An Easy European Mount

hooker-020113Here’s one of the simple and effective items the Safari Magazine team saw at SHOT Show this year.  The SkullHooker is a professionally finished and fully adjustable european skull bracket, and anyone who can turn a screwdriver can use it. These stylish euro skull brackets are powder coated with two colors to choose from and are fully adjustable (up and down) to accommodate different species’ horns or antlers and more importantly providing a natural upright look. The SkullHooker arm can swing both right and left taking advantage of all areas of a room. Simply mount it to your wall, and hang your cleaned skull by the hook for a perfect, adjustable European mount.

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2013 Nebraska Safari Club Convention

NSC_HeaderThe 2013 Nebraska Safari Club Convention will be held on February 8th & 9th at the Strategic Air & Space Museum with lodging at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska. General admission $10, children 12 and under free.
Hours: Friday Feb. 8th – 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Saturday Feb. 9th – 10:00 am to 10:00 pm

Highlights of the Convention:

SCI/Nebraska proudly presents a 500″, 80 points, 33″ wide, with antlers weighing 19.6 pounds whitetail buck. Potential #2 or #3 in world records. There will be several deer that score 300″ to 500″.

Gales buck

Chris Emery, the Record Book-Measuring Coordinator from SCI National will present The SCI Official Measuring Seminar at the February Convention on Saturday, Feb. 9th from Noon until 4:00. The Seminar is a four-hour presentation that will walk participants through all of SCI’s measuring techniques and the fundamental guidelines for measuring for SCI. We will discuss some of the differences between the various scoring systems and leave participants with a strong understanding of how to score various big game animals. All attendees must be SCI members or join to take the course, the cost $175 per attendee. Click to register.

Choosing Great Bordeaux with Venison

The region of Aquitaine in Southwest France, of which Bordeaux is the capital, is so rich in deer that public playing fields and cemeteries have to take special measures to keep them out. Aquitaine is, in fact, the richest game region in France, according to the Federation of Hunters of the Gironde, the region just around Bordeaux, so it is not surprising that, for centuries, the great Bordeaux wines have been served with venison, and combined with it in great recipes that celebrate the ‘terroir.’

Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.
Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.

A good example, from the south of Aquitaine, comes from the chef Nicolas Borombo, of the restaurant Kaïku, at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Borombo serves roasted venison rolled into a crunchy crust of chocolate, accompanied with a purée of apple and celery. Over the roast is poured a classic Bordeaux recipe that marries the taste of the wine to the meat: the so-called “sauce grand veneur,” and he serves it with a Château-Guiraud 2009, a Côtes de Bourg, which is a wine that did not get classified officially as a Bordeaux in the 19th century, but that has all the great characteristics of one. Produced around the town Bourg-sur-Gironde about 20 kilometers north of Bordeaux, the Côtes de Bourg boast a robust but elegant structure that is the result of a high proportion of Merlot within the blending.

Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur.
Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol, recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur.

For the classic recipe, many chefs use the saddle of the deer.  They marinate it in a combination of carrots, shallot, onion, bay leaf and the same wine that will be drunk with the dish – no matter how expensive. “One must never compromise on this,” insists Eric Frechon, chef at the Michelin 3-star restaurant at the Paris Hotel Bristol. Frechon recommends a Château Le Puy Cuvée Barthélémy 2001 for his venison in sauce grand veneur. This is a Bordeaux from the so-called “Cote des Francs,” to the east of the city not far from St. Emilion and Pomerol. The 2001 is an extremely elegant organic wine at about $100 a bottle. It has a beautiful round finish that joins with the rich heavy juice of the meat. Frechon serves the filet of chevreuil with a canneloni stuffed with truffle.

Bordeaux wines and venison make a marriage made in heaven, whether you bring them together in a recipe or simply serve Bordeaux with the game, as wine expert Benedicte Trocard of the Bordeaux Ecole des Vins, Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux explains. “The firm flesh of venison provides a strong, almost hemp-like taste, one of great power. For this reason, it is almost always served in combinations of strong flavors and spices. So it should be matched with wine that has a real charisma, real power as well. Some Bordeaux wines fill the bill marvellously, because of the strong tannin, well-formed robe, and great fullness of flavor that they boast,” Trocard explains.

