Monday, November 29, 2010

Saturday Night I'm Going To Party Like It's 1978

It was probably the late 1970s or early 80s, and I was sitting around the dinner table, dining with my parents and brother. On this particular evening, we had the TV tuned to the local news -- mostly as background noise.

It was a rare night that I wasn't enjoying my meal -- a casserole of some sort (of which I'm still not a fan today). "I hate casseroles," I muttered to my plate and no one in particular.

Across the table, my father's fork audibly dropped on his plate. "Young man, hate is a strong word. You can dislike your meal all you want, but you're not allowed to hate it. The only thing you're allowed to hate is that man right there."

My father pointed to our small Emerson television. Barry Switzer, coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, was talking. And that was my indoctrination into Husker football.

Of course, Dad wasn't entirely serious about hating Coach Switzer. In fact, in the years since then, I've always had a fondness for the Sooners. Back then, the Cornhuskers and Sooners were the two heavies that could always be counted on to fight for the Big 8 championship, and most likely a national one.  Epic battles between the brash, foul-mouthed Switzer and the bland, choir boy Tom Osborne.  My allegiances never faltered from the Huskers, but I did always secretly love (and love to hate) Coach Switzer.

Then came the Big 12, and like everything else in sports (and life I suppose), it became all about money and power. Our yearly duel with the Okies ended. And the power (and money) shifted to Dallas and Austin. I'm not here to debate who's at fault -- there's plenty of blame to go around, and what's done is done.

I pondered all of this last Friday, as I watched the Huskers drub the Colorado Buffaloes (always an enjoyable thing) from our seats in Memorial Stadium. Both teams will soon head off to different conferences and different futures. While the game was great, something felt amiss. I'm no longer able to look forward to annual games against the K-State Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, or Missouri Tigers -- the schools where my co-workers and hunting buddies attended. Their stadiums are all a short drive from home.

I'm trading that for far-flung Ohio State and Michigan -- great schools, for sure, but I don't know a soul from either institution.  They're strangers to me.  That'll change over time, but next year is going to be weird.

But for the next week, I'm going to set that all aside and fondly anticipate Saturday night's throwback throwdown between two historic (and hopefully future) powerhouses. And however things turn out, I'll be satisfied that the old Big Eight had one final, proud curtain call.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Lots of good entries... well, actually, there were surprisingly few entries, but damn fine advice from the folks that did enter.  We'll highlight all of this stuff (cuz as far as I can tell, it's all good endorsements from good people), but without further ado, here's the winner - who can email me at

Here's to tryptophan.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

True American Dog and Last Chance to Win

Completely random pre-Thanksgiving thoughts today...
I have no idea what the True American Dog blog is about, but it's weirdly fascinating.  And you can submit photos of your own dogs for publishing -- come on, fellow bird-doggers!

And why haven't more people submitted entries on my gadget contest?  It's a free hunting vest, really.  No strings attached.  I won't stalk you or offer you my Nigerian uncle's inheritance in exchange for your bank account's routing number.  Right now I have fewer than ten entries, so your chances are pretty good.  Winner announced tomorrow.

Don't eat too much, yall.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Garrison Brothers Distillery: Hye Times For Brown Liquor in Texas

Being an unapologetic Texaphile, every so often I imagine myself 120 years ago, sitting in the dark and smoky Menger Hotel bar, drinking a glass of whiskey with Teddy Roosevelt as he recruits me to join his Rough Riders. Or I daydream about sititng in the richly-appointed Driskill Hotel bar in Austin, as dusty cowpokes mix with wheeling-and-dealing politicians. And once again, I'm sipping a bourbon.

Even back then, if bourbon was your firewater of choice, you probably weren't drinking anything made in the Lone Star State. Now you can.

Garrison Brothers Distillery, located in the Hill Country hamlet of Hye, is the first-ever bourbon distillery in Texas. (And yes, contrary to popular belief, true bourbon can be made outside of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Law dictates that Bourbon must be a whiskey made of at least 51% corn and undergo two years aging in new, charred oak barrels, among other things, but there are no geographical limitations.)

