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Podcast Ep. 007: Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer

Podcast Ep. 007: Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer

Chronic Wasting Disease

The Modern Carnivore PodcastIn this seventh episode of the Modern Carnivore Podcast I sit down with Dr. Lou Cornicelli who is the Wildlife Research Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Dr. Cornicelli has dedicated his professional career to the study and management of large ungulates (mammals with hooves). We primarily discuss Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and the risks this disease poses to our wild deer herd. If you’re just starting your hunting journey please don’t let this topic scare you in any way from continuing with your journey, but do educate yourself on the topic as it’s an important one.

Dr. Lou Cornicelli is on the Modern Carnivore Podcast talking about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer
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Dr. Lou Cornicelli Modern Carnivore Podcast

Dr. Lou Cornicelli recording the Modern Carnivore Podcast in 2017

Why Listen to The Modern Carnivore Podcast?

With all the podcasts out there why would you want to listen to this one? Well, if you’re looking for a new adventure in the outdoors we’ve got some very interesting guests talking about topics related to honest food and wild adventures. Get ready to be entertained and enlightened on topics related to hunting, fishing, foraging…and more.

Here are a couple other podcasts you may be interested in:

Episode 6: Tom Landwehr, the former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources talking “deer camp” and more.

Episode 5: Howard Vincent, The CEO of Pheasants Forever which is one of the leading hunting conservation organizations in the U.S.

Do you have a question that you’d like answered on the podcast, or an idea for an episode? Shoot us a note at

Reference Links For This Podcast

New CWD-positive deer in Crow Wing County and southeastern Minnesota require additional disease monitoring and management

Minnesota Lawmaker Seeks Tougher Action Against Deer Disease

CDC Map Showing Spread Of CWD Across States

2017 News Story on Cervid Farm Testing Positive for CWD in Merrifield, MN

Subscribe to the Modern Carnivore Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify and Podbean.

Please support the podcast by giving us honest feedback on iTunes or wherever you listen to the podcast. And if you do like it, don’t forget to tell your friends about it!

Dr. Lou Cornicelli is on the Modern Carnivore Podcast talking about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer
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Transcript Of Podcast

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Intro: 00:09

Welcome to the Modern Carnivore Podcast, a guide for those interested in hearing more about hunting, fishing, and other paths to eating more responsibly. Now, here’s your host, Mark Norquist.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 00:22

Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode seven of the Modern Carnivore Podcast. I’d like to thank everyone who has been sending notes and a positive (comments) in terms of asking when our next episode was coming out. And I do need to apologize because I have been relatively inconsistent in pushing these out, uh, recently. And that’s mainly a function of a very busy lifestyle. And I love this platform for having conversations and introducing new people to you and new topics. And so I’m really going to put an effort this next year around putting out episodes more consistently. So, uh, look for that. And again, I appreciate your positive feedback on the recent episodes. So today I am joined by Dr Lou Cornicelli. Ah, Lou is a leading wildlife biologist who has really dedicated his career to the study of large ungulates. For those of you aren’t familiar with the term ungulates, it is a hooved mammal.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 01:31       

Uh, so things like deer, elk, moose, et cetera. And he is the Wildlife Research Manager for the Department of Natural Resources. What we talk about today is a little bit of the history of science in managing wildlife. Uh, for those of you listen to other podcasts, it is the North American model that we reference quite often. We talk about a pretty serious issue and that is chronic wasting disease or CWD. We do a pretty deep dive so that you can better understand the facts around it. And then on the back half, Lou talks about a recent, a little bit of a while ago, but uh, uh, recent Elk hunt in Colorado up at 11,000 feet when he packed in with some horses and took some new hunters and their experience. So, the main bulk of today’s conversation is on a very serious topic and that is chronic wasting disease or CWD, in deer.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 02:33

To give you a little bit of background and just to try to take a lot of this deep science and try to make it into some, some manageable chunks to understand. What it is, is a, it’s a, it’s a protein or a misshapen protein that causes a holes in the brain of the animal in, in deer in this case that were focusing on, it was first discovered in 1967 in Colorado. It’s similar to, um, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which is BSC, but the more common term is mad cow disease or, uh, Creutzfeldt-Jakob (disease). Uh, which is hard to say. I don’t even know if I pronounced it properly there. But it’s a very rare disease that’s a very rare disease in humans. Uh, it’s, it’s, it’s important to note that CWD is not (been) found to transfer to humans. Uh, they have not found any, any proof to that.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 03:31

