Monday, January 27, 2014

Stone Tipped Arrows and Winter Waterfowl Part I

My Dad and I got a bit of a late start that morning. He still had to head into the neighboring town to purchase his Federal Waterfowl stamp and some lead-free shotgun shells. I made up a new batch of conifer resin glue in an abalone shell and finished up some last minute hafting and fletching.

Note-all my stone points have the date incised into one surface (opposite face in this image) so if lost they will not be confused with authentic artifacts.

We loaded up the Kayak and headed out to a new hunting spot in rural northern California.

Hunter and I made ready our mobile blind with burlap, comoflauge netting, grass, etc., a technique learned from my uncle Bill. This double kayak, also Bills’, has seen many ducks aboard over the years.

When we pushed off and started paddling we both had huge grins. The distant hum of an occasional dairy truck and the trickle of water dripping off our paddle blades was all that broke the serine natural silence. After a time we began seeing birds. At first it was a great blue heron, then a snow white egret, and then the game birds.

Growing up where we did, we often hunted for wild boar, turkey, squirrel, quail, etc. but had only targeted waterfowl once. As I am still relatively inexperienced in hunting these seasonal migrants I decided to start with the most approachable of prey. The American Coot (Fulica americana) is actually more closely related to the rails than ducks, yet it travels with and behaves like ducks and geese. Coots are nearly jet black with a white beak and bright green feet. Unlike ducks, their feet are only semi lobed, not fully webbed making them adapted to both terrestrial and aquatic environments.

Most shotgun hunters do not pursue coots and I can see why. With a scatter gun, reaching your daily limit of 25 would be easy (there is a very high bag limit because they are so abundant). I, on the other hand, am an opportunistic forager. Say what you will about the coot, but taking one down with a maple longbow carved from a tree you cut on a mountain top, cane arrows you harvested from the river banks and fletched with feathers, conifer resin glue and plant fiber cordage you gathered... and tipped with a heat treated chert projectile point from stone you gathered and flintknapped, with nothing but an antler and hammerstone…take any bird down with this setup and I assure you it will be a day you will not soon forget!

For the first half of the day my dad paddled from the back of the boat while I shot at bird after bird. Each time my arrow scooted an inch or two above or to the side of one of these birds my dad and I would both burst into laughter. “Almost!” we’d say with a grin, “I really thought that one was going to connect!”
The old saying goes "It's the Indian, not the arrow!" Now I know why. My arrows flew beautifully, but I still am in need of some practice!

And then everything came together. As we rounded a bend I saw three coots in a small group. I set up and began to draw, but a thought of a miss came into my head. I relaxed the tension from the string and remembered the words of the Master from Zen in the Art of Archery that went something like this. “Why bother shooting if you have already decided to miss? You must realize that the bow, the arrow, the target and the space in between are all one. The arrow has already struck the target before you release!” I took a deep breath, focused on the middle bird (the largest of the group), drew my bow, and instinct took over. I do not remember releasing. I never saw the arrow in flight. But I was jarred from a surreal state of mind by a familiar THWACK! The stone tip had met its mark! “Paddle, Paddle!” I said to my dad as we closed the 25 yard gap. The bird was not going anywhere though. As our boat advanced to the muddy bank I saw the bird circle its head twice and then fall. My stone tipped arrow had hit the bird square in the head from a moving kayak at 25 yards! As I stood on the bank with my bird in hand and a wide grin I was completely content!

Hunter and I switched seats in the boat and started looking for buffelheads. Over the next few hours of paddling through the stunning countryside, Hunter took four buffelheads with his Remington 870.

By the time we paddled back to the launch site we were both grinning wide. This had been a truly great day!

That evening we plucked our birds and marinated them in Indian spices. I was taking mine for a surf and turf feast the next day with my good friends Alex and Jesse…but that is a story for later!

Keep the old ways alive!

Four Brews in Four Days

I got together with my Brother in law Jesse over the break and we hatched a plan to get a few kettles going. On a camp stove in his back yard we ended up brewing two exquisite smelling beers; a doppelbock and a Douglas Fir brew.

The next night my Dad asked me on a whim if I’d like to make some beer. I was in favor of course! We used our home grown cascade hops and brewed up 10 gallons of sweet smelling grog!

The next morning we went waterfowl hunting…but that’s another story.

The following morning Alex, his girl, and I bottled up our hard apple cider before heading to the coast for some intertidal foraging…again, another story for another time.

All in all it was four brews in four days.

Keep the old ways alive!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Mushrooms are Parched!


We headed out for my birthday in hopes of finding a few coastal fungi in this drought.

Make sure you know the landmarks when you’re headed out foraging. This spot was a ways down the road from Nipple Rock….a landmark that the locals paint pink in honor of the boob each year.

We searched long and hard for mushrooms in the woods. It was a little frustrating to us to kick up dust in a forest normally soggy wet and teaming with thousands of fungi this time of year. This is the driest year on record since the 1850’s (not that it was dryer back then… that’s just when they started keeping a record!)

We did eventually find a few straggler chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, a shrimp mushroom and a pig’s ear.

Abalone found a pool of water (luckily) at the base of a cliff she fell off. She swam for a while to her heart’s content (too fast for a focused picture).

On the way out we passed a huge black elfin saddle, then Justin found a scaly chanterelle (not edible), and then we found a group of nice oyster mushrooms on a tree we had all walked under before.

When all was said and done our harvest was minimal in comparison to past years when we got bored of harvesting hedgehogs and winter chanterelles because there were so many of them to pick. But we still had a very fun time. I had a great birthday, and the meals to follow were fantastic!

None of us had eaten a shrimp mushroom before, and though all the features necessary to key it out were obvious, we were all skeptical. But after consulting David Aurora’s mushroom Bibles “Mushrooms demystified” and “All that the Rain Promises and More”, we took a spore print and were ready to venture a small taste (with any new food it is important you don’t eat too much in case you are allergic even if it is not poisonous).

The shrimp mushroom was great! And we are all now pondering seafood soups and chowders it might be added to.

I was so excited about our mushroom pizza I forgot to take a picture!

The next day, I did get a photograph of our venison steaks in golden chanterelle cream sauce (steaks courtesy of a friend of my brother’s girl)! I will be honest, I ate three whole steaks! Venison is my favorite meat on Earth!

Keep the old ways alive!


Hide Tanning Continued- Goat Pelt with Bone Tools

My friends Naomi and Susan came over for a day of tanning. We tag-teamed a goat pelt with traditional tools and processes. The egg tanning method worked wonders again! Though we had to freeze the pelt as we ran out of time before we could smoke it…we’ll have to complete that project after break. As is, the goat skin came out remarkably soft!

Keep the old ways alive!