High tides make getting the skiff loaded a little tricky. The author’s wife avoids low branches on her way to the skiff after a successful hunt. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

High tides make getting the skiff loaded a little tricky. The author’s wife avoids low branches on her way to the skiff after a successful hunt. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Tasty memories

The buck raked a small cedar tree glazed in frost, swollen neck twisting the antlers around the brutalized trunk.

I reached behind me to get my wife’s attention. The motion caught the attention of the buck and it stared in our direction as I settled my rifle.

Two bucks in two days. The type of luck that’s hard to appropriately appreciate at the time. Gratefulness is not the same thing as posting about being grateful or blessed on social media. Of course I’d share the images of my wife with her deer and me with my deer along with a few others from the hunt, but the trick really is to feel grateful no matter how many people like the post.

It was a big tide so I didn’t really have to worry about rocks as I nosed the skiff as close to shore as possible, but had to push the raft under the branches to Abby who filled it with gear, then floated it back to me. I unloaded, then sent it back. She hopped in, laid flat, and I retrieved her.

Once home, I soaked a chunk of backstrap in soy sauce and garlic before putting it on the hot grill once everything was cleaned up. I get lazy sometimes and pan sear meat then finish it in the toaster oven. It’s not really lazy and the meat is fantastic, but I really do enjoy going outside to check on the steak, seeing the grill lines, the flare up and the first cut (after a rest) to shave off the first taste. But that takes more effort and necessitates more care than setting temperatures and waiting.

The fresh cuts taste like meat, nutrient-dense meat. It’s superior to anything I get at the store, but not just because of the taste. It’s unfair to compare a purchase to experience. I know an organic, free-range chicken or grass-fed cow had to die somewhere in order for it to end up in the meat section at the store, and its life had value. But the bucks my wife and I shot on consecutive days over the weekend mean so much more. We entered their habitat, a beautiful piece of muskeg surrounded by forest. The buck came with no “grade,” nutrition label, “product of” logo or warnings. No plastic, barcode or price per pound. The cuts were our own. The entire weight on us, in more ways than one. This fact of hunting is often romanticized, but it is true.

Abby picked some of the last kale, carrots and onion from her garden, and we had a meal harvested completely by us. Satisfaction.

We added chorizo and Italian spices to some of what we ground, making kielbasa out of some of the rest. Abby baked the bones, tossed them in a crock pot and boiled them for bone broth that now sits as cubes next to huckle and blueberries in the freezer. The heart gets a few days in a milk bath before we make tacos.

It’s a week of delicious work but it’s nothing special really. Go back far enough and it was just the way. Now there’s a novelty to it because it’s so rare, but we do live in a time in which we can use the best of modern technology (clothes, gear, weapons, tools, meat grinders, vacuum packers, gardening practices that don’t include spray) to acquire and put up food and also tell the story in a creative and thoughtful way.

Food with a story just tastes better.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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