It’s almost August, or maybe already is, depending on when you garnered enough nerve to read this Weekly Mistake. Regardless, August is perhaps my most “unfavorite” month of the year. It’s hot and muggy, and mosquitoes are out in full force. There’s not a whole lot to rejoice about, unless you count the only holiday I see on the calendar, and that’s Civic Day … in Canada!
My apologies go out to those born during this steamy month, but other than that, I can find little that it’s good for. By August, I have told and re-told all my lies from the previous hunting season. Both my friends get tired of listening or reading, even though the lies keep changing from telling to telling. And I can never remember all my alibis. Be patient, though; the upcoming dove seasons will provide fresh lies and alibis.
As stated in previous columns, with the exceptions of early morning, late afternoon or night, fishing is miserable. And when I do get out on the water to “wet a hook,” it seems that fish catching is the only thing that ain’t too hot. I’d almost just as soon go to the fish market; at least it’s air conditioned!
But alas, the weather will begin to cool in September. Meanwhile, it’s now time, even past time, to begin preparing and planting wild game or bird plots. Yep, it’s still hot and miserable, but I actually look forward to helping attract and nurture the game I intend to hunt in the fall and winter. When I harvest game from those plots later in the fall and winter, I get a greater sense of pride and accomplishment. You will, too.
Neither of my readers care anything about my likes, comforts or discomforts, so I shall move on to some pertinent information to get first-time hunters certified. Don’t let the seasons sneak up you. Pre-register uncertified hunters for courses sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks by going online at www. mdwfp.com.
Hunter certification is required in order to purchase a hunting license if you were born after Jan. 1, 1972. In order to become certified in Hunter Education, persons must be at least 10 years of age, complete the entire course, score 70 percent or higher on the Hunter Education exam and demonstrate safety with a firearm. For more information, visit the MDWFP website.
It might seem like a strange time of year to be thinking about venison jerky, but I have two reasons: One is that if you have leftover venison in your freezer, especially the less desired cuts, it’s a good time to start making room for the deer you hope to get this fall or winter. The second reason is that, as mentioned in a previous Weekly Mistake, outdoor information isn’t easy to come by this time of year.
Nonetheless, I’ll never forget the first deer jerky I ever had. The late Carl Wistead and I were hunting as guests of a tough, old widow on her 5,000-acre ranch near the town of Uvalde, Texas. Upon our arrival, Thelma Thompson invited us in for a glass of tea, then slid a platter of jerky in front of us. “Have a piece,” she said. Before we finished our tea, the jerky was gone! It was that good. Shortly after she got to know us better, this woman noted for speaking her mind told me, “I said have a piece, not the whole damn plate!”
I just had to know how she made the jerky, so I asked. When she told me the ingredients, I could not believe my ears. There were only three: liquid mesquite smoke, soy sauce and lemon pepper. That’s it, although with the flavor bursts, you’d have thought she threw in the entire spice cabinet.
To make Thelma’s jerky, slice the venison no thicker than one-quarter inch thick and one inch wide, then place in a large bowl. Pour equal amounts of liquid smoke and soy sauce in a cup and mix well. Pour mixture over venison and also stir it in well. Make sure all meat is covered with marinade and marinate for 18-24 hours. As marinade is soaked up by the meat, you may need to add more.
After marinating, carefully sprinkle BOTH sides of the meat with lemon pepper (I prefer coarse lemon pepper for the added bursts of flavor), separate pieces and place in a dehydrator or oven on low heat. As for how long to cook, you’ll have to sample the jerky regularly until it suits your taste. You’ll know then what to expect on your next batch. I cook mine about 6-8 hours until I reach the right texture. And, if this jerky recipe doesn’t suit your taste, experiment. For example, I have added Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder and Accent, but I always go back to Thelma’s original.
That’s all there is to it, though it’s not as simple as it sounds, and it gets messy sometimes slicing, marinating and transferring meat. But it’s worth it. So if you need to clear out venison to make room for fresh game meat this fall, fix a batch of jerky. You may or may not like it; that’s for you to decide. But it’s a convenient snack for hunting, fishing or camping trips. So the next time you go, take a Ziplock full of jerky. And when you do, take a kid with you … every time you can.
Hattiesburg native Phil DiFatta is a lifelong outdoorsman who has written a newspaper column since 1982. Email him at email@example.com.