Uh, these, there’ve been studying it for quite some time and it’s a slow growing disease, but it is impacting the population levels of deer. That’s what they’re finding. And so that’s where a big concern comes about. It’s been found in at least 24 states and basically we’re going to have to live with this disease in the wild deer herd, but we can manage it in the best ways possible. And that’s I think something that is important. And again, no, that there isn’t any evidence that this disease can be transferred to humans. Now that being said, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) does recommend not eating any meat from an infected dear, um, just to, just to be, just to be safe. But this disease really does cause concern for all of us, both the health and safety of our wildlife as well as the economic costs and risks to activities like deer hunting, which in the state of Minnesota, hunting both deer and other animals represents $1.3 `billion of economic value to this state every year.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 04:45

So it’s a, it’s a very significant economic impact as well as all of the other benefits of, of this form of hunting. So I also want to to, to preface this conversation for new hunters with, with the, the statement of, you know, don’t, don’t let this discussion dampen your enthusiasm about getting out into the woods. This is an issue that you need to be aware of and you need to understand it better. Hopefully today’s discussion helps in that process, but it shouldn’t stop you from continuing your hunting journey. Uh, make sure you engage with others and ask questions so that you’re informed on the topic and you know, what’s, what’s going on.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 05:34

So a personal note now, um, this topic of CWD has gotten very personal for me in just the last 24 hours. This upcoming discussion, you’re going to listen to Dr. Cornicelli and I talk and we actually recorded this in the fall of 2017 so a while ago. And we reference in that discussion a cervid farm near my hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota. And it’s not too far from my hunting camp. Well, just yesterday, about 14 months after this discussion with Dr. Cornicelli We have our first recorded CWD-positive wild deer case outside of what’s considered the hot zone, which are three counties down in southeast Minnesota. This is where the disease within our state has historically been found through testing. And so this press release that just came out yesterday is regarding a wild deer from northern Minnesota, nearly 300 miles from the southeast region of the state where that hot zone is and and wild deer have have been tested and found to have the disease. However, this, this announcement yesterday also points out that it was only a half mile from the captive cervid farm that Dr. Cornicelli and I are talking about in this conversation from nearly two years ago.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 07:03

And so the important thing to know is that that cervid farm, did/head previously been found to have CWD-positive deer inside their fences. Another thing I’d like to clarify because there’s a lot of terms thrown around and just to make sure everybody understands this, so when we talk about captive cervid farms, what are they? It’s really a fenced-`in area, generally wooded acreage or a farm where deer and elk are captive and then harvested through shooting. I wouldn’t call it hunting or as Dr. Cornicelli says, it’s high fence killing of domesticated animals. So you might hear terms, other terms reference of these types of operations, either highfence hunts or shooting pens or shooting preserves. But that’s what we’re talking about here. And I’m sure that most of these captive cervid farms are doing everything they can to contain their animals and stop the spread of this disease. But the reality is that the evidence points to an undeniable connection between these outfits and the disease.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 08:16

Minnesota has confirmed CWD in seven, at least seven, I believe, farmed cervid operations. So we know it’s there. Uh, the announcement yesterday again, was just within a half mile of a captive cervid facility. And that same facility had previously had CWD-positive deer found inside, inside of their fences. And, so then the question may come of, okay, well where did it come from inside of that farm? Well, that farm had previously bought a deer or exchanged deer with another cervid farm that the USDA had found had also had CWD and they actually bought it, the USDA bought that farm and depopulated it . In other words they euthanized every one of the deer because of the risk of it was posing to the herd.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 09:17

So the reality is that when deer are transported from one operation to another, we, we see a connection in that transfer of CWD. And here in Minnesota, like many states across the US, the challenge is that, um, the Board Of Animal Health oversees regulation of livestock such as these farms, but the Department of Natural Resources oversees the regulation and management of the wild deer herd. And all we have between those two populations are these wire fences. And the reality is, um, that, that there are oftentimes breaches in these and we get a mixture of those, those two herds.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 10:05

So the question you need to consider is what level of risk are we willing to take with our wild deer herd and what can be done to manage the risk in the best way possible? Here in Minnesota, right now, we have a legislator, Minnesota representative, Jamie Becker-Finn. Uh, she recently introduced legislation, um, or discuss legislation this last week to get in front of CWD and better manage the risks to our deer herd and the hunting community. And I’ll put information on, on those, those, uh, links within the shownotes page.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 10:45

So, I hope today’s conversation is informative and that you come away with some new insights on these topics and, uh, enjoy.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 10:57

Okay. I am joined this morning here with Lou Cornicelli. Uh, who is a, I believe your current role is wildlife research manager.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Lou: 11:05

I am.

