New Finds and Old Favorites

I went shopping in Omaha last weekend, and really just spent way too much money.  The Engineer was working on getting a wort hog taxidermy mount sown up…..TRUE LIFE STORY, so I took his truck and drove into the big city for some shopping.  It’s probably a big relationship step when you get to leave town and drive into Omaha with your boyfriend’s truck!!

I’ve occasionally taken the truck around town at home, and usually end up driving it to the gym on weekends because it blocks my car in the garage.  This was the first time I’ve taken it out of town, down the highway, jumped on the interstate, driven in congested traffic, and had to park it in relatively crowded parking lots.  I also had to navigate a sudden lane merging around a burning semi truck that did actually cause a couple accidents around me when cars didn’t stop quick enough!  Turns out the smoldering semi trailer was full of hot dogs.  Would have been so delicious to stop and grab a snack had I known what it was at the time!

Rest assured, I didn’t hit anything!  I really only vaguely know where I’m going in Omaha, but I know just enough to get myself to the mall and to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  First stop was Trader Joe’s to restock some of our favorite things and try out some new finds.

Our must have items from Trader Joe’s!

  • Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels…..the salted kind!
  • Pork Pot Stickers
  • Hatch Chili Mac and Cheese
  • Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Last weekend’s new finds that we’ve tried!

Image result for trader joe's iced coffee concentrateIt’s such a delicate, light coconut flavor, but it’s delicious.  I wish it came in an large bottle like the regular coffee concentrate.

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Honestly, a big flavor let down.  It sounds so good, but it’s quite bland.  Not spicy, not really smokey.  It’s very sweet and does have some good peach flavor, but I wouldn’t buy it again.  Stick to the Roasted Tomatillo and Mango salsa….you’ll be happier!

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It was too cute and funny not to buy, and The Engineer likes Corona so I thought I’d give it a shot.  He drank a few, but I’m not sure he’d request I go back to the store for more.  I bought the regular, but it also comes in light and dark.

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Mostly I bought these cute little taco spice packs because I thought they would be good for camping.  They come in pretty sturdy feeling plastic baggies and seem like they would survive being tossed in with our camping cooking gear.  We tried a pack the other night for some nachos and they aren’t bad….aren’t great but like I said they will serve a good purpose for camping ease.  The instructions say half a pack of spice per pound, I’d say just use the whole pack.  It wasn’t overwhelmingly flavored at half a pack.Image result for trader joe's dog treats

Scout-A-Roo seems to have no complaints about these.  They are most dry sausage textured than jerky, but her emergency stash of treats in her travel bag needed to be filled

Things I bought but haven’t tried yet!

  • Jarred Pizza Sauce
  • Fire Roasted Diced Green Chiles

After Trader Joe’s I was off up the road a couple blocks to the Whole Foods.  Now, I had never been to a Whole Foods so I didn’t really know what to expect.  Now having gone to both I think I prefer Trader Joe’s, but only situationally.  I will say that the food court area of the Whole Foods all looked amazing, and if I had actually needed food for lunch or something to take home to make for dinner I would have been all over that area.  I did pick up a Carmelita bar from the bakery for a snack and a loaf of the Cinnamon Raisin Brioche Bread.  The Carmelita was a bit….chocolatey for my liking?!  It didn’t really taste like caramel at all which was a big disappointing, but it was still a tasty little snack.  The bread is so fluffy you might almost die!

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My actual reaction when I picked up the loaf of bread!

 

Not really as oomphy with cinnamon as I would have expected.  I bought it with intentions of freezing it and pulling it out in the future to make french toast.  I’ve since proceeded to eat most of the loaf toasted up and slathered in Kerrygold butter.  Whoops!

My best Whole Foods find was a Rebbl protein drink that I only tried because Juli at PaleOMG talks about them all the time!  I was really feeling like a health food blogger after spending most of the morning wandering around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods getting my shopping on.  I think it’s a sign that I’m getting old and lame that buying potentially overpriced, healthy, and organic food is a major source of weekend excitement for me!