After calling to set up an appointment on a balmy Saturday afternoon, we were met by owner Dan Garrison in his small, yet busy stillhouse. He and his ragtag staff are literally working around the clock to brew their whiskey. Like any Texan, Dan is proud of what he's got going, and he has every right to be.

In the center of the room was the "Copper Cowgirl" -- a 100-gallon still that works overtime and has seen duty at the Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace distilleries. They make this stuff by hand, in ridiculously small quantities, redefining the term "small batch." Their mash contains West Texas corn ground on site, wheat that's grown on premises, and malted barley from the Pacific Northwest. That recipie results in what they say the highest fermentable sugar content available. That, of course, makes for smooth, complex bourbon.

And one that's apparently quite popular. The 2008 vintage was released on November 3rd and within ten days, all 1,800 bottles had been snapped up -- reportedly to a tune of nearly $90 for each 750ml vessel.

Dan doesn't apologize for the price, nor should he. The batch we tasted was simply the smoothest bourbon to ever cross my lips. Normally, I like my whiskey on the rocks -- even the premium brands tend to open up a bit with a slowly melting ice cube or two. The Garrison Brothers we sampled was served neat -- and what a pleasure it was. Smooth without being syrupy, warming without burning, with all the vanilla and caramel flavors that define a good bourbon.

Thankfully, Garrison is expanding his facility and was meeting with a builder the day we met him, so there'll hopefully be more opportunities to snap up a bottle or two of this uniquely Texan spirit.

Photos taken from the Garrison website... I was an idiot and forgot my camera.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Best Hunting Gear & Gadgets You Never Knew About - Enter and Win!

Anyone that even remotely knows me understands that I'm something of a gear freak. I can't help it. I completely understand that no amount of technology can take the place of experience and dedication, but dammit, hunting gear is just plain fun!

It doesn't have to be specifically designed for hunters though -- in fact, it's even more enjoyable if it's not. Nor does it have to be expensive. I love discovering little-known or little-heralded tools or technology that make our lives afield just a bit easier.

Not sure what I mean? Here's just a smattering of my must-have hunting tools and technology:

Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. For a hunter who spends long hours on the road, this is really must-have technology. Commercial-free, hi-fidelity music makes those long miles fly by, and it's great to have the news when you need it (Three years ago, I fondly recall getting word in remote Montana from XM that the economy had cratered and my 401k was all but worthless). My only complaint is the college football lineup is pretty haphazard.

Little Giant Duraflex Feed Bowls. These rubber bowls don't absorb bacteria, can be hammered on if they freeze over, and are chew-proof save for the most determined dogs (cough-LuLu-cough). Plus, they're skid-proof and they don't make all sorts of noise when kicked around a kennel like a steel bowl. They can be found at any Tractor Supply or Fleet farm for six or eight bucks apiece. I've had a couple for nearly 20 years now.

Moist Towelettes. The maximum bang for the minimum buck, bar none. Did you just clean an entire covey of quail in the middle of nowhere? Eliminate the avian influenza heeby jeebies with one. Did that eight-mile hike leave you a little less-than-fresh? Fake a bath with one. Was that Allsup's two-for-one breakfast burrito special a bad idea? You get the idea.

So what's your favorite outdoor or hunting gear? Post your submissions in the comments section - all (reasonable and appropriate) entries will be thrown in a cowboy hat and one lucky winner will be chosen at random by Jack. The winner will receive one new Boyt hunting vest, size large, as well as the undying adulation of your peers and complete strangers.

And now for the half-assed legalese...

