Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's crazy to think that here we are, New Year's Eve of 2011!  If you are like me you say it every year, where did the year go?  This was a year that I had a lot of high hopes to get in some hunting and fishing in new areas, or places I haven't been in a long time.  Well, trying to landscape our yard, followed by 10 weeks fighting fires in Texas kind of took the wind out of those sails!  If anything, I have had a lot of time to think of and plan out what I want to do during 2012.  Speaking of planning a new year, as I fished with friends this week we talked a lot about what hunts and fishing trips we want to shoot for this coming year.  Today I also received an email from another friend who has the same thing on his mind.  Stay tuned this week as my buddy Steve Barker has written down some thoughts to share about planning out your year of hunting.  It's some great information that I think you will really find very interesting.

I know I have said it before, but as the year draws to a close I again want to thank all of you who have viewed this blog, contributed to the blog, and those of you who have encouraged me to start this adventure, and for letting me know how much you enjoy it and want to see it continue.  I have to thank my wife for giving me the "shove" in the right direction to start the blog, and for allowing me to take the time to keep up on it.  It takes a fair amount of time from her and the kids, she is a strong woman that keeps this family running and this page wouldn't exist without her!  I also have to say I have the best friends anyone could ask for!  Thank you all for the support, and for sharing this with those around you.

 This blog currently averages around 150 views per day, and we are nearing 5,000 views after a little over 2 months!  Today I learned that I have viewers in British Columbia, Canada that check in the the page on a regular basis, as well as returning viewers from Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona.  I never thought this would take off so fast, and I owe it all to those of you that share it!  Thank you so much!  I look forward to hearing from you all in the coming year as we get out and enjoy the outdoors!  Keep the stories coming...even if you are not from Southern Utah or if it has nothing to do with Southern Utah! 

Also, be sure to check out the Bragging Board as Steve Barker and Garth Jenson of Cedar City share a couple of beauties with us that they caught at Panguitch Lake this past week.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fishing Reports, Dec. 30, 2011

Fish Lake
I was finally able to get out on the ice again yesterday!  I have spent the week trying to find a day that would work for a group of us, and during that time I was really trying to figure out which lake I wanted to fish most this week.  I wish there was enough free time to get to them all, but that's just not how life works!  With reports of Panguitch Lake and Otter Creek slowing down, I decided it was time to give the Fish Lake lodge a call to check on the ice there.  They reported 6 to 8 inches of ice and fishermen out on it.  With this report, and 10 minutes later a phone call from a friend out on the lake, I knew Fish Lake was where I wanted to go, it being my favorite ice fishing destination.  As for the other lakes?  Well, it just so happened that I had friends heading to each lake, so it worked out perfectly to get a report of each body of water!  Now let me break down a report for each lake for you.

Fish Lake:  We arrived at the lake and parked at the spot to access our favorite hole on the lake.  We ventured out and found that the ice in that area was not all that impressive, as varied from 4-6 inches but also did not look so great.  We looked to the south bay where other fishermen were, and the ice appeared to be a better color.  So we moved to that location and found better ice.  In about 10-15 feet of water, just as the weed line begins to taper to greater depths we were quickly into the perch.  Perch were hitting about any small jig tipped with meal worms...except mine, which would become a pattern for the day!

We moved to 20 feet, switched to larger light colored jigs, and tipped the jigs with cut up perch meat.  Here we found slow fishing for smaller rainbows and splake.  Moving to 30 to 45 feet we finally got into some better action.  Fish were suspended at various depths, most being in the 25 to 35 foot range.  The fish finder was going nuts in this location most of the day, but fishing was fair at best...not the Fish Lake we have been used to.  My grandpa, Marvin Porter had the bragging rights of the day with most fish caught and the biggest fish, with 2 splake each coming in just over 2 pounds each. 

As a successful group left, Zach Kunz of Cedar City was quick to move into their spot and found fast fishing for a time for smaller rainbows, splake, and perch.  He was fishing in about 10 to 15 feet of water, where he also could see large fish swimming around that seemed uninterested with our jigs!  This must have been a sweet little fishing hole, as nobody else around could catch a thing!
Zach Owens and Ryan Dastrup of Panguitch, and myself were a little more stubborn as we were determined to catch the fish lighting up the fish finder all day.  That didn't go so well, so we went in search of larger fish in deeper water, hoping to find lake trout.  We fished a range of 60-85 feet of water, where the finder did locate a few fish but ww were unable to get as much as a nibble.