Mark: 11:05    

Okay. Great. For the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Um, I’ve known Lou for quite a few years here. I think we met with the adult mentored hunt.

Lou: 11:15   

We mentored adult learn to hunt folks. Yeah. Saint Croix State Park.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 11:21 

Absolutely. Um, and, uh, and so, you know, I’ve, I’ve obviously read a lot of things in terms of you, you were previously, uh, the big game program leader here in Minnesota, correct?

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Lou: 11:33


Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 11:33

Okay. And in that role, you from a biologist perspective are setting standards for management of, of the deer herd, correct?

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Lou: 11:44 

Correct. Yeah. We, everything from helping set population goals with a public process to designing regulations that at the time that I started, the regulations were designed, or, I was charged with figuring out easier ways to kill deer. So we’d, we’d gotten rid of the lottery system in 2003 and a lot of the state. And so, you know, the goals were to make it easier for people to get out and hunt and take deer. Figure out what those populations should be. And also we did a lot of work on looking at alternative regulations. Uh, we did a lot of antler point restriction research that, that culminated in that APR that’s down in the southeastern Minnesota. So we, you know, do a lot with deer, you know, and then that big game position also covers moose and elk. So it’s a, it’s a fulltime times two job.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 12:34             

So here’s one thing that I think a lot of people, actually, there was, there was a study this last year, uh, on, on general American population regarding the topic of hunting and I found it interesting that a lot of people did not realize, or do not realize, um, that, that the animal populations are managed. Uh, they just sort of, you know, have this idea that people grab a gun and go out and hunt and they aren’t regulated. And so, maybe if you could share with people just what is the basics of, I mean, your discipline in terms of how, how wildlife is managed?

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Lou: 13:08              

Yeah, I mean that’s, that’s uh, it’s a good history to tell. Um, a lot of wildlife harvest was unregulated through the turn of the 20th century, into the 1900s. And that’s where you saw the depletion of game populations, extinction of some species like the passenger pigeon. Um, the dramatic declines in waterfowl for plumage, uh, uh, you know, in 1903 Theodore Roosevelt designated the first National Wildlife Refuge – Pelican Island. Um, so that, that conservation history really started with, uh, the Boone and Crockett club that was formed by Gifford Pincho and Theodore Roosevelt and others through a conservation congress. And it’s evolved over time. And really the first game laws came into, uh, into effect in the very early 1900s with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 the Lacey act in 1900 or 1903. So we, we had this, we being our, you know, the, the folks who thought deeply about perpetuation of games, species, um, started to institute, these laws and over time starting really with Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin, we had this, this field called wildlife management and people started to, to, to manage game populations and Leopold wrote a book and I think it was 1933 or 38 called Game Management. And that’s still a book that students have to read. It’s the basic premise of managing fish and game populations for the public good. And this profession has really evolved through that time. And it’s that modern conservation through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses that gives us the, the species that we have today. So we, we work, we work are managed under a system where users pay the form of licenses but everyone benefits. And that benefit is, it can be consumptive, it can be nonconsumptive so that, you know, our field really came about as a product of over harvest and no regulations to where it is now, where we’ve actively manage wildlife species and more, more importantly, their habitats for the benefit of both the species and the folks that like to use them.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Mark: 15:18            

You know, and that, that’s something that, that I love. I love telling that story of, of, of um, hunters and anglers who raised their hands and said, we need to self regulate back when they’re back, when there were problems. And I think it a, it was a very, the outcome was exactly what you said, what we have today and we’ve got healthy populations, we’ve got these wonderful wild places that everyone has access to and can benefit from.

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Lou: 15:47       

Yeah, I agree. You know, and I think what I think what does also get lost. Um, if you think about, let’s, let’s forget anglers, I don’t, I don’t deal so much with the event, but, uh, if you think about hunters, I, uh, the most people and probably including hunters, don’t know that this thing we call the North American model of wildlife conservation is funded by people who, by hunting and fishing licenses. And I can speak for my agency, a division of fish and wildlife. I work in the section of wildlife. We get no tax revenue. We didn’t, we get zero for general fund money. Now we get outdoor heritage money that we compete for.