 

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My little protein pick me up was so good!  Thick and creamy, but not chalky like some protein shakes.  Little bit of coffee, little bit of protein, little bit of coconut milk which i love with my coffee…..perfect little snack to get my through my power shopping adventures!  The only major bummer is that I can’t find these at home.  Several of the HyVees in town carry Rebbl products, but I can’t find the protein drinks.  Ugh…..major buzzkiller.

If like me, you don’t live in a place big enough for a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods….but big enough for a Costco…I’ve got a tasty little find for you!

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Seriously….proceed to your nearest Costco and buy as many as your deep freeze can hold!  My only criticism is that it is a little heavy on the roasted veggies.  Great that they don’t skimp you, but I’m a roasted veggie eating machine and I could see how it could be a bit overwhelming for some people.  The Engineer and I added some frozen pepperoni before baking, because who doesn’t love a pepperoni pizza?!  If you don’t love pepperoni on your pizza we probably can’t be friends.

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#judgingyou

The pizza bakes up really nice and the crust gets nice and crispy.  If you didn’t tell someone it wasn’t a regular pizza crust I honestly don’t think they would notice.  If I had kids, this seems like an excellent way to get more veggies into them without them even knowing.  Milton brand makes several other pizza “flavors” but roasted veggie is all my Costco had stocked.  The Engineer said, “It’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had…”.  Well….it’s a frozen pizza…..none of them are ever going to be the best pizza you’ve ever had!  But, it does make a good freezer item to have on hand for rushed nights when you want pizza and you need it quick!  Would 100% buy again!!

Hopefully my little shopping adventure has given you some ideas of staples and fun new things to stock your pantry with.  I always think it’s fun to go and try out new versions of the foods we eat everyday.  You won’t find your favorite new beer or salsa if you don’t try something new.  Plus side, even less than amazeballs beer and salsa are still better than no beers and no salsa!

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Outdoor Adventure

A couple weeks ago Lil B bought herself a pop up camper, so of course we all had to go test it out! I snagged what appeared to be the only open campsite in the Black Hills for the weekend, and The Engineer and I, his sister and brother in law, and Lil B and her girls all met up to have some fun in the sun and a few days without cellphone service!

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Lucky for The Engineer and I it didn’t rain, though for awhile on Saturday night it did look a bit dark and stormy.  We were just in a tent……a small tent once you put all our stuff……and Scout a Roo and her things…..into the tent.  The tent came from the premier retailer of outdoor equipment…..Menards :/

I wasn’t sure it would actually keep us dry if it needed to. I’m not sure that I’d want to be in that tent for anything other than a warm, sunshiney weekend….but for the $20 The Engineer spent on it it got the job done. Scout spent more time in the tent than anyone.  Having only briefly recovered from a 4th of July filled with death booms courtesy of our neighbors, the crackle of a nice campfire was more than her delicate nerves could take.  She spent the first night wedged between the tent wall and the air mattress, nose pointed as far from the fire as she could get.

My purchase for the trip was a percolator, and I was maybe more excited about it than a normal person should get! Come to find out, Lil Bs camper had several percolators stowed away inside, but better to have too much coffee than not enough! Actually, Lil Bs camper came with all sorts of forgotten camping accessories: roasting sticks, veggie roasting baskets…..it seemed like anything anyone had forgotten Lil B could scrounge up in her camper!  The cost of everything that was left inside the kitchen of her camper maybe totals more than she paid for the camper….it’s in great shape for it’s age and a bottomless supply of all things outdoor adventure related.  She found a great little buy!

