Clayton: Fun in the outdoors

Luke Clayton
Cutline for attached photo: Luke used his brand new little mini smoker to cook some very fresh wild pork this past week. Photo by Luke Clayton
Luke Clayton

I enjoyed a couple of days in the outdoors this past week and I truly wish each and every one of you could have been with me. Since that’s impossible, let me describe the short, but fun, and action-packed couple of days.

My friend Larry Weishuhn (aka “Mr. Whitetail”) comes to Dallas to conduct the business of the Dallas Safari Club a couple days each month and we usually try to plan some sort of outdoors outing after his duties as one of the directors is completed. This past week, we headed up to the lake Fork area and did some hog hunting and trotlining for catfish at our friend Jeff Rice’s place; as usual, a little outdoor cooking was on the agenda.

Things don’t always work out as planned in the outdoors but on this occasion, the stars were all aligned and our adventure went as scripted. I managed to down a good-eating little sow that weighed about 60 pounds with my Texan .45-caliber big bore air rifle. We didn’t really care who actually got a hog, we just wanted one for camp meat!

My trip to the ranch began as usual with a stop to Buc-ee's for ice and fuel. As I walked into the front of the store, I glanced at the little smokers with a price tag of just under $60. I did my shopping and after topping the tank off on my truck, I found the temptation too great, I went back in and purchased the little smoker made by Old Country BBQ Pits and a bag of B&B lump charcoal. This "mini" smoker was built exactly like larger smokers I have cooked on in the past. It has a smoke stack, a grill and an area to build a fire away from the meat being smoked. I didn’t know for sure how it would perform but I was to find out before this outing was over!

As I pulled up to the gate I saw Larry had already arrived. It was mid-afternoon and we had plenty of time to get camp set up before our hog hunt. Trail cameras had indicated porkers were hitting several feeders well before dark; we were in our stands around 4:30. My hope was to kill a small eater hog in time to do the butchering and cook some backstrap on my new smoker for the evening meal.

At 4:44, I heard what I thought was the squeal of a pig back in the woods. At 4:46, a mixed sounder of hog arrived at the feeder. It was over an hour before the feeder was set to throw corn and I knew with nothing on the ground to keep the porkers in the area, I would have to pick out my pork and get the job done pretty quickly.

A good-sized jet black boar walked between the feeder and the Snap Lock Hunting Blind I was hunting from and then several "shoats" came out of the thick cover. I soon had the little 60-pounder loaded onto the hunting buggy and was heading back to the skinning rack. Again, the power of compressed air had supplied me with camp meat!

After a bit or work with my skinning knife, I had the backstraps cut into medallions and in a freezer bag with olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and a blend of dry seasonings. It was time to fire up my brand new "mini" smoker.

I allowed about 30 minutes for "seasoning" the smoker, loaded charcoal and a chunk of pecan wood in one end and let it smoke. And then, with the charcoal on one side and the pieces of backstraps on the other, I let the indirect heat and smoke work it’s magic.

After 45 minutes of smoking, I covered the backstrap in BEST OF TEXAS BBQ Sauce, wrapped them in heavy foil and and pushed them to the opposite side of the pit from the heat. There they remained until Larry came walking into camp just before dark.

“Looks like you are putting that little smoker to good use, Luke. How’s it working”? he quizzed. I lifted the lid to the smoker and pulled out the very tender pieces of barbecue.

“Larry, I shot this little hog just over two hours ago. Didn’t the mountain men shoot their meat on a daily basis and enjoy it very fresh? Well, that is just what we are doing to do. But, I bet they didn’t have one of these nifty little smokers to cook on!” About half the tasty pieces of backstrap were consumed instantly outside right off the smoker and the remainder served as sandwich material later that evening.

Honestly, the meat from that little wild porker was as tasty as any BBQ I have eaten. Of course, it was very tender and my new mini smoker had performed flawlessly.

After a good night’s sleep we were up early and baited our trotline with chunks of fresh pork liver. I’ve fished for channel catfish a lot in years past with blood bait. It doesn’t always stay on the hook very well but fresh pork liver does and catfish absolutely cannot resist it.

We let the line set until mid morning and then when as I paddled the little boat up to the limb the line was tied to and lifted the line from the water, I saw that about every other hook had a good "eater" catfish thrashing the water. A little work with the fillet knife and we had the makings of a big creekside fish fry and plenty of fillets to take back home.

As I drove back home, I thought how fortunate I was to be able to share the outdoors with family and great friends. I also gloated a bit on my new purchase. That little cooker really is the cat’s meow!

Contact Outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email. His website is www.catfishradio.org.  This little outing was filmed and will soon be available to watch many places. Simply search Youtube for A SPORTSMAN’S LIFE.