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Pumpkin HuntingPosted Monday, November 23, 2009, at 2:01 PM
For the majority of my adult life, the past 20 years or so, I have been an avid hunter.
For many more years that that, I have enjoyed cooking. Bringing home wild game has meshed nicely with my love for preparing out of the ordinary meals.
Particularly, as we near the holidays, when it comes to hunting and cooking, nothing compares to pumpkin hunting. You will never catch me preparing a pumpkin pie from a can. No sir! That is like passing off beef for venison. My pumpkin pies are only made from fresh pumpkins. Lawfully taken from their natural habitat.
Hunting pumpkins is unlike the pursuit of any other wild game. Pumpkins are far to wily to pass under a tree stand. You have to stalk a pumpkin. To be successful, you have to find a likely piece of pumpkin habitat. They tend to be found in patches. Once you find a likely patch, you have to carefully and quietly move around and through the patch looking for your prey.
It should be noted that the only legal pumpkin hunting equipment is a knife. Frankly, there isn't much advantage to using a shotgun or other traditional hunting equipment. While you may be able to bag more pumpkins, and at a greater distance, the use of firearms significantly detracts from the quality of the meal you make from your kill. Personally, I find it unethical for hunters to not eat their kill. While there is no daily bag limit, ethical pumpkin hunters will only take what they can use. Ironically, while it is legally required for hunting deer, rabbit and waterfowl, there is no orange requirement for pumpkin hunting.
Once a likely pumpkin has been spotted, sneak up on it as stealthfully as possible. When close, draw your knife while slowly and quietly getting into a crouch. At the opportune moment, spring upon the pumpkin and grab hold. It may thrash around a bit, but once you have cut the vine, it is all but over. After years of pumpkin hunting, I am quite convinced that they don't suffer when using this technique and cutting the vine with a knife is truly a humane way to bag your quarry.
Unlike other game, there is no need to gut the pumpkin in the field. In my experience, they actually remain fresher if you do not butcher them until you are ready to use them.
Every pumpkin recipe that I have ever used requires the pumpkin to be rendered into goo. The best process I have found for this is to bake the pumpkin, either whole or by the half with the cut side down on a cookie sheet, in the oven at 350-degrees for upwards of several hours until it starts to fall in upon itself. From there, the skin is easily removed by hand or with a paring knife. At that point, chunks of pumpkin can be put into a food processor for gooification. From there, you are ready for pie, bread, cookies or other holiday favorites with a taste and satisfaction that can never be had by opening a can.
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