Saturday morning we just made coffee on a camp stove……it wasn’t really my ideal camping experience, but it was fast and the girls desperately wanted to walk down to the lake. We all spent the day drinking and relaxing in the shade on the shore.  Well, the girls swam, and I did take my newly purchased giant unicorn float for a lap around the lake, but mostly we hung out and enjoyed the breeze. Our campsite, while it did have plenty of shape, did have a severe lack of breeze. Even Scout got in the camping spirit with several unforced dips into the lake. She doesn’t like to swim, but did spend some time walking around in chest deep water investigating things, so I was pretty proud! I became less proud when she discovered that campfires create lovely, crunchy, charcoal cube snackies and proceeded to hoover them up at an alarming pace.  Plus side it got her over her fear of campfires and she spent all of Saturday night out by the fire with us.  Down side…..she pooped…..a lot. :/

 

 

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Floating away from life’s bullshit on my mystical unicorn Misty!

I actually started a fire to make dinner that night, even though everyone said, “Just use the camp stoves, it’ll be so much easier.” No! We hauled The Engineer’s Grandma’s cast iron pan all the way out there, and God created cast iron so that mankind could cook directly over a smokey fire in nature!  So I made deer nachos over a campfire and they were amazeballs!  I think I’m just more down to rough it than maybe The Engineer is.  I’m willing to work a bit harder for some extra smokey flavoring!

Sunday morning I was the first one up, and I was determined to use my percolator over a fire……so I did!

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And then……I made bacon….and it was fantastic!  I think coffee tastes better slow brewed over a fire, but I will admit it does take some time. Having only used a percolator once, I spent several minutes in a panic and readjusting the pot over the fire being quite sure we had just experienced beginners luck the day before.  Suddenly…..percolation…..coffee was within my gasp! And, I only burnt one pan of bacon before I figured out the proper fire to pan placement!!

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We finished up our camping adventure with a trip to Lewie’s for beer and a burger for lunch, and I almost killed The Enginner making him hike up to Seth Bullock’s gravesite…..plus side he made his activity goal for the day in his new Apple Watch! I’m just trying to be helpful like that!  All in all it was pretty successful for our first camping trip!  The tent survived, Scout concurred some fears, no one got food poisoning, the camper didn’t roll spontaneously down the hill, and there were no major injuries!

 

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Taking Matters into Your Own Grinder

The Engineer and I are facing a slight crisis….our supply of ground elk and deer is dwindling dangerously low.  We have plenty of steaks and roasts, but our tubes of ground meat are quickly disappearing!

How are we supposed to make tacos without ground meat!?!

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Accurate depiction of The Engineer and I as I demand avocado on my tacos….except he is a crunchy taco and I am a soft taco!

Now I know that I could make steak tacos….pulled pork tacos…chicken tacos…fish tacos……

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ALL OF THE TACOS!

Trust me, we make tacos a ton and in a wide variety of flavors and styles.  However, some tacos require planning and forethought.  I’m not always the best at taking things out of the freezer to thaw in advance, but a pound of frozen solid ground meat is just easy to toss straight into a frying pan!  Basically, having a reliable stash of ground meat in my house is a requirement.

The Engineer bought me a grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aide for Christmas because I had grand visions of getting into sausage making.  I have yet to make a batch of sausage, and so the grinder had just been waiting patiently in a kitchen cabinet to be used for something delicious.  Last weekend we decided to test out the grinder and tackle our meat issue head on!

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First things first….thaw out a giant roast!  When The Engineer had his elk processed in Canada, it was cheaper to just get it cut into large roasts.  This makes total sense and is fine, except that the two of us don’t necessarily need to cook up a 4-5 pound roast for a nice dinner at home!  Also, don’t worry if the meat isn’t totally thawed.  The colder, even still slightly frozen, the better.  Also, if you’re going to add additional fat into your ground meat….that fat needs to be frozen!

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The little lurker quickly noticed that tasty meat scraps come out of the grinder after every round of processing….there is always a little morsel left in the auger!