Remainder pending…

Podcast: Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Outro: 29:36

Thanks for listening to the Modern Carnivore podcast on Chronic Wasting Disease with Dr. Lou Cornicelli. You can continue the journey by going to

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Pike Fever And The Lure Of Spearing Fish

Pike Fever And The Lure Of Spearing Fish


Buck Fever

There is a well known phenomenon in the hunting world called “buck fever”. Many seasoned hunters and newbies alike have fallen victim to it. You can practice all you want for your hunt but nothing fully prepares you for that moment when  a monster buck steps out of the woods and gives you an opportunity at a shot. Your heart races and you can feel it beat in every inch of your body.

Many hunters have a hard time remembering what comes next. The release of an arrow, or firing of a shot seems a distant memory just after the experience. Sometimes you hit your target and sometimes you don’t. Either way there is just blank time in your memory, and you struggle to remember what can be considered that most critical of moments in the hunt.

It has happened to every hunter at some point. Whether it was your first deer or your first really big buck, the feeling is unavoidable. What most people don’t know is that this can happen when your not aiming at a once in a life time buck. It can happen when you’re not even hunting, but spearing fish.

Fishing…With A Spear


The lesser known version of this malady is pike fever. Much like buck fever it comes at the end of a long wait and many hours of anticipating the moment. I recently witnessed pike fever while out for a day of spearing fish, northern pike to be exact, on a central Minnesota lake.

More Hunting Than Fishing

Spearing fish is a fascinating subculture of ice fishing. Unlike ice anglers who set out with hook and line to catch their fish, the tool of choice for these hearty souls is a metal spear. Spearing fish is a lot more like hunting than it is fishing. You have to scout out an area where you think large northern pike might swim by you. Then you cut  large hole in the ice and set a “dark house” (a portable pop-up shelter or semi-permanent fishing shack) over the hole to block out the light. (See the process in our previous video post.)


Peering Into The Underworld

The next part in this process is to start peering in on what is basically the best aquarium you have ever seen. On lakes with good water clarity you can see the bottom of the lake as deep as 15 feet, and all the fish that swim beneath you. At this point it becomes a waiting game to see if you picked the right spot.

In Minnesota spearing fish of certain types is legal from a dark house during the winter months. This includes Northern Pike, Lake Whitefish and several species of rough fish. There are days that you won’t see a single pike but you are always treated to some variety of fish swimming beneath your feet.

On a recent outing five of us spent the whole day out trying to get a monster. Between the five of us we saw walleye, bass, trout and a bunch of northern pike. We managed to spear a few small Northerns, but we never managed to connect with a true monster.


The Small Submarine

Towards the end of our day I had pretty much given up on seeing a big fish. My buddy Shawn, who was in a dark house about 40 yards away, sent me a text saying that he’d just laid eyes on the biggest pike he had ever seen. Immediately after getting the text I saw what looked like a small submarine drift through my hole, without even looking at my decoy.

It was the fish we had been waiting for all day. Quickly I jigged my decoy a couple of times hoping it would attract the eye of this giant fish. I waited about five minutes until I was certain it wasn’t coming back. I ran over to Shawn’s dark house to see if he had gotten a chance at the fish. The big pike had done the same thing to him. He just got a quick glimpse of the beast, and it kept on swimming.


As we stood there hoping it would show itself again I looked down the hole and saw a different fish. I pointed it out to Shawn and he got his spear ready. As the fish moved in towards Shawn’s decoy he got his spear over the top of it. Right before the fish reached his decoy it darted to the left and started making its way out of the hole. Shawn tossed his spear through the water column, but missed by a country mile.

Pike Fever

I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. What looked like a sure thing ended in a clear miss. I asked Shawn what happened, but he didn’t know. I relayed to him what had just occurred, but he didn’t remember the fish turning. After seeing the giant pike pass through his hole and having this big fish so close…he had the pike fever.

It wasn’t the biggest fish we’d seen but it was easily a 30 inch pike, which would have been great to bring home. After waiting and watching all day, when the opportunity finally came it was just too much for him. The upside to Pike fever is that it always leaves you wanting more. That night at dinner all we could talk about was when we were going to get back out and try it again.

