American Beautyberry

My daddy always called ’em French mulberry,” my husband, a seventh-generation Texan, tells me as he pulls a branch toward him to examine the telltale nibble marks of white-tailed deer. We could barely walk a few yards in the woods of his family’s deer lease without spotting a beautyberry bush—a good thing, as both the leaves and the berries are a wildlife staple. The protein content of the leaves can reach more than 23 percent in spring, then drops as the year progresses and the plant’s energy goes into making the fruit. Deer browse the leaves in summer and fall. After the leaves have dropped, or been consumed, the deer then turn to the fruit for sustenance—as do armadillo, ’coon, fox, ’possum, squirrel, and songbird.

The berry clusters are a nearly neon fuschia-toned purple, appearing like little bomb-bursts along the long, arcing branches, and seem to glow in the drabness of the autumn woods. Plentiful throughout the Southeast, beautyberry ranges from Maryland south to Florida, and west through Missouri and down through Texas. From its abundance...


Crown Roast of Wild Pork

Serves 10-12

Of course, you’ll need to leave the backstraps (tenderloins) attached to the ribs when you butcher your hog; you will also want to remove some of the shorter ribs, so figure about eight or nine useable ribs per side on a wild hog. (On the one shown here, I used a third rack of ribs, as I was serving 10 people.)

Use an upside-down pizza pan inside a large roasting pan as the “rack” for the crown roast: It allows the heat to circulate underneath and prevents scorching the bottom of the roast. Plus, you can build your gravy right in the roasting pan after lifting out the pizza pan with the roast.

This recipe was adapted from Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Crown Roast” recipe.

See the finished crown roast at the bottom of this post.

1/2 bunch thyme, leaves only

1/2 bunch fresh sage, leaves only

2 cloves garlic, gently smashed and paper removed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil



I hear him before I see him, the distinctive “zee-zee-zee-zoo-EET” echoing in the flooded timber cathedral where I stand hip-deep in tannin-stained water, shouldered into a massive cypress’ shadow, shotgun raised, eyes skyward. My shotgun barks once, and down, down, he spirals through the ashen-gray branches, in stained-glass window colors of iridescent emerald green, royal purple, garnet, indigo, chestnut, and gold, slashed with a brilliant white.

I make my way to him, flooded with emotions: elation that I made a great shot, and a tsunami-force wave of remorse as I cradle his lifeless body. I begin to weep; I can’t stop. My husband—as he’s wont to do—stays at a distance in respectful silence as I struggle to compose myself, for he well understands the complex emotions coursing through me. I’ve shot hundreds of ducks; Shannon, more than 5,000. We eat a lot of ducks. Each one is special . . . yet, some are more special than others. As I clasp this wood duck to me now, I struggle to understand my emotional reaction to having shot him.

I know that wood ducks—the only...


Dorsey Watkins, Buyer of All Kinds of Logs,” read my papaw’s business card, and under that, in bigger, bold capital letters, “BLACK WALNUT.” Which pretty much sums it up: There’s jes’ any ole wood and then there’s black walnut. Native black walnuts range throughout the eastern and central U.S., and thrive in East Texas; just try to get there before the squirrels get ’em all. If you don’t, you can buy black walnuts at some supermarkets between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or online.

Black walnut is a much-coveted hardwood for fine furniture and gunstocks, and its wild nutmeat is as different from those English walnuts you’ll find bagged in the supermarket as dry-aged venison is from a fast-food burger. As a youngster, gathering the nuts themselves was the most fun—the trees thrive in the meadows and the woods, allowing for a good romp. We’d scurry around like squirrels to gather the fallen ones into wooden bushel baskets, and cart them back to dry on newspapers in the shed.

Walnut-shelling on the back porch was a Thanksgiving ritual for us grandkids—a time for the...


Fingers crossed that tonight’s Comanche moon will help me see better in tomorrow’s pre-dawn when miniature fighter squadrons of bluewings buzz my dekes! Biologists who measure such things say that teal don’t fly any faster than larger ducks, which leaves those of us who’ve shot and missed (more than once) scratching our heads. (OK, I’m ducking my head in humiliation!) But mama’s hungry for teal, and I seem to shoot better on an empty stomach.

Try this speedy, super-easy recipe for these super-delicious ducks …

Jerk-Rubbed Orange Blue-Winged Teal

This is a simple, no-fail method for perfectly cooked, juicy teal every time; the sweet and spicy rub with the large raw sugar crystals caramelizes into a crispy skin, while the steaming orange juice bastes the teal from the inside out. You’ll need to start your preparation two days ahead to allow the ducks time to dry-age.

6 whole teal, plucked and cleaned (for plucking instructions, see sidebar on page 90 of...

TBird snipe 16 2 225-1.jpg

Snipe season just ended here in Texas on February 14, and although it began this past October 31, invariably we wait until after the close of duck season to hunt these delectable little morsels so as not to disturb ducks that loaf and feed in the same marshy habitat as do snipe.

Most folks — Southerners, at least — will either snicker or outright guffaw when you offer to take them snipe hunting: Seems being invited on a snipe hunt marked a rite of passage for many of us as children; led out into a field after dark, our somewhat-older-and-wiser siblings or cousins coached us with a whole set of elaborate instructions on how we should crouch in the moonlight, stock-still, holding an open gunny sack until the snipe ran into it … which of course never happened, much to the glee of our tormentors.

Not until adulthood did I learn that snipe really do exist; in fact, 2 million or so Wilson’s snipe inhabit North America. Wilson’s snipe (commonly called jacksnipe) present a challenge for even the most nimble wingshooters and, once roasted, its rich, dark flesh becomes a rare...


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