 

The grinder worked great!  I had read some questionable reviews so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I had emotionally prepared to spend most of the day fighting and struggling to get the meat processed.  It was such a smooth process I wish we had thawed out more meat and we could have just done it all at once.  We ground the meat twice, once through the coarse blade, and a second time through the fine.  I’m not sure that a second grind is required if you’re just planning on tacos, chili, casseroles, and such with the meat, but it’s the typically recommended procedure.  Between the rounds of grinding I took apart the grinder and cleaned it out.  It had built up a little ring of tendon, fat, and meat right behind the grind plate, but it was easy to just clean out.  Also, once the flow of meat stops moving down the auger, a small chunk was left that couldn’t be pushed through the grind plate….no biggie and Scout really appreciated the snacks!

The only slight issue we had is that no store in town stocked the “Sausage Kit” with the filling nozzles.  Minor setback, and it worked pretty well to just hold the bags and let the ground meat sort of just fall into the bottom.  Actually, once the bags had some meat in them they sort of just sat themselves up.  Easy peasey lemon squeezey!

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4 beautiful little tubes of ground elk all ready for delicious things!

Now, if you’re looking for a tasty way to use up some ground meat….might I suggest Mexican Stuffed Peppers!

Ingredients:

  • Drizzle of olive oil (Only needed for wild game as it is super lean and sticks)
  • 1lb ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 can Original Rotel
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cumin and chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper…or to taste if your spice sensitive
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese, plus 2/3 cup additional for topping
  • 3 large bell peppers

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add meat and onion.  Cook over medium until the meat is fully cooked and the onion is soft.  Add the garlic, Rotel, rice, beans, and all spices to the skillet and mix to combine.  Turn heat off and allow to sit to cool and the flavors to meld for a couple minutes.  Divide peppers in half through the stem and remove all seeds.  Immediately before “stuffing”, stir 2/3 of cheese into the meat mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between all the peppers….don’t worry about being too neat.  They will be large and in charge!  Sprinkle the tops with the additional cheese, if desired, cover with foil, and bake at 370 for about 30-35 minutes.  I like a crispy, brown, cheesy crust so I uncovered them for an additional 5 minutes.  The cooking time will be reduced if you have smaller peppers, just cook until the peppers are soft and tender.

Serve immediately with any of your favorite taco toppings!  I did avocado….OF COURSE!…..and The Engineer likes his with taco sauce and sour cream.

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In Response to Last Week’s Events

I tend to not get involved in the death of celebrities.  It’s easy to think that because we see them online, on television, or in movies that we somehow understand them….or that we have some sort of gained insight into their personal lives.  The majority of us know nothing about them, no matter how much we would like to think otherwise.  Life happens to everyone, and it effects everyone differently.  No one’s story is the same as anothers, and everyone has a right to their personal privacy and story.

I won’t say that I took the news of Anthony Bourdain’s hard, after all I don’t know him.  What I do know, is that I just kept having the thought…..”Shit, we’ve really lost someone great.”  Even if I take the extreme liberty of feeling like I know him, have something in common with him….it’s only because I spent time working in a variety of less than stellar restaurants growing up, and I had grand visions of cooking professionally.  On that same note, I could claim the same of Paula Dean, Wolfgang Puck, or Gordan Ramsey.  I don’t want to claim the similarity with them though…..I wanted to smoke, drink, and be a generally snarky, tell it like it is asshole, in a kitchen somewhere with Anthony.  He seemed like such a wealth of culinary information, but not in a polished, perfect for tv sort of way.

So I went home after work last Friday, ordered myself one of the last remaining copies of his cookbook off Amazon, and when it arrives I’ll make something delicious.

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The sudden loss of two celebrities last week, Anthony and Kate Spade, really got me thinking about my own mental struggles, and the blog I wrote about it.  I will leave you with this….it’s always okay to reach out if you just aren’t feeling quite right….but maybe we should all start checking on our friends and family more.  The strong doesn’t always have the strength they project outward, and the happy doesn’t always feel the internal joy that its easy to assume they must possess.

Life’s a Garden…Eat It!

It’s that time of year again….time to plant some delicious veggies, water daily, and wait for the magic to happen!  This year was a much more enjoyable planting season since we didn’t have to dig out and dispose of sod first!  Plus, it’s much easier to break up soil that’s been tilled once already.

