It’s Food Day 2015. Thank a Sportsman.

Every year on October 24, on “Food Day,” members of the American public, food and farm activists, and chefs come together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies. In 2015, Food Day has the theme “Toward a Greener Diet”—the organizers hope we’ll all resolve to make changes in our own diets, and take action to solve food-related environmental problems.

In many ways, this is a terrific cause. Food Day rightly recognizes that “eating real” can improve your health and the environment.

But we also doubt the Food Day organizers spend much time thinking about, let alone thanking, the 40 million hunters and anglers in this country who feed their families with a harvest not just from the farm, but from forest, field, and stream.

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Because of our unique relationship with the land and the species which live upon it, America’s sportsmen are this country’s first and foremost conservationists, paying millions each year to protect public lands and clean our waters. Sportsmen advocate for agriculture policies like CRP, which provide safety nets both for farmers and for the wildlife that live on the edges of farms. And today, when the average American wastes more than 20 pounds of edible food each month, sportsmen stand apart in their commitment to using the whole animal. True sportsmen waste nothing.

There are many important issues around food in this country that hunters and anglers can’t solve, such as childhood hunger, or poor working conditions for food and farm workers. But on Food Day 2015, when the food movement pledges to move “Toward a Greener Diet,” we hope you’ll join us in thanking the American sportsman for leading the way.


In honor of moving toward a greener diet, living off the land, and wasting nothing, we’re pleased to share a recipe from our friend Steven Rinella. He writes that the recipe “calls for a skinned-out deer’s head to be buried beneath the coals of a fire, which is fun, rugged and surprisingly effective. The meat comes off the bone easily, and it’s super succulent. You can eat it with nothing but salt, but it’s even better when you use it to build a taco…It makes a perfect hunter’s snack, and your friends will never forget it.”

Big Sky Roasted Head

  • 1 deer head, skinned out
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • For serving: small corn tortillas, crumbled queso fresco or fresh goat cheese, green salsa, thinly sliced scallions, cilantro sprigs, lime wedges

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Build a big fire and let it burn vigorously for a good 45-60 minutes in order to build up a strong bed of coals. Really let it rip. You can use about any wood, but a dense hardwood will produce hotter, longer-lasting coals. An ideal choice would be mesquite, but oak is also great. While the fire is burning, you can prep your head.

Salt and pepper the head heavily and triple-or quadruple-wrap it in foil. Take a burlap or game bag and soak it in a creek or with a hose until it’s fully saturated with water. Wrap your foil-covered head tightly in the wet burlap or game bag to make a neat package.

When a good crop of coals has collected, use a spade to scrape out a trench in the center of your fire, deep enough and large enough around for your venison head. Put about a gallon of coals in the hole. Cover it with 3 inches of dirt. Then set the head in the trench. Cover the head with another 3 inches of dirt and build the fire back on top of the head. Cooking time may vary from fire to fire, but in general 3-4 hours is a pretty good amount of time to let it cook.

Pull the roasted head out with a spade and put it on a stone to cool down. If you’re concerned, insert an instant-read thermometer through the foil and into the flesh in the head (aiming for the brain is a good idea). It should be at least 160 degrees. 170-180 is ideal. Unwrap the burlap and the foil. Don’t remove the meat from the head until it has rested 10-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wrap the corn tortillas in foil and warm on the dying embers.

Being shredding the meat. There’s all kinds of good stuff on the head, particularly the tongue and the jowl meat, which tastes a bit like pulled pork. And it’s easy to remove with a knife and fork. Season the meat with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. And then get your fixings ready.

Assemble the tacos, crack open some beers, and check out the stars. You’ve earned it.

Want a chance to win a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game? Submit a photo and show us your best #PublicLandsProud moments and you could take home a copy. 

On a Texas Crane Hunt with MeatEater’s Steven Rinella

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

Last December, I had the opportunity to join Steven Rinella, the host of the popular Sportsman Channel show MeatEater, for a sandhill crane hunt in Texas. I’d connected with Rinella at a few TRCP events and learned that he’d never hunted or eaten cranes, so I invited him to join me and biologist Mike Panasci, a Texas Tech University Ph.D. student I got to know as an adjunct professor. Rinella’s longtime friend Ronnie Boehme rounded out our group. Rinella’s been a great supporter of the TRCP and conservation, but besides that, he is my kind of hunter.  I knew he’d appreciate the experience of hunting and tasting cranes for the first time.

Panasci did all the nitty gritty work of lining up lands to hunt on and making our “stuffer” decoys – skinned birds filled with wood and Styrofoam that draw other cranes toward our positions. He and another friend, Jon McRoberts, were responsible for exposing me to crane hunting after I joined the faculty at Texas Tech in 2009, and we’ve hunted together every year since. Hunting cranes is a lot like hunting geese: It’s all about scouting and patterning the birds, setting up the decoys just right, then hiding well in blinds and natural cover, and letting the birds work into the spread—when they cooperate, of course.

