By: Andrew Pelletier
Welcome to the third edition of the Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal. November is the month that our nation gives thanks and deer camp and deer hunting is on every sportsman’s mind. For thousands of years, many cultures have hunted and thanked the spirits of the animals that provided them with skins for clothing, bones for tool making and lean meat protein to sustain their people. We’ll take a look at how different cultures have honored and continue to honor the spirits of the game they harvest. We’ll offer up some deer camp recipes and we’ll hit the salt out of Point Judith for some late fall Cod fishing and a chance to fill the freezer with some tasty filets. Throw another log in the stove and pour another mug of java and enjoy the November Deer Camp Edition of Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal.
I remember the first bird I ever took while hunting, a hen pheasant. I recall how sobering the moment was, how I thought that there was no such thing as “catch and release” in hunting. I remember offering some silent words of thanks in my mind to the bird’s spirit, a promise that its life was not taken in malice and would not be wasted. I recall how delicious that bird was at the table and how I used its feathers to tie flies with. Over thirty years later that pheasant lives in my memory because I honored its spirit. It’s a tradition that I continue to this day with all creatures I harvest, large or small – finned, furred or feathered.
I recall an interesting article about different cultures around the world and how they pay homage or give thanks to an animal they’ve harvested. In Germany it’s called “Letzer Biss” or last bite. A sprig of evergreen is broken, not cut, and dipped in the animal’s blood. The hunter, or “jaeger,” places the sprig in the animal’s mouth and the animal’s spirit is thanked. The jaeger then places the sprig in their hat band, on the left, and is worn there until the evening. The sprigs are saved, and displayed as a symbol of reverence and remembrance of the animal. North American Indians sprinkled cornmeal or tobacco around the animal’s mouth as an offering to the animal’s spirit. They believed that the animals they hunted would only reveal themselves when they offered themselves to the hunter as a gift to their people. If the hunter who took the animal did not offer a prayer or tobacco ceremony to the animal’s spirit, that hunter would never again be offered the gift of meat, hide, bones and sinew for his people.
Some cultures believe that stepping over or straddling an animal is offensive to its spirit. I also make it a point not to celebrate until the animal has expired. I find it disrespectful when the guys on these hunting shows are laughing, high-fiving and fist-bumping even before the animal is down or while ducks or geese are falling from the sky or wing-beating on the ground or water. There is nothing more solemn than taking a life, no matter how great or small. Poaching and disobeying hunting laws and regulations is the ultimate in disrespect.
What can the modern hunter do to pay homage to game they harvest? Start by being as skilled as you can be. Know your hunting implements and practice at being the best shot you can be. Bow, shotgun or rifle… shot placement is critical to a quick and humane kill. Don’t take risky shots out of range or through thick brush and wait for the cleanest shot possible. Use a scope if your eyes are not as keen as they used to be. Be the best tracker you can be. Give the animal time to expire and never give up tracking an animal prematurely. Sometimes recovery is closer than you might believe. Learn how to properly field dress game and properly care for it from field to table. The effort spent on field care will be clearly evident at the table. Only shoot what you intend to use. If you have more than you need, share the bounty with family, friends and neighbors. Get some wild game cook books and get the most from those precious frozen packages of game in your freezer.
If you are fortunate this year, perhaps a deer may offer itself to sustain you and yours. Take a little time and offer a few unspoken words of reverence and thank the deer’s spirit. Paying homage deepens the experience of hunting and is a simple tradition you can pass down to your children as you teach them how to not only be the best hunter they can be… but to be as respectful as they can be.
What’s In Season For November?
For current Licensing, Tagging & Reporting, permits, bag limits, hunting areas and special conditions go to www.ct.gov/dep/hunting
Firearms season started on November 1st*
Archery Deer CLOSED on November 15th and re-opens on December 21st in state land that offers firearms deer hunting. Private land and state land DEER BOWHUNTING ONLY areas remain open through December 31st.
*Free Landowner Deer Season started on November 1st and is open until December 31st. Revolver Deer endorsement is required for hunting with a revolver/handgun.
Private Land Shotgun/Rifle started on November 16th and is open until December 6th. Revolver Deer endorsement is required for hunting with a revolver/handgun. Private Land Consent Forms must be filled out by the Landowner.