A cruise up the lake at the end of the day revealed a shocking sight!  Much of the lake had opened up under warm conditions during the day!  We were amazed to see open water everywhere to the north of us, where ice had been visible hours before.  I think we will hold off for a couple of weeks before heading back, as the forecast is calling for very warm conditions for the next 7 days!  Come back winter!  On a side note, Clinton Shakespear of Escalante fished the lake the day before and their group reported that fishing was hot!  So don't get to down about your luck if any of these lakes are slow for you, it may have nothing to do with techniques, maybe it's just the day.

Otter Creek:  Travis Shakespear of Henrieville reports that fishing at Otter Creek was fairly good yesterday.  His group fished the lake from 10 AM to around 2:30 PM coming home with 8 fish, which were very fat and healthy!  Travis says that they probably missed that many or more as well, while fishing with light colored jigs tipped with meal worm, in about 6 to 8 feet of water.  The ice is now about 12" thick, but getting very soft near the edges with this warm weather.  Use caution getting out there until winter decides to come back to us!

Panguitch Lake:  I have had several mixed reports from Panguitch lake.  Last week, about everyone I spoke with said the fishing was terrible, as they also said about Otter Creek.  I am receiving similar reports this week, although Steve Barker of Cedar City did report that one of their trips last week was very good.  His group moved to a new spot on the lake and found great success for numbers of fish as well as larger fish, using light colored jigs tipped with meal worms.  A return trip to the lake yesterday was not the same story, as slow fishing conditions returned!  Panguitch Lake in the past has always been easy to pressure!  Get away from the crowds, and if you are not catching fish move to a new spot!  I will be heading up there Saturday, so stay tuned for another report.  Ice is nearly a foot thick now, however use caution near the shore as ice melts during these warm days!

Zach Kunz not giving up on Fish Lake

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our highlights of 2011

I've been sitting here tonight, flipping through the picture folder on the computer, looking back at all the great memories that have been made in the outdoors over the past year.  This time of year can be tough to find material to write about!  Even though I have freedom from work for a week the kids are out of school and I need to spend time with them, there's family to go see, and oh yes, there is also the list of "honey-do's" I'm sure every married guy is familiar with.  Well, I'm trying to get out as much as possible, but as I look back I thought this might be a good time to share some of our families memorable outdoor experiences this year.

I hope you enjoy what I have to post...I wish there was more!  I spent nearly 10 weeks on fire assignments in Texas this summer, time I sure wish could have been spent with my family in the outdoors.  There were some great things that happened that I will never forget in the short time I was in the field this year though!  I caught my largest fish to date, a 13 1/2 pound splake trout.  At 37 inches it would have blown the state catch and release record out of the water had I known it at the time!  I also landed several lake trout on the same lake, another first for me.  I had some awesome trips to the higher lakes on the mountain here early on, we were actually busting through snowdrifts on the hike in this year.  During two days I was able to catch 4 species of trout (tiger trout, colorado river cutthroat, brook trout, and rainbow trout).  My kids out-fished their dad on almost every trip I took them on and I couldn't be more proud! 

Top it all off with an amazing hunting season.  Although I did not bag a buck this year, I was able to set a friend up on an awesome 25" toad.  I spent 7 days crawling all over the Dutton range as I was able to hunt with my brother who had waited 14 years for his limited entry elk tag.  There are so many other stories in between! 

Recently my friend Steve Barker shared with me a video he had created during his 2011 outdoors season.  At over 30 minutes long, this video showcased Steve and his hunting group as they roamed Utah and surrounding states hunting a wide variety of game.  The video really impressed me!  Steve compiles the video and pictures to create the video himself, and gives a copy to each guy in the group.  What a way to keep the memories.  I can't wait to start my own this coming year.  Thanks for sharing Steve!  May all of you have a very successful 2012!  Get out in the field and make the most of it!

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Monday, December 26, 2011

More mulies in the rut!

Tonight's post is going to be kind of short and sweet...I've been a little under the weather and our family is still trying to recover from Christmas!  I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, and I again want to thank you for visiting the blog!  Now that the presents are unwrapped and the holiday season is winding down hopefully we can all get back out in the outdoors and have some fun with our new toys!

First of all, I want to share a very interesting photo with you, taken by Spenser Owens of Panguitch, Utah.  While coyote hunting Spenser told me about spotting this mature mountain goat on the east side of Mount Dutton, near John's Valley (which is just north of Bryce, Utah).  These magnificent animals have been spotted on the Dutton range in the past, but this guy had wandered way down into the pinyon, cedar, and sage...not where you would ever picture catching a glimpse of a mountain goat!  Take a look at this photo, as well as some more great southern Utah rut bucks captured on film by Spenser!