Trocard favors a type of Bordeaux called “Fronsac” to serve with venison.  Located next to northwestern Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac are situated on the clay-limestone plateaus and slopes of the Fronsac region. Deep ruby red in color, the wines’ strong tannic structure combines with main aromas of soft fruits, often enriched by spicy hints, even by truffle, combining subtlety and intensity. They are ropy and distinguished wines that bring together richness and elegance. “You can see how the strength and elegance make them go well with the powerful flavors of venison,” Trocard says.

Chateau Pape Clement 2006 is a Graves wine, produced in the Pessac-Leognan region on the “right” side of the Gironde river. It would complement the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing.
Chateau Pape Clement 2006 is a Graves wine that complements the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing.

Fronsac is on the “left” side of the Gironde river that divides the Bordeaux wine region, and Trocard suggests crossing the river to find some other Bordeaux wines that go well with venison. On the other “right” side, not far from the airport, is the Pessac-Leognan region that produces the thick, almost syrupy Graves wines, which bring together complex flowery noses, heavy tannin, and deep, fruity taste. These go wonderfully with roasted or stewed venison.

A good example is the Chateau Pape Clement 2006. This Chateau, located  in the village of Pessac,  south of Bordeaux, produces one of the richest Graves  in the region. It would complement the spice in a venison dish without becoming overbearing. While the Pape Clement 2006 would be an ideal (and expensive) choice, any Graves with bottle age would offer many of these fine qualities.

There are those who accuse Bordeaux wines of having too much tannin to go well with game; these gourmets prefer a softer Syrah or a Pinot Noir with venison. We strongly disagree; we think a robust meal calls for a robust wine, and a Bordeaux with bottle age offers complexity and what the French call “du squelette,” meaning, a skeleton that lets it stand up for itself. We think you’ll agree.–Andrew Rosenbaum

Beagles, Bunnies And Classic Cars

The faint smell of fresh straw wafting from the otherwise dank dog box in the back of the truck permeates the brisk air while heavy dew on the slick grass begins softening the work-hardened toes of my leather boots. I can feel its cool dampness seeping in through a deep crack or two earned by the leather from my abuse and neglect, but the sun is quickly working its way above the horizon and the slight wisps of steam rising from where the sun hits the ground unfiltered tells me it will be unseasonably hot again. My feet will not be cold today, but I find myself hoping one more time that my weathered boots will make it through another hunt.

CRW_8249_White013113

With the tailgate open, the pack of beagles can see out and their unbridled excitement for the morning hunt is evident. Any movement from their humans is answered with impulsive bays cried out instinctively, and the rhythmic thumping of tails soon to be bloodied by mean briars drums steadily on the inside of the box.

DSCN1069_White013113Skunk opens the left door of the box and a stream of brown and black pours from it onto the ground and splatters in all directions. Flea hesitates to take the tumble. Instead, the meek-looking runt of the litter stands on the tailgate, head hanging, tail tucked, waiting for the firm hand of her Master to place her down. Her dished out flanks join small, boney hips to a disproportionate chest that is full of nothing but heart for the hunt despite her diminutive stature and reluctance to jump. Skunk uses the opportunity to put on her electronic collar before resting the now eager, gyrating dog on the ground.

 

DSCN2340_White013113It would be charitable to call this sorry looking pack great beagles. Their coarse hair and widely varying body sizes hint of a secret kennel affair at some point in their lineage. There are no graceful, thorax-like waists as found on purebred upland bird dogs or deep, powerful chests like on Labs—they’re just brown and black misshapen sacks with short legs, long ears and the occasional wart. But they have strong noses and sharp voices and are fine rabbit dogs.

I am on an annual all-day rabbit hunting pilgrimage with my neighbors, SCI Members W.R. Thompson and his son Billy Ray, and their friends Joey and Skunk who have traveled several hours with their dogs from the Chesapeake Bay to our quiet village of White Post. Two things run through the veins of these Thompson men—a passion for hunting, and old motor oil. Their passion for hunting is evident from their trophy room that is lined with the heads and hides from generations of hunting everything from our local rabbits to mountain goats, wolves, bears and all manner of antlered game taken on hunts booked at the SCI Convention.