Related stories on spearing fish from Modern Carnivore:
Spearing fish (northern pike) through the ice and a recipe for fish chowder. 
Spearing lake whitefish (video) and several recipes with smoked whitefish

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Poor Man’s Lobster, The Original

Poor Man’s Lobster, The Original

Poor Man’s Lobster

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in an ongoing series on “Poor Man’s Lobster”)


What is Poor Man’s Lobster?

If you ask 10 different fishermen you might get 10 different answers.

I was at work the other day talking with a guy about fishing and he got all excited about his favorite recipe. He used to catch Northern Pike and fillet them leaving the y-bones in. He would soak the fillets for three days in vinegar. After that he would rinse the meat and boil it in sugar water, serving it with drawn butter. He  called it “Poor Man’s Lobster”.

I’ve heard similar stories to this many times. It usually starts with some kind of fish that most people don’t like. That fish is usually boiled in some strange liquid and always served with butter. The person making it almost always adds, “it tastes just like lobster”.

Do any of them actually taste like lobster? How many different versions are there? I did a little research to find out what everyone considered “poor man’s lobster”. I also asked around on a few different Facebook forums to see what people would say.

There were hundreds of responses. For example Gar boiled in 7-UP or Black Fish Poached in lemon, and of course served with butter. I decided that I should try as many of the recipes as I could, just to see if any of them actually tasted like lobster.

Let The Testing Begin

Where to start? I decide to start this journey with the original poor man’s lobster, which is…lobster. Prior to the late 1800’s lobsters were so plentiful and undesirable they were fed to prisoners and livestock. The lobster being served had generally been of the type washed up on shore, and so it was generally not of the best quality.

In the late 1800’s people started trapping lobsters and eating them fresh. After that everyone started to realize how good lobsters could be as table fare. It didn’t take long for lobster to catch on and ultimately become the delicacy that is revered by so many today.

In Part 2 of this series I will be testing the Minnesota version of poor man’s lobster which is based on the much-maligned eel pout (burbot). Look for this post in the coming weeks. But first, a recipe for the original poor man’s lobster.

My Version Of Poor Man’s Lobster

Since most of the recipes I found for poor man’s lobster involved dipping it in butter I am going to make each upcoming version two different ways. The first will be with butter and the second will be made into a lobster roll. Lobster rolls are one of my favorite ways to eat lobster.

My Lobster Roll  

1 cup chopped lobster meat

2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise more or less depending on how much you like mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup of celery finely chopped

1 green onion thinly sliced

1/4 tsp Old Bay Seasoning.

Mix all ingredients together and serve on a toasted hot dog bun or Brioche roll.


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Duck Sausage Biscuits and Gravy

Duck Sausage Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy


I remember when I was young not understanding at all, why anyone would want to eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast. It never smelled that good to me, and when I did try it the biscuits were dry and crumbly and the gravy tasted the way I imagined dog food to taste.

When I left home for the Navy I decided to give biscuits and gravy another try. The conclusion I came to was the US Navy does many things right, and biscuits and gravy wasn’t one of those things.

I had pretty much written off the idea of ever enjoying biscuits and gravy until a few years ago. I was at my brother’s house and he was making scratch biscuits along with some some gravy. Trying to hide my disappointment I gladly took a plate. I am a firm believer that if someone is going to make you food that you sit down and eat it. You then say thank you when you are done.

A Curious Surprise

My disappointment changed to curiosity after the first bite. These biscuits and gravy that my brother had made were not like anything I had ever had before.  I don’t know what changed that day or what secret magic my brother had worked but I really liked that breakfast. The biscuits were light and flaky with a slightly crisp bottom. The gravy was meaty and not overly salty, I gladly accepted seconds and started brainstorming immediately how I could replicate this with wild game.


Trial and Retrial

My first attempt was with some antelope breakfast sausage I had made. The biscuits were good but the sausage I had made included a good amount of maple syrup in it. The extra sweetness didn’t really work in the gravy. After that I tried an Italian sausage with venison. It was good but the sausage was a bit overpowering. I then tried a venison chorizo, and a juniper moose sausage as well, but still nothing really stood out to me as a great sausage gravy.

