have worked. I then spread some mustard on the metal head, then wrapped it in paper towel and then soaked it in vinegar for about an hour. The acid from both the mustard and the vinegar forced oxidization at different rates which created a unique pattern.

Finally, a use for mustard

Finally, a use for mustard

Wrap in paper towel and soak in vinegar

Wrap in paper towel and soak in vinegar

 

What it looked like after an hour

What it looked like after an hour

I unwrapped it and rinsed it in the sink to remove all the surface rust. In my research I had seen people leaving the head in a jar of vinegar for a more even finish, if you wanted a wilder one you could use a lot more mustard and wrap it in plastic. This is a part where you can really get creative and make something interesting, there aren’t a lot ways to do it wrong.

Now that my tomahawk head had no finish on it and had already been rusting I needed to do something to make sure it wouldn’t start rusting the first time I took it outside. I was informed that the best solution was to heat it with a hair dryer and then coat it with a protective oil. So I heated it up and wrapped it in an old rag soaked in a CLP (Clean, Lube, and Protect) there are many of these on the market but I opted to use “Frog Lube” for no reason other than I had some handy. Wd-40 would likely work just as well. I then left it to soak and cool over night.

The following day I put the now completed head onto the previously completed handle, but something was still missing. So I decided to fancy up the handle a bit with a leather wrap. I could try and explain how I did it but it would be much easier to link this video that showed me how to do it.

The finished product

The finished product

I opted not to put the set-screw back in. In an emergency if I ever break the handle I can just pull the head off and use it to make a new handle.

I found that I had trouble getting the head to stop wobbling on the handle so I put a wrap of tape under it, it worked well but kinda feels like cheating… so dont tell anyone I told you. If you have any questions feel free to ask, also search online for “custom cold steel tomahawk” and you will find a lot of fancy projects and an overwhelming amount of information on the subject.


Posted in How-Towith 2 comments.

Last Chance Cleaning

It seems my last chance buck is staying true to its name. After two years of alternating between the barn in winter and an ant hill in summer, it appeared I needed a more drastic solution to cleaning it. Given that I plan on putting my possessions in storage and leaving the country next year, it appears this summer is my last chance to turn this skull into the european mount that I intended.

I had already taken the first step and cleaned off as much of the hair, meat, etc. that I could from the skull. The problem is that I did that last year, so by now it was very dry and slightly rotten, I opted not to post a picture of this, but trust me, it was bad. I then assembled my cooker, and installed the head, all while holding my breath.

The Setup

The Setup

 

I used a propane tiger torch propped on a rock as a burner, which then heated an old wash basin sitting atop two cinder blocks. Any large pot and burner will do, as long as it will fit the skull and heat the water to near boiling. After much research I have found that actually boiling the water is bad for the skull. Finally I wired the antlers to the edges, some people tie them to lumber, the key is to keep them out of the water to avoid discoloration. I opted to put the skull in before the water started to get hot so as to avoid burning my hands while wiring the skull to the right depth.

Initially I had just used plain water but once it was hot I decided that a grease cutting dish soap might be a good plan, it seemed to work well for me. While the water heated I gathered up some tools to help scrape and clean off what I could. I used a long set of pliers, a putty knife, and a heavy bristled dish scrubber.  The dish scrubber can no longer be used on dishes.

Essential Tools

Essential Tools

This was my first attempt at cleaning a skull so I wasn’t sure what would work, in the end I found that the putty knife worked best, while the dish scrubber was just shy of useless. The technique I used was simple but time consuming. I heated the large basin to a simmer and every few hours I would pull the head out and scrape, brush, and grab at it with the pliers… in no particular order.

Elbow Grease Turned Out To Be A Key Ingredient

Elbow Grease Turned Out To Be A Key Ingredient

 

In total it took somewhere in the neighborhood of nine hours and five beers to complete. That said it didn’t require constant attention so I was able to do some yard work and visit with a friend while I cleaned it.

All Cleaned Up

All Cleaned Up

 

All said and done, I think it looks pretty good cleaned up. It has a bit of a natural yellow colour to it and I am told that many people opt bleach or paint it for that bright white finish. I may in the future paint it, but for now I do believe I’ll leave it.


Posted in How-To, Huntingwith 3 comments.