Out of Bounds

Taking Stock of the Freezer

For now, I’m content to make use of the relics of last fall entombed in my freezer

By Rob Breeding

I’m not sure of all the remains in my freezer, but I know there are birds in there. The good news is that they were all vacuum sealed before they went into the deep freeze, so I doubt any has gone to waste. 

Waste is a matter of opinion, anyway. The best of the birds in the fall usually don’t make it to the freezer. They get brined, and if they’re in good shape, are generally cooked shortly thereafter. The birds that are left over at this point are those I hit a little too well, so some of the best parts may be shot up. The dogs are happy to take care of that “waste.” 

Much of what’s left probably should be stewed up while it’s still stewing weather.

In the short run there’ll be no new protein added to my ice chest. River trout fishing is all catch and release, and I’ve never been too fond of eating trout anyway. For trout it’s all about simulated protein gathering.

I was looking for updates on the skwala hatch in western Montana the other day, more so because it’s fun to read fishing reports than because I needed an update. If the Bitterroot River isn’t blown out by an early, high flow event, and the weather’s decent, there are generally fish to be had on dry flies this time of year. Skwala stoneflies are the main attraction, but smaller stoneflies will follow, along with March Browns.

My fishing report research led to one rather silly discovery on a Bitterroot skwala YouTube video. The video itself was rather nondescript, but near the top of the comments someone complained that they used to have the skwala hatch to themselves, but since “YouTube” the Bitterroot is now crowded with rafts.

I lived in the Bitterroot in a time when even a crude dial-up internet provider like America Online would have seemed a futuristic fantasy. Still, that dang river was usually crowded with rafts this time of year. We called it an Avon Hatch back then, a nod to the ubiquitous gray inflatables that were standard in the pioneer days of float fly fishing in Montana.

In those days we pinned blame for the hordes crowding the water on “A River Runs Through It.” 

Seriously, there isn’t a Montanan under the age of 60 who can honestly proclaim, “You should have seen it back in the old days,” and mean it to suggest that those old days were free of unwelcome immigrants from coastal states.

Immigrants like me, actually.

There aren’t many options for wild protein gathering this time of year. I suppose there is a non-traditional protein movement gaining acceptance. It’s a nascent community of beaver gourmets, trapping and eating these dam-building rodents. 

Try Instagram if you want recipes.

I don’t think I’ll take up trapping any time soon, but there are few foods I wouldn’t at least try, especially if the meat had been treated properly by a skilled cook.

Maybe this is roadkill season. More than 30 states allow folks to collect roadkill for consumption. If it’s an animal you killed with your vehicular weapon of choice — the best of these sport large, homemade steel bumpers — rather than a carcass you came upon, it should still be edible.

Those parts of the deer that made direct contact with your bumper are best left to that scrap pile where I put shot up bird parts, but if you know your way around a deer carcass, I bet there’s plenty of salvageable meat.

For now, I’m content to make use of the relics of last fall entombed in my freezer. I thawed out some pheasant legs the other day and stewed them with green chilis.

I’ve got a few more tricks like that to get me to October.

Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.

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