Here’s looking at you, 2022

I don't know what to expect from the coming year. COVID-19 has been like a vampire. Just when we think we've put it past us, a new variant emerges, dashing hopes life will settle back into pre-pandemic rhythms anytime soon (probably never).

So our new normal continues, at least at the start of 2022. Let's hope some things change, soon. Take precautions like masking. Get vaccinated. Don't follow medical advice from random sources on the internet. Sort out safe ways to play. There are plenty, and the outdoors is always a good place to start.

Enough about that. To start the year, let me get caught up on columns from December I haven't yet posted. Break's over.

New Year's resolutions for 2022. I'm not much of a resolution guy, but if I must ...

If You Could Only Have Just One The internet meme of forcing you to choose just one, as applied to upland birds.

Five great books for Christmas

Just in time for Christmas, I've finished the fifth and final installment of my "cookbooks for hunters and anglers series" with a look at "Salt Fat Acid Heat," by Samin Nosrat. There's no particular hunter/angler emphasis in this book, but Nosrat breaks down the four main elements of cooking in an easy, understandable way. If you're learning to cook, or even if you consider yourself an old hand in the kitchen, you'll learn a ton reading "Salt."

My favorite tidbit of "Salt" inspired insight: socarrat is the word for the crisp, brown rice crust that forms on the bottom of a pan of properly prepared paella. Though I haven't made paella in decades, I'm quite familiar with socarrat. I make a version of tomato rice a couple of times a month when I'm cooking Mexican/Tex-Mex grub. By accident I learned to create a socarrat crust in my tomato rice, though that's not the way it's normally served, and until I read this book, I didn't know that's what it is called. I make my rice crusty every time now.

By the way, I called these columns reviews, but I don't mean review in a clinical, break it down, chapter-by-chapter sense. These are more impressions rather than thorough critiques. The books were fun to read, though you don't really read cookbooks cover to cover (at least I don't). I'll be thumbing through these titles for as long as I'm cooking, leaving fatty thumbprints on all my favorite recipes.

“Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing,” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

“Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game from Field to Feast,” by Hank Shaw with photos by Holly Heyser

“The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, Volume 1: Big Game,” by Steven Rinella

“Hook, Line, and Supper”: New Techniques and Master Recipes for Everything Caught in Lakes, Rivers and Streams, and at Sea," by Hank Shaw with photos by Holly Heyser

Commission backs off elk privatization scheme

Missoula Currant reporter Laura Lundquist has some great reporting up regarding the FWP commission backing down on  FWP Director Hank Worsech's dumb proposal to solve Montana's elk overpopulation problems by taking hunting opportunities away from Montana elk hunters. In a press release last week urging members to oppose the scheme, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said the proposal would "privatize wildlife," and pit the "haves" and "have nots" against one another when it comes to elk hunting in Montana.

BHA's effort worked as FWP was bombarded with hunter opposition to the move.

And then there's this choice quote from Lundquist's report:

On Tuesday, Worsech admitted the proposal started a “firestorm,” but that he succeeded in getting a conversation going.

Apparently, someone told Worsech his job at the commission meeting was to act like an incompetent bureaucrat. Maybe he wasn't acting. Or maybe it's because he's new to the job and in over his head. In case he didn't know, Montanans have had a conversation going about elk management, since forever. All he did was redirect that conversation, briefly, to shooting down his dumb idea about creating the King's deer in Montana.

The competent bureaucrats at FWP, the biologists, should lead these management conversations, not political appointees.

If you want to solve the elk problem in districts where the population is over objective, you first need to solve the private land, hunter access problem. Transferring title of wildlife to wealthy landowners is just a giveaway. And unconstitutional.

Cookbook and guide to big game hunting

Author Steven Rinella has rewritten the rules for hunting and fishing television. His "MeatEater" show restored the primacy of eating the animals we hunt in outdoor television. Too many hunting programs end with the kill shot, or shortly thereafter, with a DGDH "glory" shot (That's Dead Game, Dumb Hunter, btw).

The kill is usually about the midway point in a "MeatEater" program. Rinella then proceeds to field dressing, butchering, and finally, cooking game. "Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game'" is a great how to guide for the novice, and a thorough, detailed refresher course for the experienced big game hunter. You'll find my review here.

This is the third in a series of cookbook reviews for hunters and anglers. See "Charcuterie," here, and "Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail," here.

All-nighter fixes Madison River dam

The upper Madison River was rewatered last week following a mechanical failure at the Hebgen Lake Dam that shut off flows to the river. A crew at the Anaconda Foundry Fabrication Co. worked all night forging a new spillway gate shaft so the dam could be fixed. The drawdown lasted only two days.

This quick action by the Foundry crew means the harm to trout in the fabled Madison will likely be minimal. Bigger fish saved themselves by moving to deeper pools, and volunteers relocated hundreds of stranded fish. The eggs buried in some brown trout redds in the reach may have been harmed, but the quick repair means river gravel may not have dried out enough to wipe out a year class of fish. Mild overnight temperatures may have prevented hard freezes in the river bed that might have wiped out eggs as well.

Hunting partners almost as good as a dog

I've learned not every hunter is a suitable hunting partner. Some folks are fine, but many possess the unfortunate ability to render the worst day hunting less pleasurable than the best day working.

Those folks you actually look forward to hunting with are rare. I'd tell you to cherish such folks, but part of what makes them superb hunting partners is they don't require cherishment. It offends them.

You spend time following your dogs about, maybe killing a few birds, and then you get back to the rest of life, keeping in touch until the next time.

The Long Walker is one of those dudes.

Dam malfunction drains Madison

A malfunction at Hebgen Lake Dam has dewatered a reach of the upper Madison River, arguably the greatest of Montana's blue ribbon trout streams.

Streamer evangelist and Slide Inn owner Kelly Galloup alerted Montana media and supplied photos of the nearly dry river bed. Galloup's concern is the fate of brown trout eggs, nestled in stream gravel. If they dry out or freeze, the river could lose a year class these prime streamer targets.