State Land No-Lottery, Lottery and Controlled Hunting A SEASON started on November 16th and is open until November 25th. Only one permit type may be bought each year. Lottery and Controlled Area hunting permits applications were due on June 1st. Hunters wishing to hunt deer may hunt in NO LOTTERY AREAS if they didn’t get their applications in by June 1st.
State Land No-Lottery, Lottery and Controlled Hunting B SEASON starts on November 26th and is open until December 6th. Only one permit type may be bought each year. Lottery and Controlled Area hunting permits applications were due on June 1st. Hunters wishing to hunt deer may hunt in NO LOTTERY AREAS if they didn’t get their applications in by June 1st.
Upland Bird Hunting
Pheasant continues through November and ends on December 31st (a series of pheasant tags are required to hunt pheasants)
Ruffed Grouse continues through November and ends on November 30th (Hunters should think about NOT hunting grouse due to depleted grouse populations statewide)
Chukar Partridge continues through November and ends on December 31st
Crow continues through November and ends on December 31st
Waterfowl Hunting (Season dates are relative to the AP unit local for NewHartfordPlus waterfowl hunters)
Requires a Valid Federal and State Waterfowl stamp as well as a CT H.I.P. Permit. For more Waterfowling info. go to: http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2700&q=323426&depNav_GID=1633#WFSEAS
Ducks, Merganzers and Coots Late season started on November 9th and ends on January 5th
Canadian Geese Late season started on November 9th and ends on January 5th
Snow and Blue Geese continues through November and ends on January 14th. Late season starts on February 22nd and ends on March 10th
Woodcock and Snipe continues through November and ends on December 10th
Small Game Hunting
Grey Squirrel continues through November and ends on December 31st
Cottontail Rabbit continues through November and ends on December 31st
Snowshoe Hare continues through November and ends on December 31st
European Hare continues through November and ends on December 31st
Woodchuck ended on November 15th
Fox And Coyote Hunting
Red and Grey Fox Season continues through November and ends on December 31st
Coyote Season continues through November and ends on December 31st
Raccoon And Opossum Hunting
Raccoon Season continues through November and ends on December 31st
Opossum Season continues through November and ends on December 31st
Know and completely understand all hunting regulations BEFORE you head out!!!! Questions? Go to www.ct.gov/dep/hunting
Local Hunting Areas
Maps for most of these areas can be found at www.ct.gov/dep/hunting.
- State Land
- People’s State Forest – Barkhamsted (2,942 acres)
- American Legion State Forest – Barkhamsted (1,037 acres)
- Nepaug State Forest – New Hartford (1,367 acres)
- Tunxis State Forest – Hartland (9518 acres)
- Wildlife Management Areas
- Cedar Swamp WMA – New Hartford/Torrington (278 acres)
- Roraback WMA – Harwinton (1,975 acres)
- State Leased and Public Access Areas
- MDC – Greenwoods Pond – New Hartford (400 acres)
- MDC -Colebrook Reservoir/ Hogback Dam – Colebrook/Hartland, etc. (4,159 acres)
Wild Game Cookery
Venison Heart And Tongue
November, and here in the Northeast, a hunter’s thoughts are focused on deer hunting. November is the time of the rut, when the bucks will be chasing and bedding close to the does. It is a time when a buck will let his guard down and move at all hours of the day in search of receptive does, which gives the hunter a better chance at filling the freezer with prime cuts of venison. In deer camp, a successful hunter has a fine deer hanging on the gambrel, aging in the chill November air.
Dressing the deer was done afield and the heart, tongue and, if the deer is young enough, the liver were retained. Traditionally, these are the first venison brought to the table in deer camp. The seasoned hunter knows and anticipates the fine dining to come while the deer hangs and ages before processing the entire deer into various cuts of venison. A pressure cooker is invaluable in deer camp. The heart can be sliced and trimmed and put in the pressure cooker along with the tongue. Add to that beef broth to cover and a couple bay leaves. Put it on the stove on high and listen for the pressure cooker to begin to hiss, then bring the heat down below medium for an hour. The heart and tongue are pure muscle and come out super tender and delicious. The tongue’s rough outer skin peels away from the inner muscle. A camp lunch favorite is thin-sliced heart and tongue on a fresh hard roll. Stir together 2 tbsp. of horseradish and 3 tbsp. mayonnaise and put the mixture on top of the sliced meat with some salt and pepper. Simple and Delicious!
