Every once in a while you meet somebody you will never forget because they touch you to your soul and you have a great experience with them. This summer on a back country pack trip I had the pleasure of meeting the Hogan family. Laura and Mike have certainly done a stellar job raising their two children, Libsy and Baxter. Mike plays the ukulele and the family sang old Rock and Roll songs around the camp fire at night for our personal entertainment. And by day Libsy picked wild flowers and made Haku Lei’s and decorated our dining table. Baxter….well, he did it all.
Mike has been taking Baxter to the local gun range and teaching him safety and shooting skills for a few years. Baxter tried a few practice shots in camp at some empty cans and proved to be a good shot, as with all hunting camps you need a few practice shots before you go out in the field and Baxter really wanted to hunt something. Since it wasn’t hunting season the only thing legal would be varmints. As luck would have it, we had those and there were Woodchucks a plenty.
The crew headed out on a day trip on horseback and Baxter asked if he brought back a woodchuck could we cook it. Uh….yea! I personally was more than excited to see how this was going to pan out. Pun intended.
I knew when I saw the look on his face that there had been a successful hunt. Baxter harvested two fine specimens with our Master guide and Outfitter Michael Colpo at his side. It was so fun to see his excitement and his tale of the hunt (one of three got away) and how they skinned and field dressed them and he was excited to hear how we were going to cook these up.
I didn’t have to do too much prep work, they had done a fine job in the field. So out came a sweet and spicy seasoning, some garlic salt and a bit of Cavender’s which I used liberally on all accounts. We definitely had to roast these over the fire, that was all there was to it. We are in the backcountry after all, things are primitive back there.
The day before Baxter had fashioned himself a marshmallow roasting stick and I didn’t have the heart to tell him the forks on it were a bit too thick for a marshmallow. He worked hard on that stick even tempering it in the flame and it was actually the perfect roasting stick for these two freshly harvested woodchucks. So onto the forked roasting stick they went.
I set him up by the fire over some perfect roasting coals and Baxter then became a human rotisserie. About a half hour and those Woodchucks looked perfectly done, but when I gave them a little poke to test for doneness I realized they were kind of dry. I then fashioned an aluminum foil vessel, inserted the two carcasses and add 1/2 cup of Crown Royal. Crown Royal seemed perfectly appropriate. I then enclosed the package and we took it back to the coals for a quick braise.
After about half an hour of turning and tossing around in the fire pit we pulled out the bounty. Everybody was standing around waiting for this moment and when we opened up the foil packet there were two beautiful, steaming, wonderful smelling woodchucks. They looked and smelled so awesome, the Crown had totally been drawn into the meat, how could this not be good?
I am here to tell you…I was unbelievably surprised at the flavor and texture. Not like chicken or anything else I have ever tried. Hard to explain really, but totally awesome and I will definitely try this recipe again. You for sure need more than two woodchucks if you are going to feed them to a party of eleven. These definitely made an excellent appetizer for the few of us who got a piece, or two.
I am so fortunate to have had this experience with the Hogan family. Thank you, Baxter for providing the meat for your first Field to Table learning experience. I hope you have many more!
Margie Nelson (Wyld Gourmet)