Can you guess where this guy (with record mule deer rack) is from?

The hunting magazine I picked up promised a great recipe for braised venison shank (essentially deer Osso Buco) which is a nice upscale change from the usual glut of deer jerky recipes.

Since the husband started hunting in Northern Michigan our menu features a sizable rodent with lean, tidy muscle groups unlike the prodigious cow or simplistic chicken. And if we were going to have deer, then I needed some preparation techniques beyond the standard burgers and kabobs.

At first I was skeptical about ingesting an animal so routinely disemboweled at the roadside. That is, until I made my first vat of deer chili. It was rich, delicious and not at all gamey. The texture of the coarsely ground venison had just enough tooth, and a depth that beef could sparsely rival after only four hours in my Le Creuset. Now I’m happy to fire up the range and cook whatever he brings home as long as I don’t have to skin, gut, or pluck.
State control of recreational lands in Northern Michigan afford hunters and anglers alike access to thousands of bountiful acres. Twenty-percent of the total land mass in Michigan is open to hunt. Then there are, of course, her beneficent waters. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan supply arguably the best Lenten fish fry in the country and the Boardman and Au Sable Rivers are top ten trout fishing destinations–Up North pan fried trout and eggs being a must-eat local breakfast staple. Even Hemingway fished backcountry Michigan and wrote about it in Big Two-Hearted River (1925) as a young man before serving in the war.
In Michigan, the U.S. Forest Service holds only about half as much recreational land as the State of Michigan and the Bureau of Land Management owns zero acres (as of 2012). It is a hunter-friendly state unlike some of the larger rural hunting/fishing lands out west where the federal government controls the largest tracts under the BLM.
The hunting magazine article which preceded the braised venison shank recipe was about this very topic. But it had an interesting take on the subject considering most of Petersen’s Hunting magazines are read by hunters. I assumed most gun owners are conservative and therefore in favor of state sovereignty over big government.
But in "The Fight For Your Public Land" (December 2014 /January 2015 issue) author / hunter David Hart criticizes both Paul Ryan (WI-R) and Jason Chaffetz (UT-R) for proposing the return of BLM lands to states. These tracts are "excess" rural properties not national parks or national forests. In these transactions states would buy back BLM properties from the federal government who would then use that money to pay down the national debt. So not only would state citizenry decide what to do with excess rural property, the federal government would no longer need to budget allocations to maintain or manage the said properties. Win-win, right?
No. Because the BLM lands that would be sold back to states are primarily out west (Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana are mentioned), wild and natural, and currently untouched by developers, mineral or shale seekers. According to Hart, those hunters believe the federal government is the best custodian for those lands. Hart argues that many of these states would in turn sell BLM properties to private holders, thus discontinuing public access to hunters who prefer to hunt without property lines or developmental changes to the current rugged landscapes.
Hart also questions whether states can maintain environmentally healthy levels of wildlife extraction, which I find amusing. States can protect and preserve local wildlife more easily and efficiently than federal employees. The federal government simply being the ever omnipotent, quintessential middle man.
I understand hunters wanting unlimited access to wild lands to procure trophies only present in such pristine environments. But I wouldn’t trust the federal government to maintain land rights anywhere, especially for recreational activities involving use of a firearm. It seems to me that Hart is all for a government big enough to own 629 million acres of public land, but not one big enough to take his gun. Perhaps his self-serving interest in hunting without boundaries has clouded his thinking regarding the current administration’s distaste for the second amendment.
Worst case scenario: BLM excess lands are returned to states and public auctions take place. So a developer wants to buy your magic mule deer spot? I’d suggest calling your best ten hunting buddies, pooling your money together, outbidding the developer, and collectively putting your new tract of land in a preservation trust.
Because if we don’t get a grip on our debt through prudent government budgeting then China’s going to own your magic mule deer spot anyhow.
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