Luke Clayton: Venison Guisada or stew?

Outdoors columnist suggests a tasty variation on a popular Mexican dish

Luke Clayton
Daily Light contributor
This pot of tasty Mexican stew began as guisada but Luke decided it was time for stew and changed plans as the meat simmered.
Luke Clayton

One day this past week my wife saw me out behind the house at my little cabin, working around the cooking fire pit. “What you up to?” She called out from the house. “Not sure but I have some cubed venison steak and wild pork, going to make something “Mexican’.” “Well, WHAT”? She continued to quiz. My answer was an honest one. I simply did not know the exact dish I planned to prepare but it was going to have a Mexican flavor and it was going to be tasty!

Carne Guisada is a Mexican dish featuring very tender cubes of meat, well-seasoned Mexican style and served on a hot flour tortilla. In the back of my mind, I was thinking guisada as I cubed a couple pounds of fresh wild pork backstrap and ham steak from a mule deer I took out in the Trans Pecos region during hunting season. I dusted the meat liberally with Fiesta brand Carne Guisada seasoning allowed it to brown over the wood fire and then added a little water, then put the lid on the kettle and allowed it to simmer until fork tender. I began thinking about stew. It had been a while since I had made stew over a wood fire and the thought of adding veggies to the very tender, well seasoned meat struck me as a grand idea. I began rustling around and found some potatoes, a couple of my homemade smoked chipotle peppers, a can of tomato sauce, a couple ribs of celery and carrot; onion was added to the cubed meat as it slow cooked. My plan for guisada had just morphed into a tasty Mexican stew.

I raised my deer antler “pot hanger” a few inches above the coals, attached the bail of the kettle and added all the veggies. Forty-five minutes simmering above the hot coals transformed this dish that began as simply guisada into a very tasty Mexican stew. I served it with hot, butter and lightly salted flour tortillas. A word about tortillas; never heat them in a microwave! Tortillas are best when heated over a direct flame or at least in a hot skillet until a little brown crust appears.

Turkey time

By the time you are reading this, I will have had a couple of fine springtime days hunting turkeys along the awesomely beautiful Brazos River in Palo Pinto County with my friend Randy Douglas, manager of the Dale River Ranch. I’m contemplating whether to use my bow, big bore air rifle or shotgun for this hunt. Each weapon choice has its allure. A 12-gauge loaded with a heavy charge of number 4 shot would be the obvious choice but I am contemplating using my bow or .45-caliber Texan big bore air rifle, or possibly both. I am simply not stealthy enough to kill a turkey with a bow without setting in a pop up blind of some sort. When setting out in the open or even behind brush, I always manage to spook the bird before I can loose my arrow. It’s pretty easy to kill a gobbler from a roomy pop up blind if one backs up toward the back of the blind and draws the bow low and then eased it up into shooting position.

I love to eat wild turkey, it’s my favorite game meat so my goal is to avoid as much meat loss as possible, regardless which weapon I choose to hunt with. This is why I am contemplating using the big air rifle. I’ll be shooting a big 250-grain bullet that will simply bowl the bird over and not do a great deal of damage to the meat as would a fast-moving centerfire caliber.

I love to “run and gun” when turkey hunting. This method requires walking slowly and stopping to call every one hundred yards or so. Once a gobbler responds, it’s time to set a decoy in a visible spot and get concealed quickly. While this is one of the most exciting methods of turkey hunting and one I dearly love, it pretty much eliminates the use of a bow and arrow, at least for me. I’ll probably simply set up my pop up bind in an area along the river that the turkeys are frequenting and tote both my bow and air rifle. If a gobbler “hangs up” out at forty or fifty yards, beyond my skill level with the bow, I’ll use the air rifle. If he comes on it within, say 25 yards, I will most likely nock and arrow and attempt to harvest him with the bow. If the bird “hangs up” back in the brush, I’ll grab the rifle and move toward him. This mimics a hen turkey on the move and often triggers a reluctant gobbler to come toward what he thinks is a hen on the move. There is something very special about taking a turkey with a bow, I have taken several through the years using this method and vividly remember each hunt. Everything has to be done just right in order to kill a turkey using archery equipment. It’s definitely the most challenging way of hunting but also the most rewarding.

This hunt will be a success regardless whether I harvest a turkey or not. Spending time with a great friend in the early spring woods in this stunningly beautiful “Brazos River Country” is pretty close to heaven on earth, at least for this old outdoors writer. I’m planning on bringing along the necessities for catching and cooking a few fish for the noontime meal.

Email outdoors writer Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org .