I decided that last year’s layout wasn’t a great use of space.  It just felt like we had a ton of open dirt.  I know you aren’t supposed to crowd plants, but I like the idea of knowing where my food comes from.  Doesn’t get much fresher than the backyard!  A little reorganization was due this year to really optimize our veggie producing potential.  Last year we grew-

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans
  • 1 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Pants — Indigo Rose Variety
  • 3 Pepper Plants — 2 Banana Peppers, Cajun Bell
  • 3 Kohlrabi
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil, Thyme, and Oregano
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix and Kale (Kept at an anti bunny nibbling height)

This year we have planted

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans (They are being eaten alive by bugs, we might not get beans)
  • 2 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple and Siberian Prince
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Plants — Chocolate Sprinkle and Yellow Cherry
  • 2 Rows of Snap Peas
  • 4 Kohlrabi
  • 3 Peppers — Orange Bell, Giant Marconi, and Anaheim
  • A smattering of White Onions (In the direct sight line of the bunnies, so fingers crossed)
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil Blend, Thyme, Oregano, Cilantro
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix, Kale, and Arugula (Still at an anti-bunny height!)

We did do some rotating, tomatoes down to the side with the sprinkler system leak since they enjoy lots of water, and beans and peas over to the dryer side of the garden.  The only veggie that didn’t move locations are the squash.  Since the mowing is hired out by my HOA, if the squash head towards the rocks I can keep them from getting mowed to death by the high school boys the lawn company hires.

 

SO MANY PLANTS!

Ugh….I’m just so excited!  Also feeling slightly antsy.  I would really like to be able to walk out to the garden and pick fresh tomatoes and herbs for a caprese salad, but alas….we aren’t there yet.  The herbs have started growing enough that we can pluck some, so in the meantime we will just have to settle for store bought tomatoes to go with our fresh basil, thyme, and oregano.  In addition to the classic Italian trio, we also decided to try some Cilantro.  We make a ton of tacos and salsas, so it seemed like it would be a good addition to our fresh herb collection.  Our cilantro has since grown into a small tree…..so yesterday I decided to chop it off and whip up some taco deliciousness!  So good and so easy….which was ideal cuz I had furniture to refinish and naps to take yesterday!  Something about a cool breeze coming through the window just makes me wanna curl under a blanket and nap on the couch….so that’s what I did!  But, I’ll put my flung together recipe below….just in time for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!

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Lime and Cilantro Pork Tacos

  • 1 lb Pork Roast
  • 1 Medium Onion, Sliced Thin
  • 1 Bottle Corona
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder and Cumin
  • 0.5-1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper (Spice to what you like!)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • Zest of 1 Lime
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • Salt and Pepper

Create a bed on the bottom of your crock pot with the onion slices, add the pork, and then top with the spices, zest, juice, and beer.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  I flipped mine halfway through so the top half could get some loving, but only because I happened to be home….otherwise just let it go all day.

Shred and get ready to enjoy!  I like my tacos with some fresh onion, fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and maybe another little squeeze of lime!  I will caution….these are saucy!  Next time I whip these up I might toss the meat into a skillet and cook it a little bit to try and thicken the sauce and crisp up the edges of the meat.  However, I will say, these are totally delicious right outta the crock pot, just make sure you eat over a plate!

Also, I grabbed myself a new iPhone 8 this weekend, so hopefully these pictures are looking premium!

 

Memorial Day Catch Up

I feel like I’ve been running around like a crazy person lately, and the blog has sorta suffered.  The Engineer and I were gone every weekend in May, so the weeks have mostly been spent trying to catch up on things you normally get done over the weekend.

