This past week, I spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, guiding deer and duck hunters that range in age from 10 years up to near 70.

I was fortunate to be in the company of sportsmen that share my love of the outdoors and their joy of just Ďbeing thereí was evident.†

As all hunters know, thereís plenty of time in a deer stand or duck blind between sightings of deer or flights of ducks. I had the opportunity to reflect upon past outings and get a glimpse of some of the experiences my companions have enjoyed.

There is no better place than the outdoors to truly communicate. Distractions such as computers, television and telephones are not there to rob you of that one on one exchange of thoughts and words that is unique to humans.††

I saw the same eager anticipation in the eyes of the ten year old boy as I did in the gentleman approaching seventy.

†Guys and gals that share my mind set and lifestyle are called sportsmen and these are the folks that I spend most of my time with. We have a genuine love for the outdoors.

Each outing is a soul-warming blend of the present with sights and sounds we enjoy while sitting in the woods or in a boat catching crappie and reflections of the past, memories of all the wonderful people and outings weíve enjoyed throughout our lives. Iíve learned that this love for the outdoors is not limited to hunters.

About this time last year, I began training to become a Texas Master Naturalist and was in class and on field trips with men and women that had never fired a rifle, bow or shotgun and, probably never will, but most of them shared the same enthusiasm for the outdoors as we that hunt and fish.

They were thrilled for the first time in their lives to be able to identify plants and animals we encountered on field trips. I became friends with some of these folks and when I explained why I hunt and fish, they Ďgot ití.

Thereís room for everyone in the outdoors. I am kindred spirits with the falconer, although I donít fully understand his sport, and the musk ox hunter, albeit Iím pretty sure I will never travel to the frozen, desolate Arctic region the musk ox calls home.†† Iím quite sure that eons ago when mankind depended upon his or her ability to make a living† directly from the natural world, there were those who were born hunters and others that contributed to the clans overall welfare by other means.

†In my golden years as a very active hunter, Iíve somehow become transformed into an astute student of flora and fauna every bit as much as I am a harvester of birds and game.†

Truly, just Ďbeing thereí is enough for me. Iíve learned with this mindset, every outing is a big success regardless if the birds are flying or bucks on the move.

Ham from wild hogs

While there is not an official season for hunting wild porkers in Texas (they can be hunted anytime), the majority of deer hunters wait until the close of deer season to hunt them.

Wild pork is my favorite game meat and through the years, Iíve learned some very tasty ways to prepare it.

Rather than leaving the bone in, I† bone cut the pork into 2-3 pound pieces, making sure none of them are more than two inches thick.

Youíll need a cure to rub on each piece of meat. I get mine at Allied Kenco Sales in Houston and order online at

Cure comes in many different flavors, but I usually use Mortons Cure which is a basic, economical priced cure.

It costs only a few dollars and has a long shelf life. Read the directions on the box and follow them to the letter.

When I first began curing and smoking pork at home, I thought if a little cure was good, more would be even better.

I was wrong.

I begin by rubbing the cure well into each piece of meat and then rub brown sugar into each piece.

Use gallon freezer bags and place a few pieces of the meat into each bag, donít overcrowd the bag, then sprinkle in a bit more brown sugar.

If pieces of ham are two inches thick, the cure will penetrate the meat to the center in about a week.

†I use a Smokin Tex electric smoker to smoke the cured meat. It takes only three or four ounces of pecan, plum or hickory wood to impart a good smoked flavor.

Place the meat in the smoker, set the thermostat at 150 and let it smoke, uncovered for about two hours.

Next, place the ham pieces on heavy duty foil, rub in a little olive oil to keep it from drying out and wrap tightly in foil.

Turn the thermostat down to 140 degrees and leave it in the oven for an additional five hours.

Then, place the meat in clean freezer bags and return them to the refrigerator for an additional week. Make sure and heat the cured/smoked ham up to at least 170 degrees when you cook it.

I usually fry the ham for breakfast, but there are many ways to put it to use. If using a wood fired smoker, allow meat to smoke for a couple hours, add oil to avoid drying and place in oven at lowest setting.

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