Damn Tasty

Depending on how successful my duck season is, I like to make a duck sausage with garlic and sage. It’s a really nice blend of ingredients. Stuffed into a casing, I like to grill it and then serve it up with some kraut and spicy brown mustard. It’s also a great bulk sausage and is one of the main ingredients in my duck and cornbread dressing. This year I was fortunate enough to make a five-pound batch, so I figured I should try it in the biscuits in gravy.

It was a match made in heaven, love at first site, soul mates, or whatever cliché you would like to use. It was damn tasty! The gravy was the perfect combo of duck, garlic and sage and was exactly what I was looking for. It is now, and will be in the future, the only sausage I will make with my biscuits and gravy. This probably means I need to start doing more duck hunting.

Here is the sausage recipe to get you started on your way to biscuits and gravy perfection.

Duck Sausage Biscuits and Gravy Recipe

Duck Sausage

3 ½ pounds of duck meat, cut into pieces that will fit into your grinder

1 ½ pounds of fatty pork, cut into pieces that will fit into your grinder

40 grams of kosher salt

¼ cup fresh sage

1 tsp fresh thyme

6-8 cloves of garlic, depending on how much garlic you prefer

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 cup red wine


Mix together all the ingredients minus the red wine. Feed through your grinder using a medium grinding plate. After grinding add the red wine and mix with your hands until the wine in absorbed. Package in one pound packs and use for stuffing or gravy or any other purpose you find.


Duck Gravy

1 pound Duck sausage

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

½ cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste


In a large pan melt the butter and brown the sausage. When the sausage is cooked, add the flour and stir until the flour is all absorbed. Slowly pour in the milk and cook on low until the gravy thickens. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve over your favorite biscuits. Here’s a link to a simple recipe for buttermilk biscuits from our friends over at Taste Of Home.


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Podcast Ep. 006: MN DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, “Defender Of The Land”

Podcast Ep. 006: MN DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, “Defender Of The Land”

The Modern Carnivore PodcastIn this sixth episode of the Modern Carnivore Podcast I sit down with Tom Landwehr who is the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This is a position that is appointed by the Governor of Minnesota. Tom has been in this position for eight years, overseeing the management of wildlife and habitat across the state. I caught up with the Commissioner at the 2017 Minnesota Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener to talk about the culture of deer camp and the work his agency does in the state of Minnesota. In early 2019 he is ending his tour of duty as the Commissioner, so while I’m very delayed in getting this post out I felt it was important to share this conversation with a true conservation leader.


Tom Landwehr, Commissioner of the MN DNR and Defender of the Land is on the Modern Carnivore Podcast
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Why Listen to The Modern Carnivore Podcast?

With all the podcasts out there why would you want to listen to this one? Well, if you’re looking for a new adventure in the outdoors we’ve got some very interesting guests talking about topics related to honest food and wild adventures. Get ready to be entertained and enlightened on topics related to hunting, fishing, foraging…and more.

Here are a couple other podcasts you may be interested in:

Episode 5: Howard Vincent, The CEO of Pheasants Forever which is one of the leading hunting conservation organizations in the U.S.

Episode 4: Daniel Galhardo is the Founder and CEO of Tenkara USA. Listen to the story about how he brought the unique Japanese style of fly fishing called Tenkara to the US.

Do you have a question that you’d like answered on the podcast, or an idea for an episode? Shoot us a note at

Subscribe to the Modern Carnivore Podast on iTunes and/or Stitcher.

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Please support the podcast by giving us honest feedback on iTunes or wherever you listen to the podcast. And if you do like it, don’t forget to tell your friends about it!

Tom Landwehr, Commissioner of the MN DNR and Defender of the Land is on the Modern Carnivore Podcast
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Transcript Of Podcast

Intro: 00:09

Welcome to the Modern Carnivore Podcast, a guide for those interested in hearing more about hunting, fishing, and other paths to eating more responsibly. Now, here’s your host, Mark Norquist.