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

We had a few struggles on the front end of the hunt, as we quickly learned that hiding a couple of guys from wary cranes is pretty easy, but hiding three cameramen and four hunters is a bit more challenging. After testing a couple of setups and finding a prime location with better cover, we actually had a really successful hunt, as you’ll see in the resulting episode of MeatEater. We even bagged a rare banded bird—you’ll have to tune in to learn more about where that bird has been.

The Texas crane hunt airs on MeatEater this Thursday, August 20 at 8 p.m. on the Sportsman Channel.

Video: Driftless Areas and the Farm Bill

Steven Rinella, host of the hit TV show “MeatEater” discusses the importance of private lands conservation programs in the Farm Bill and their role in ensuring hunting and fishing opportunities.

  • The conservation title of the Farm Bill is the single-largest source of federal funding for conservation on private lands in our country.
  • Farm Bill conservation programs assist farmers, ranchers and other landowners in running economically sustainable operations while conserving important fish and wildlife habitat, safeguarding clean air and water, stabilizing topsoil and enhancing recreational opportunities on private lands.
  • Given the effectiveness of these programs, proposed reductions in their funding would undermine the effectiveness of efforts like those Rinella profiles in the Driftless Area.
  • Every five years when the Farm Bill’s renewal is considered by Congress, American hunters and anglers must fight to ensure that these critical conservation programs are strongly funded.
  • If funding levels for private lands conservation programs are not maintained or bolstered in the next Farm Bill, key habitat for fish and wildlife could be severely compromised.

Learn more about The Driftless Area Initiative.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work to secure conservation funding in the next Farm Bill.

Learn more about the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group.


DON’T MISS: Senate Tackles Colorado River Management

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a hearing on Tuesday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET to receive testimony on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. This study is a landmark analysis of water supplies in the basin over the next 50 years that will be a critical tool for water managers at all levels as they plan for future water use.

Sportsmen need to be aware of this important planning activity and what it means for hunting and fishing. You will be able to watch a live webcast of the hearing on the committee’s website.

In the first season of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes,” our friend Steven Rinella discussed the importance of managing water in the western United States, including in the Colorado River basin, and what it means for fish and wildlife. Check it out, and stay tuned for more updates on the Colorado River study.


Conservation Funding = Economic Growth on TRCP’s CFN

How do hunting and angling benefit the national economy? Watch “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes” as Steven Rinella explains the many ways sportsmen enable a strong economic future for America.

  • Outdoor recreation has a substantial positive impact on the U.S. economy, with figures of $120.7 billion in product sales and $524.8 billion in trip and travel related spending.
  • Congress is considering damaging cuts to critical conservation programs that will not only affect hunting and fishing opportunities, but could have a detrimental effect on the outdoor recreation economy as whole.
  • Investments in our natural resources comprise a mere 1.26 percent of the federal budget, and current cuts under consideration are disproportionately weighted on conservation and recreation.

To learn more about conservation funding, please visit the below sites:

Outdoor Industry Association
US Fish and Wildlife Hunting and Fishing Survey-2011

Federal investments in conservation support more than 9.4 million American jobs ranging from manufacturing to retail to service. Tell Congress to support the outdoor recreation economy.

Wetlands, Waterfowl and NAWCA

Everybody loves waterfowl. Those winged and web-footed creatures find their way into the hearts of sportsmen and anyone who spends time near bodies of water.

Waterfowl are so universally revered that the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was passed to fund wetlands and waterfowl conservation efforts in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Learn more on this week’s episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes.”

Join Steven Rinella of the hit TV show “MeatEater” as he hunts in Mexico and discusses how NAWCA conserves waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources across North America while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits.

Be sure to tune in Sundays at 9 p.m. E/P on the Sportsman Channel to catch the latest episode of “MeatEater.

Recipe: Quail Stir Fry with Steven Rinella

Watch, learn and salivate as Steven Rinella, host of the hit TV show MeatEater fries up a quail with salt pork over open fire.

Video: Backcountry and Big-Game Conservation in the Coronado National Forest

In early 2012, the TRCP joined forces with Bass Pro Shops and Steven Rinella of the hit TV show “MeatEater” to produce a video series highlighting conservation issues key to our fish, wildlife and hunting and angling traditions. Each episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes” follows Rinella to far-flung destinations where he talks about critical conservation issues related to the hunts and regions featured on “MeatEater.”

In this episode, Steven discusses the importance of backcountry roadless areas in securing valuable habitat for species like Coues deer in the Coronado National Forest.

  • While ensuring access to existing roads is important, building new roads can result in reduced cover for big game, leading to shorter hunting seasons and decreased hunter opportunity. Too many roads also can diminish the quality of fish spawning habitat, curtailing angler opportunity.
  • The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule ensures that backcountry areas will continue to provide unfragmented habitat for big game, clean water for wild trout and places where sportsmen can escape crowds and pursue their quarries in solitude.