Estimated MSRP of the vest is approximately $100.  Vest may vary from previous hyperlink, but it's the closest I could find.  Winner to be announced on this blog on Thanksgiving Day. If you don't want the vest, enter anyway... you can designate the winner. Undying adulation is at the sole discretion of peers and strangers. Boyt Harness or its subsidiaries are in no way affiliated with this contest. Each entrant may include up to three entries (each different product will be considered a separate entry). Scampwalker will pay for ground postage to winner. No warranties are expressed or implied. All entrants agree to completely indemnify Scampwalker's blog and real-world persona from any liability or damages. Final decisions are solely that of Scampwalker, and more importantly, Jack. No whining. And no, I am not an attorney, but I know some good ones. Keep it clean, legal, and have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tips From The Road: Freezing Game

The Kansas upland season is just starting, as it is in much of the U.S. of A.  And with any luck at all, we'll all be coming home with a few birds for the freezer.  With that in mind, I thought I'd share my method for storing birds for later use.

I was under the impression that everyone did it my way, but I've encountered plenty of serious bird hunters (and fine cooks) who simply toss their harvest in a ziploc bag and drop it in the dark recesses of the deep freeze.  That's a sure invitation for freezer burn, which dries out any exposed surface area of the meat and generally makes your hard-earned birds taste like freezer plastic.

Instead, take ten extra seconds and fill that bag with just enough water to cover the contents before you freeze it.  The water protects the meat almost indefinitely.  I recently thawed and ate a package of quail from the 2008 season that had managed to hide itself deep within the deep freeze -- with no deleterious effects.  The method does take up a bit more room, but it also encourages you to clean things out for the next season.

Just make sure you label your packages -- nothing's a bigger bummer than looking forward to a meal of Hungarian partridge and realizing you've just thawed a package of woodcock.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wisdom From Jack: 2010 Kansas Upland Youth Opener

On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking my ten-year-old son out for the pheasant and quail opener in Kansas. I handled the dogs, and Jack toted his 870.

What follows are few choice exchanges between father and son during our time afield.


(before first field, father and son relieve selves by the side of the road)

Jack: I love peeing outside. Girls are really missing out.


(after one of my lengthy dissertations on gun safety involving where to stand, when to disengage the safety, why it's always ok to pass up an uncertian shot, and what the "Blue sky rule" is)

Jack: There sure is a lot to think about before you pull the trigger.


(while walking)

Jack: Hey Dad, what's a radioactive isotope?

Scampwalker: Well, they're not good for you. I, um, well... I think they kill cells and stuff. To be honest, I don't really have a good answer.

Jack: That's ok Dad. I bet mom will know.



(While sitting on the tailgate, eating lunch)

Jack: Hey Dad? I know you're not supposed to shoot birds on the ground because there are other people and dogs around. But what if you are hunting alone and you don't have any dogs with you? Can you shoot birds on the ground then?

SW: Not really. It's not considered sporting or ethical.

(long pause)

Jack: I know that politicians make hunting laws, but who decides what's ethical?


GPS: Arriving at pheasant milo, on right.

Jack: Cool! It'll say the words that you type in?

SW: Yep. Don't ask me how, but she knows how to speak words.

(long pause)

Jack: Can we type in bad words and make her say them?

(long pause)

SW: Sure, go ahead.

(Juvenile snickering ensues from father and son alike)


SW: I've had a great time with you, Jack. I really enjoy hanging out with you, buddy.

Jack: Yeah, thanks. And it really doesn't matter that we didn't see anything, its just fun to be with you.

(SW covertly wipes tear from eye)

Jack: Hey Dad, now can we go shoot something?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When The Going Gets Hot, The Hot Go Redneck

It wasn't all birdhunting on my recent trip to Montana. For more than a couple days, our efforts were stymied by mid-80 degree heat. I'd like to say we stopped for the dogs' safety, but truth told, those temps are damned hot for the hunters, too.

To pass the time, we spent a couple of lazy afternoons target shooting. We had my AR-15, a Savage .223 bolt-action, a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .357, and a Charter Arms .38 snub nose.

Good fun was had by all, although I wouldn't rate any of us as ready for sniper school. We found a few prairie dog towns, but after the first shot or two, they wizened up and the closest shot we had was at least 300 yards away. That's a wee bit far for wingshots like us.

No matter -- we shot a couple hundred rounds' worth and had a ton of fun doing it.

Tip From The Road: in a pinch, empty .223 brass makes a great makeshift trailer door peg when you accidentally drive off without securing a padlock.