Scout and I have been home alone since last night.  I was doing Memorial Day/ Family Reunion things with my Momma’s side of the family, and The Engineer went to Nebraska to spend time with his family.  Scout a Roo and I got home late last night and proceeded to do our favorite single girl activity…..fall asleep on the couch together watching Netflix! It’s been a busy morning of laundry, cleaning, working out, and sunning like geckos waiting for The Engineer to get home.  It feels good to finally feel caught up on the day to day activities of just keeping a house in order.

I’ve probably forgotten to share a few adventures alone the way.  Last week, The Engineer and I managed to start our grill on fire….so that was something.  Technically, the grease trays underneath the grill started on fire, but it soon lead to the thermometer maxing out on the grill and thick black smoke started rolling through the neighborhood.  I’m sure our neighbors thought we were crazy as we sat and watched it for a couple minutes.  I was unaware that the trays were as full as they are, so I thought it might just burn itself out quickly…..that wasn’t the case!  The Engineer unhooked the propane tank while I tossed some water down into the trays.  I know that water+grease fire is supposed to be an avoided activity, but something had to be done before the house and/or stupid shrub that I hate started on fire!  The shrub on fire would have been fine….I want it gone anyway, but it touches the house so removal by grease fire is a less than ideal means to an end.  All is well that ends well I suppose and the house and the grill have lived to see another day.  Actually, we don’t even know if the grill still works….that’s tonight’s dinner plan though.  I guess if it doesn’t work hopefully someone has some good Memorial Day sales happening!

I didn’t end up filling my turkey tag this Spring.  Our last weekend got rained out.  Well actually, we were in the field as the thunderstorm started rolling in.  I thought it was maybe best that we didn’t sit out in lawn chairs in a blind during a storm.  Besides, turkeys aren’t likely to leave their tree roosts when it’s storming, so we probably would have sat there in the storm for no reason anyway.  Also they had moved their roosts further back into the thick trees than the morning we were set up right under them, so all in all in just wasn’t a great morning.  In talking to people who are much better and more successful at turkey hunting, it just wasn’t a great season I don’t think.  The weather was either storming, blizzarding, or blazing hot…..all make for less than stellar hunting.  I feel like we’ve learned some things, and anytime you spend in the field is bound to make you a better hunting eventually.  When fall rolls around I’ll try again!  In the meantime, we’ve cleaned out a spot in the garage for me to set up my target bag, so I’ll be getting plenty of practice time in!

Hopefully everyone is having a great day off, but please remember why we have the holiday weekend in the first place.  It’s easy to get caught up with friends, family, great weather, and drinks, but the bravery and sacrifices of many are the real reason to celebrate.

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Operation Thunder Chicken: Feel the Thunder

The Engineer and I had the opportunity to hunt a gorgeous, heavily wooded piece of private farm land last weekend that belongs to family friends.  We had never been to the property before, so we went Saturday afternoon to get a feel for the lay of the land.  It was miserably hot out, the ticks were swarming, and we heard not a single cluck, gobble, or yelp.

We were feeling rather defeated about the whole situation when on the way out we spotted a turkey across a dried up creek bed.  Too far away to take a shot, especially with my backpack on and an awkward bag of decoys falling all over the place.  The difference between public land, heavily hunted turkeys and mostly left to themselves private land turkeys became very clear when instead of sounding alarms and sprinting off…..this turkey just sorta wandered into a thicker wooded area all while continuing to pick for snacks along the way.

A hot and sweaty trudge up a hillside lead us back to the farmhouse on the property.  Just as I crested the top, I turned South to look out over the view of the valley and the Missouri River in the distance.  My picturesque view was jolted back to reality when 3 turkeys went flying out of a cedar tree probably 50 yards away.  The birds were clearly in the area, we just needed a better plan and some luck!

I’m not a morning person, and 4:30 comes real early.  Small consolation is that it’s no longer freezing outside, so you can actually sit around comfortably, even when it’s dark outside.  We drove out to the farm and wandered down to the place we had seen the turkeys the afternoon before.  Mostly unbeknownst to us, we set up right in the middle of the turkeys roosting lair!  Do you know what it’s like to listen to a far off group of roosted birds gobble in the distance, and then to hear  deafeningly loud gobbles that can only mean you’re almost directly below the flock?!?!  It’s amazing!  It will send chills of excitement all down your spine, and you will finally understand why they call it “Spring Thunder”!  Imagine the video below, but with more gobbles and much closer…..up in a tree and slightly to your left about 40 yards away!