 And now here's a few more taken by Travis Shakespear of Henrieville Utah.

This guy is a little hard to see but check out that spread!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Texas Brisket...The Final Steps

Well, here I am posting this late tonight, I'm still recovering from my food coma from another amazing brisket!  I had a little trouble maintaining 225 degrees in the grill last night as it was very cold and windy, but my brisket that I put on at 3 AM was still ready to eat by 6:30 PM.  So now let me tell you the last bits of information you need to finish your brisket off.
OK, last night I talked about cooking your brisket on indirect heat at 225 degrees.  I'm not sure if I mentioned you can plan on the total cooking time being around 1 1/2 hour per pound of meat.  I also talked about the "stall".  It usually occurs around 150 degrees, but for the second time in a row my brisket hit the stall at 160 degrees.  It took about 3 hours before the temperature started to rise above 160.  One it started to come out of this stall, I moved the brisket to a "Texas Crutch." 

The Texas crutch can also help you power through the stall faster if you choose to do so.  The main purpose is to maintain moisture.  It's a fairly easy step, and at this point you will be able to move it to the oven, so you won't have to check on it as often, or keep adding wood chips!  You can just use foil if you like, but I prefer using a "turkey sized" aluminum roasting pan.  Place your brisket in the pan, then pour one cup of beef broth in the pan with it.  Don't pour it over the meat, that will wash the seasoning off!  Just pour around the brisket.  Now, cover the top of the roasting pan with aluminum foil.  Either leave the meat thermometer in the brisket (under the foil) or push it through the foil and back into the thickest part of the brisket.  That is what I prefer to do so you can monitor the temperature without opening the foil.  Set your oven around 225 to 235 degrees, or you can continue to cook it in the crutch on the grill if you prefer. 

When is the brisket done?  I shoot for an internal temperature of 190 degrees, some prefer going up to 195 degrees.  I have also pulled one off when it reached 185.  Anything over 180 is acceptable. For your first time I would shoot for 190.  There is another way to check.  Take the brisket out and poke it.  If it jiggles, it's probably done, if it seems firm it may need more time.  This is what some pros call the "wabba wabba" point.  Check out the video clip as I check my brisket.  It is easy to see that it hit this wabba wabba point, and I pulled it off at 190 degrees.  If you pull it off under 180 degrees, be cautioned, you may end up with a stomach ache!

Hold on, you're not done yet!  Now you need to put the brisket through a "rest" period, of at least 1 to 2 hours.  Get yourself a good plastic cooler big enough to hold a brisket, and wrap the inside in a towel or blanket.  Set your brisket in the cooler, still in the foil.  Cover the top with the blanket or towel and close the cooler lid.  The brisket can set in there for nearly 4 hours and will most likely stay above 180 degrees.  I put mine to rest for 2 hours and it was still 185 degrees when I pulled it out.

slicing the flat
Finally, how do you slice the thing?  Well, start with the flat, that is the easy part (remember, the flat is the thinnest part of the brisket).  Simply start on the end and slice in thin strips until you get to when the brisket gets thicker, near the point.  Now, slice the point as near to half as you can.  The butt end of the point can be cut in the same direction that you cut the flat.  As for the middle section (that should now have been cut on both ends) rotate this section and cut the opposite of how you cut the flat.  The grain changes here and is easier to cut.  Check out the diagrams for a better visual.

cutting the point in half
You can serve the cuts just as they are, or wipe some barbecue sauce on it and make a sandwich out of it.  Now, you probably noticed you have a lot of little pieces, some shreds of meat, and the crispy pieces known ans "burnt ends".  These are perfect for shredding and soaking in BBQ sauce for sandwich meat.  The burnt ends contain tons of flavor and as far as sandwiches go, they are my favorite! 
slicing the "butt" portion of the point
slicing the middle portion

A lot of this has been quick and dirty, but these are the basics.  I am 4 for 4 on successful briskets, and I tell you the leftovers don't last long...if there are any!  Give it a try, you will be glad you did.  If you have further questions drop me a line and I will discuss it more with you.  Good luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Texas Brisket...Part 2

Here we are, 24 hours later!  I have opened the refrigerator several times today and each time I have done so my mouth has watered at the smell of the brisket that I prepared with rub last night!  Well, it's going to water for quite a while longer.  It won't even make it to my grill until about 2 AM!  It sounds crazy to some, for sure, but it is going to payoff big time at about 6 PM tomorrow!  So, I don't expect you to wake up with me at 2 AM to catch up on how I am cooking the brisket, so I will roll out the next steps for you right now.  Remember, check back tomorrow night or Friday for an update about some of the final steps in cooking your brisket.
Gas grill setup.  "D" is the meat thermometer probe.  E is the oven probe.