Next to their home, hidden in our secluded town in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, is “the shop”—White Post Restorations–one of the world’s foremost antique car restoration businesses. With its 30-some families and only two streets that intersect at the historic “white post,” our village hardly seems the place where everyone from American celebrities to Middle Eastern royalty would turn to have new life breathed into an old car.

IMG_1287_White013113One of several 1949 Cadillac Model 75 Limousines they are restoring is ready to head “home” to the Middle East. Billy Ray and one of his mechanical craftsmen will accompany it and deliver it personally to a king where it’s not enough for the car to run right and look new—it has to be perfect in every way. With typical White Post car restorations running into six figures, these cars are not for the sake of investment. They are about the desire for extraordinary, unobtainable things and are nothing short of fine art on mechanical canvas every bit as pleasing to a collector as a Rembrandt painting or a bottle of Romanée Conti.

Upon entering the shop, one is first taken by the almost cramped, maze-like layout culminating from decades of cobbling on a room here and there as the family has grown the business over four generations. Autographed celebrity photos hang on the walls among original antique automobile ephemera, and an old barber’s chair complemented by a working barber pole are visible through the door to the men’s restroom. Mechanic bays corner W.R.’s tiny office, and past the upholstery room is the lunchroom where local residents also meet to discuss village business.

DSCN9728_White013113After one takes in the complexity of the labyrinth and begins to process finer details, you notice that the shop is immaculate—spotless—almost sterile in its cleanliness. This is not a garage where oil-soaked kitty litter crunches under your feet or you need to be concerned that unintentionally brushing up against something will find a glob of dirty grease attaching itself only to be discovered later after you’ve thoroughly ground it into your clothes and probably the upholstery of your car and living room sofa. Instead, this is where ostrich-plume feather dusters are lightly caressed over deep, mirror-like paint jobs and one must put on white cotton gloves and empty their pockets before getting inside a car.

That immaculateness carries over to the Thompson’s primary residence where the family’s matriarch, W.R.’s wife, Laura, tends tidy hosta gardens that compete for most elegant in White Post with her bubbling, kidney-shaped koi pond she dug herself. There is also an aged wisteria braiding up and into the pergola leading to the sunroom that welcomes the Thompson’s visitors with bountiful clumps of fragrant periwinkle blossoms.

IMG_1308_White013113Though Laura doesn’t personally hunt, she is completely into the Safari Club International lifestyle. Before joining SCI and going to her first Convention, W.R.’s elk ivory were little more to her than strange teeth from some animal he killed. More recently, however, they’ve been crafted into a striking bracelet by one of SCI’s exhibitors. “I never realized they could be made into something so beautiful,” she tells me as I sit waiting in their trophy room for W.R. to finish getting ready for the afternoon rabbit hunt. He finally enters through the heavy, custom-crafted copper doors Laura commissioned at last year’s Convention, and we’re off.

The dense stand of ponderosa pine is hardly the habitat I’d ever expect to find rabbits, yet year after year, W.R., Billy Ray, their friends and I always manage to take about 50 from there before calling it a season. This year is no different. The stand is “infested” with rabbits, as W.R. says, and it’s good that the dogs rested through lunch. They’re not nearly as fresh as they were in the morning and are trailing much slower now, which is a good thing as the many fresh crisscrossing rabbit trails overwhelm the energetic dogs’ capabilities and split the pack.

_IMG_2822013113We probably won’t all limit out today, and that’s fine. For me, it’s about the quality of the hunt and my fellow hunters, not the number of rabbits I have to clean. It has been a good hunt. The dogs did well and we hit more than we missed despite the tight spacing of the trees and the occasional impenetrable tangle of briars.

And what amazing car does the owner of one of the foremost car restoration companies drive away in after a great day of rabbit hunting? The same one he drives every day—a 10-year-old Ford F-150—of course, it’s the King Ranch version. Which, in its own way, is also a type of “classic.”–Scott Mayer

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