Ugh, I so wish The Engineer and I were the kind of people who filmed our hunts.  But we aren’t, and mostly we are still trying to learn how to hunt turkeys.  I just wish I even had some audio to share about how amazing the gobbling was the other morning.  Alright….back to the turkeys.

Loud flapping sounds  and rapid clucks soon signaled the descent of the birds from their nighttime roosts.  The Engineer was sitting to my left, and had a clear view of the flock as they regrouped near the top of a small hill.  I looked out the blind to my right in time to see a single bird fly down about 40 yards away from the blind.  We called and waited as two hens from the left and the single bird from the right joined up together straight out from the blind about 30 yards.  I have sat in the blind with an arrow nocked every time we’ve been out, but I’ve never had a reason to clip my release onto my string, but these birds were finally giving me a reason!  The lone bird ended up being a jake, or young male bird, and he would have been legal to shoot.  The problem was, he was so small…..even smaller than the two hens, that by the time we could 100% tell he was a jake…..I didn’t have a clear shot.

At the time we didn’t worry too much about not taking a shot at the jake……there were 4 large, puffed up tom turkeys on the crest of the hill, and we were determined to move them towards us!  No reason to shoot a young, small bird when there are bigger and better options on the hill!  We were sure that our calling and our decoys would bring the big guys down the hill.  After all, we could hear them drumming, which research has told me is a good sign.  It’s breeding time after all, and no self respecting tom is gonna let his ladies get stolen by another bird.

We didn’t budget the toms down the hill, but we did aggravate the lead hen.  Slowly, a group of at least half a dozen hens pecked and walked past the blind out at about 30 yards.  Taking up the rear end of the train was the lead hen….I think.  In any case, she was the only bird to acknowledge our decoys, and she was none to pleased about it.  She trotted on over to our hen decoy and proceeded to get all up in her face, and annoyed with our decoys general presence.  If it was fall and hens were in season…..she would have been an awesome hen to take.  8 yard easy, straight on shot.  However fall it is not.  Honestly I could have taken several hens that morning, but hens aren’t what we were after…..especially with the promise of big toms!

Now after sitting down and going over everything that happened that morning it occurs to me that the turkeys around here maybe haven’t started breeding yet.  If they had, I just can’t fathom that all those toms would have just let all those ladies walk away from them.  It had all seemed to promising.  My research had told me that it was almost always fine if you attracted the hens towards you, as the toms were almost certain to follow……not these South Dakota toms I guess!  It might have eventually come together for us, but a distant, yet all together too close for turkey comfort, shotgun blast sent the toms running up and over the hill crest away from us.  The private farm land abuts a large area of public hunting land, so I’m hoping that our morning was at least ruined by someone else’s success! The hens had already disappeared up into the thicker timber, and it would have been worthless to chase them anyway.

We sat in the blind and called, hearing gobbles off from behind the hill, but the birds never did reappear into our view.  Knowing the the shotgun had probably ruined the hope of the birds moving back out into the open for several hours, we decided to leave the blind and do a bit of walking.  We could always hear gobbles, but for every yard we closed, the toms moved away at least a yard.  In the end, we packed up our gear and headed back to town with nothing more than a few large turkey feathers and a story of our first real encounter with a flock.  I won’t soon forget the feeling of listening to birds all around me and feeling potential and hope like I’ve never felt while sitting in the blind.  It was worth all the icky ticks to watch the level of sass displayed by that hen while she was investigating our decoy.  It seems like every time The Engineer and I head out to the fields, we get a little bit closer to filling my tag.  However, the end of the season is looming, so I’m hoping all the pieces fall together for us soon!