Many have freezers overflowing with venison or filled with fish fillets, and some have a bounty of both.
You've eaten a lot, but there's plenty more, and what are you going to do with that? I've a few suggestions. Smoked fish is a tasty way to use up excess fish, and it's easy to do. The best fish for smoking are slightly oily: salmon, trout, channel cats, sheepshead, and carp top the list. I do smaller sized channel cats most often, removing head, fins, and intestines, then scoring the sides deeply with a sharp knife.
You'll want to brine them first, and I use a simple brine made of one gallon water, 1 1/3 cups of canning salt, and 2/3 cup brown sugar. It's usual to brine three to five pounds of fish for about 12 hours, but you'll want to experiment here. Do just two to three pieces for your first attempt, and if they prove too salty, cut down brining time. Thin fillets will need less brining than thick ones, too, so again, experiment. You'll need a smoker, and I've seen some good home-made ones, including one made of an old refrigerator with the motor removed from below and a hot plate installed.
But it's a lot easier to buy one either online or at your local sporting goods store. They don't cost much and last for many years, at least mine has. My Little Chief smoker has three racks and a skillet below for smoking sawdust, and after you've brined the fish, rinse them well, place on waxed paper until dry, then stack them on the racks side by side. I like hickory sawdust, also available at most sporting goods stores, but you can use apple, alder, or other sawdust excluding evergreens and oak.
For the first batch, do watch your fish carefully. Some smokers are hotter than others, and the fish may be thick or thin, so check it every two hours and when the pieces are golden brown, remove them and make sure they're done by breaking open a piece and trying it. Need more smoking? Give it more.
For deer jerky, you'll want to thaw out some steaks or roasts or even neck meat, and cut it across the grain rather than lengthwise, which makes it tough to break off pieces and chew. It's best to cut slices while half frozen at least (easy to cut) or better yet, have your meat processor do it for you. I make my jerky the simple way, by laying the strips on waxed paper, then painting one side and the other with Worcestershire sauce before sprinkling lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Then it goes into the smoker to dry and blacken into jerky. I use one pan of sawdust initially to give the pieces a pleasing smoky taste, then just let it dry. You'll want to check the venison every two hours or so until the pieces are very dry and will break when you snap them. Then make A LOT using the same time. Place in bags in your freezer to be taken on hunting trips, camping, long hikes, and just snacks between meals.
Again, do experiment. Instead of Worcestershire sauce you might try soy sauce, or teriyaki sauce, garlic and onion powder, cayenne pepper. chili pepper, or a combination of these. Let your tastebuds be your guide.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• The Ohio Division of Wildlife has closed the largest case in its 146-year history. The case primarily concerned the illegal taking and sale of Lake Erie sport fish and whitetail deer meat products in counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. Nine defendants wee charged with corrupt activity and and associated crimes, and the items seized included one vehicle, 96 deer and turkey mounts, 35 sets of antlers, more than 200 pounds of filleted sport fish, and 400 pounds of processed deer meat. The defendants lost hunting and fishing rights and paid many thousands of dollars in fines.
• The Ohio Office of TourismOhio has released its new Ohio Travel Guide and Spring/Summer Ohio Calender of Events. All publications are available free at Ohio.org. The Guide will help travelers to plan Ohio getaways, and features in-depth stories on where to play, dine, shop, and stay in each of Ohio's five sections.
• Need another good reason to hunt or trap coyotes this winter? At a recent Ohio Fur Trappers Association fur sale No. 1 coyote pelts ranged from $25 to a whopping $62 bucks, and averaged about $48. Which means that a few days of seeking them could bring you several hundred dollars. They're more than worth the effort.
• Quick note — Planting milkweed seeds by volunteers has worked! The yearly count of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico was up 144 percent last year.