Venison Liver has fallen out of favor due to recent health warnings about Cadmium and Mercury concerns. Deer liver can be safely eaten in moderation from younger deer. Some of the best liver i’ve ever had was in deer camp in Canada, trimmed and sliced very thin and breaded in a flour and bread crumb mixture and simply fried in butter until it’s golden brown. Even those who don’t like liver can’t get over how good venison liver can be.
The pièce de résistance are the tenderloins that are carefully removed from inside the hanging deer. These are what would be called the filet mignon and are so tender they can be cut with a fork and melt in your mouth. Camp cooking is all about simple and the tenderloin is no exception. The whole tenderloins are both trimmed of the silvery outer tissue with a sharp knife. Then the trimmed tenderloins are cut into 1/2″ thick medallions. In a hot (medium high) iron skillet add some butter. The medallions of filet are then quickly seared for no longer than 1 minute on each side. In deer camp these precious medallions never have a chance to grace a plate as they are eaten straight from the iron skillet by some very lucky hunters! Hopefully someone else will be lucky tomorrow… the camp larder needs to be restocked!
November is also the start of cod season and as luck would have it, we are within a couple of hours’ drive of Rhode Island and some of the finest cod fishing on the East Coast. Each year the cod gather off Block Island and the fishing remains productive throughout the winter months. My outfitter of choice is the Frances Fleet out of Point Judith. Their boats are fairly fast and are close to the action which means more time to fish. At times clams for bait is the way to go, but this time of year and into the winter months sees huge schools of cod chasing bait fish like mackerel and herring. Heavy jigs and a teaser rig tipped with a rubber shrimp or squid strips are deadly when the cod are aggressively chasing the bait fish, so bring a variety of jigs in different weights. You can rent a rod or bring your own. A stout rod capable of handling weights and jigs up to 14 ounces and a matching reel with at least 150 yards of 25 – 50 lb. test mono or 60 lb. test braided line are recommended.
First and foremost, watch the weather and plan your trip around the best weather windows possible. One helpful site online is the Weather Underground at wunderground.com. The site gives fairly accurate information such as wind speed and wave height. Generally, wave height from 3 to 5 feet will rock the largest party boats. Those prone to seasickness should always take motion sickness medication. Be warned that motion sickness drugs will not help you if taken at the dock just before boarding. Take a dose 24 hours pre-trip, then another dose at least an hour before boarding. Drink plenty of water as these medications will dehydrate you.
Make sure you bring the proper clothing. Always dress in layers so you can remove or add clothes to stay comfortable. Waterproof bibs, a slicker and rubber boots will keep you dry all day and you can wash off any bait or crud that you get on them. I always bring a back pack in which I stow gear and extra clothing.
You will be drifting or anchored over structure. Cod feed at the bottom, so whether you’re using bait or jigs, staying in touch with the bottom is extremely important. Bring an assortment of lead weights and jigs from 4 to 16 ounces. You should be able to feel the weight hit bottom every time you lift your rod tip and drop it. If you can’t, add more weight or ask the mate how much you should be using. If you are drifting, the ideal position on the boat is with your line angling slightly away from you. In this position you can free spool line out to keep on the bottom as you drift. However, on a crowded party boat, your line will sometimes angle under the boat. It is crucial to hold the bottom in this situation. Don’t free spool your line more than twice to stay in touch with the bottom. This is when tangles with fishermen on the other side of the boat happen. Tangles take away from precious fishing time and ties up the mates. Add weight to avoid tangles.
Your best source of knowledge comes from the guys who work on these boats everyday. They’ll show you how to use the equipment and bait the hooks. They’re there when you snag bottom, when you’re tangled with someone on the other side of the boat and when you get a bird’s nest in the reel. Most of all, they’re there when they gaff that cod of a lifetime. For a small fee they will filet your cod and package it for the ride home. Ask questions and you’ll find these guys really know their stuff. At the end of the trip, give them a well-deserved tip. These guys work hard and depend on your generosity. It is customary to tip 15-20% of the cost of the fare.
The limit on cod in Rhode Island is 10 fish per day at 22″. A 22″ cod weighs roughly 5-6 pounds and sometimes big cod up to 30 – 35 pounds are taken, Who knows… you might even win the pool for biggest fish if you buy in!
Share Your Photos And Experiences With Us!
We encourage those who hunt, fish or observe wildlife to share their pictures and stories with us and other readers. Please send your photos with and stories to: http://newhartfordplus.com and we’ll be happy to post them in future editions of The Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal.
We wish all of you a safe and successful season!