If you are using a smoker/cooker then cooking will be a breeze, and you might even get a good amount of sleep!  We are wanting to preheat that smoker (or grill) to 235 degrees.  Now, the time it takes to cook the brisket will vary greatly on a few factors; how big the brisket is, how steady your heat stays, and if you use foil to wrap it, which speeds up the cooking process, which we will talk about in a minute.  A lot of the steps will be determined by meat temperature.  So, take your meat thermometer and slide the probe into the point, the thickest part of the brisket.  I usually place it in the meat from the side, versus the top.  It puts the end of the probe more center in the thickest part of the brisket.

If you are using a grill, here is how we are going to turn it into a smoker!  The first thing to know is you will cook the meat on indirect heat.  So, if you have 3 burners, slide the brisket over 2 of the burners, and turn the remaining burner ON.  Make sure the 2 burners under the meat do NOT get turned on.  Before you turn any heat on, take out one of your aluminum "turkey sized" disposable roasting pans, fill it with water, and set it on the 2 burners that will not be turned on.  This will provide moisture to the meat, as well as a pan to catch the drippings.  Now turn on the gas and preheat to 235.  Place your "oven" thermometer on the grill rack where your brisket will be placed.  Use this thermometer, NOT your built in thermometer to make sure you have it preheated right.  The built in ones are very inaccurate, mine is almost 20 degrees off!

When you have achieved 235, place the brisket on the grill over your water pan (with the fat side facing up)away from the burner that is on.  The temperature will drop when you place the cold meat on the rack, but relax, it will recover.  Now it may be hard to keep the temperature steady, especially this time of year.  It's windy and cold tonight, I will have to check it often!  Just remember, you start pushing 240 degrees and it's getting to hot.  It will cook to fast and be tough.  if you fall to 225 you will be OK.  Just stay in the 225 to 240 range.  Keep your oven thermometer next to the meet for better accuracy.  Now add about 4 ounces of mesquite chunks.  I like to put the wood in another smaller aluminum tin, like a small bread tin, and place it close to the heat.  Soak your chips in water before you place them on, they will smoke better.  You want them to smoke slowly, not burn.  When the smoke stops, add another 4 ounces, this will happen about every 30 minutes.  Do this for at least the first 2 hours.  After that, the smoke won't penetrate much more, but I like to keep it going longer, every bit helps.  Also make sure your water doesn't evaporate!  Add more when needed to keep the meat from drying out.

After 3 hours, if you notice the meat is different colored from top to bottom turn it over.  If not, leave it.  I have never had to turn mine.  The temperature will move steadily upward until it "stalls" around 250 degrees.  Now this next part is critical!  Many people will turn up the heat during this stall.  The stall, in fact, is the most important step to the cooking process on the brisket!  This is when the fatty strands inside the meat break down, tenderizing the meat.  This stall can last up to 5 hours, during which time the temp may only rise by 5 degrees.  Relax, take a nap, whatever you need to do, but don't worry, the stall will pass.  Don't turn up the heat!

Well, that's as far as we are going to go tonight.  Tomorrow I will go over the "Texas Crutch" and the "Rest" period, as well as how to slice a brisket.  Be sure to check back in!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

BBQ Beef Brisket...The First Steps

Many of you have asked for it, so now here it is!  I had originally thought I would never share my secrets to brisket, but what good is it keeping something like this to yourself?  Much of the recipe is in fact taken from but I have thrown in a few little tweaks that have turned out great!  I would recommend the amazing ribs website for a great variety of awesome BBQ recipes. 

This first post will focus on preparing a brisket for the grill or smoker.  That's right, if you don't have a fancy smoker, don't be discouraged!  I will show you a method that you can use with your BBQ grill that will both smoke and cook your meat.  I will demonstrate that tomorrow, but for now let's talk about the brisket in particular.
A whole packer brisket is quite a sight!  Typically, these big hunks of meat weigh in between 10 and 16 pounds, the average being about 14 pounds.  So now you are thinking, what am I going to do with all of that meat?  Or, can I have it cut into a smaller portion to fit my needs?  Well, you can find "cut" briskets, in the 6-8 pound range.  I would NOT suggest this.  With the smaller portions the meat will not cook the same, it most likely will be tough.  Stick with the whole packer brisket.  I guess you had just better plan on feeding a crowd or leftovers for a while!  Also, corned beef brisket is not the same as a regular brisket.  It has been "corned" which is an entirely different style of flavor.

 Now, before we get to preparing the meat, here are a couple of good things to know about the brisket.  This cut of meat has 2 main parts; the "point" (B) and the "flat" (A).  There are also a few different fat layers that separate these parts, as you will see in the diagrams.  The "point" is the thickest part of the brisket.  It contains the most fat layers, therefore is much more tender and moist.  The "flat" is a leaner portion of meat, and is most likely what you have been served in a restaurant when it comes to brisket.  Both are very tasty, but there are different ways to slice them, which we will get to when it is finished in a couple of days!  At this point it will just be good to know what the parts are when they are mentioned.

You want to start preparing the brisket about 24 hours before you are ready to start cooking it.  Keep in mind the brisket will take a good 12-16 hours to cook as well!  This project is not for the weary!  Rush it and you will ruin it.  Follow the directions and you can't go wrong. 

"silver skin" is visible in this photo (light areas on top)

The first step in preparing the brisket is trimming off the "silver skin".  The silver skin is tissue that can be very tough that sometimes does not fully get trimmed off of the whole packer brisket.  Simply "fillet" and of the silver skin that you find remaining off of the brisket.  Next, you will know some big chunks of fat on the brisket.  Ideally, you want about 1/4 inch of the fat remaining in all areas of the brisket.  Some people do not trim any fat at all.  This is up to you, but the meat will cook a little faster if you trim it down to 1/4 inch.  If you get to deep and hit the meat, don't worry, it will be OK!

Next, lightly coat the oil in vegetable oil, rubbing the oil into the meat.  The oil is going to help the meat to absorb the rub, which you are now ready for.  In a small bowl mix the following ingredients:

3 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons table salt
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili or ancho powder
1 teaspoon chipotle or cayenne powder

The rest is simple, just sprinkle the rub over the brisket and rub it in.  The rub makes about 1/2 a cup, so I like to split it into fourths, a 1/4 cup for each side.  Now cover in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, but 24 hours if you can.  If it sits longer, no problem!  It can sit for a couple of days if you like.

 And there you go step one, the easy step complete.  Now get your rest, you are going to need it when you put this thing in the grill or smoker tomorrow!  In the mean time, here are some items you will need in preparation to cook the brisket:

A bag of Mesquite chips

2-aluminum "turkey" sized roasting pans.  I use the $2 disposable kind. (if you are using a grill and not a smoker/cooker.  If you are using a smoker you will only need 1 pan)

A meat thermometer (digital thermometers are better)

An "oven" thermometer.  The thermometers built into your grill are very inaccurate, it is VERY essential that you have a thermometer on the grill close to the meat.  Again, digital is preferred, but I get by with the old dial type

That's about it at this point.  Check back tomorrow as I explain the method to convert your grill to a smoker, and I will go over the process of cooking your brisket.  Don't shy away at this point!  Some of this may start to sound like to much work, and maybe you feel like you are going to mess it up.  My first brisket using this recipe turned out perfect!  Almost all reviews I have heard have said the same thing.  You have to give it a try. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Southern Utah Bucks!

Submitted by Marion Littlefield
 Well, I've been hearing it from a few of you, I know it has been a few days since my last post.  I haven't given up yet, I'm sure any of you parents out there can understand how many Christmas programs and activities your kids have this time of year!  It's been one thing after another over the last week, and appears to be that way in the coming days as well!  Tonight was no exception, so since I am short on time I thought I would whip up a quick post for the day displaying some more great bucks caught on film by local photographers!  After all, I know that is what most of you are wanting to see on this site anyway!  However, make sure you check back this week.  Several of you have asked me to share with you my killer beef brisket recipe.  I will be starting posts on it tomorrow night, and I will post over the following two days as it progresses.  Also, I am tinkering with some sourdough!  Hopefully I will have results worth sharing there as well. 

Keep the pictures and stories coming!  Several guys have informed me that they are getting material together to send to me to post on the blog.  Now is the perfect time, as the recent snows limit what I can get out and do anyway.  I would love to get your hunting adventures on here for you.  Now, on to the bucks!

The following photos have been provided to us by Marion Littlefield, of Tropic, Utah.  Marion is a photographer I really look up to, some day I hope my stuff can turn out as great as his!  You may have heard the name mentioned on local news channels, as Marion often submits photos to them.  I appreciate Marion for capturing the beauty of the outdoors on film and sharing his work with us.  These are a few bucks he has caught on film this year.  I hope you enjoy them!