Mark: 00:22

Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of the Modern Carnivore podcast. Today I’m joined by Tom Landwehr and this is actually a recording from back in 2017 at the Minnesota Governor’s deer hunting opener event, and this is an event that’s gone on for many years here in Minnesota and I think is a great reflection of the importance of deer camp culture and the deer hunting season to our state, that the Governor would put an event like this together. Commissioner Landwehr is now ending his tour here as the as the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources in early 2019, and so I thought it was appropriate to get this podcast recording out as the commissioner of the DNR. He is appointed by the governor to really enforce hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation laws, and also manage much of the public land that exists within the state of Minnesota. There are also federal and county lands, but they’re much of it is managed by the state, which is then managed by this organization, the Department of Natural Resources for both recreation as well as industry like timber and mining. They also deal with threats to the land and water like invasive species in diseases like chronic wasting disease, that’s starting to affect the deer herd in different areas of the country. Stepping back for a moment, if you look at the North American model for conservation, one of the tenants of it calls for scientific management of wildlife and habitats and state agencies are a big part of that management model. In Minnesota it’s called the department of natural resources or the DNR. In other states it’s called game and fish or the department of fish and wildlife or the department of fish, wildlife and parks. A lot of different names, but they all in essence to do the same thing, which is managing the habitat and the wildlife for the future. So if you’re new to hunting and fishing, make sure you familiarize yourself with all that the agency within your state does. They’ve often got a lot of great resources such as details, obviously on game laws, but also things like maps with access to public lands and along those lines. Get to know your, your conservation officer or “CO” as, as they’re referred to often, uh, in the areas where you want to hunt and fish and they can be a great resource for you. So I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation with Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Mark: 03:18

Okay, we are here with Commissioner Tom Landwehr of the Minnesota DNR. Thank you for joining me this morning. It’s a pleasure to be here. Absolutely. So we are actually at Timberlake Lodge here in northern Minnesota, uh, kicking off the 2017 Minnesota deer hunting opener with, uh, the governor yourself, uh, and a whole list of dignitaries and a local hunters from all corners of the state. I even met people from, uh, as far away as Washington state last night at the dinner. So, um, so what, what’s with the tradition of, of deer camp here in Minnesota.


Tom: 04:03

Well, and so we are in grand rapids to be a little more specific, which is got it’s byline grand rapids. It’s in your nature. This is a town that embraces outdoor activities, you know, including hunting and fishing. Were on the doorstep, so the Chippewa National Forest, one of the favorite places of Minnesotans to go and camp and recreate, but it’s the opener. The deer opener is a big day in Minnesota. There are 500,000 deer hunters in the state of Minnesota and 450,000 of them give or take will be out on Saturday morning on their deer stand, doing their drives, a whatever, however they choose to hunt in Minnesota and we know from surveys that 25 percent of those people hunt exclusively on public lands and we’re very fortunate in have that in Minnesota. I tell people all the time that we’ve got, you know, at least three things that make deer hunting really exceptional in Minnesota. One is we’ve got a very good dear for great. Now we’ve had two years of increasing deer numbers. We have a snow on the ground which makes it easier to attract here. Obviously had seed here and we have excess that is free to millions and millions of acres of public lands that we have really got a all of the ingredients. Just an exceptional a deer season in Minnesota.


Mark: 05:27

So who, who owns these public lands? Well, and that’s a really good subtle point. We talk about public lands, but they are your lands that are my lands, they are our lands. These are lands that belonged to the public, which is what we call them public lands, but they are, they are owned by the state of Minnesota for the benefit of the people that sit them and so on. I remember when I was young, um, first stumbling across Carlos Avery. I was, grew up in the cities and they lived in the cities, but it was a hunters and anglers.


Tom: 05:58

I remember stumbling across Carlos Avery Wildlife Management or some 25,000 acres just north of the twin cities. And coming into this piece of ground is huge piece of ground, right? That’s like 40 square miles and thinking I can hunt here now. I could have like gun out. I can be walking along with a shotgun anywhere I want. I could shoot a pheasant or a duck. I forgot up. I thought this has gotta be illegal. It’s be illegal in the city. You just don’t do this. And here we were 20 minutes from the city. It’s been, it’s, and it is still there today, Carlos, or do wealth management are still an extraordinarily popular place for people to hunt


Mark: 06:33

To me that is a, that is something that’s, it’s just such a quintessential American experience from the standpoint of, uh, the ability and the freedom to go do that Uh, and you know, on, on tons of lands, tons of opportunities.


Tom: 06:52

You Bet.


Mark: 06:52

So, Commissioner, if you could talk about what’s the difference from either a hunter experience or from a legal perspective on county versus state versus federal? Because there’s a lot of focus with public lands right now on the federal. Uh, but in Minnesota, you know, where I hunt, where I deer hunt, um, is, is nearly all county and state. That’s what I’m usually on. So what’s the difference?


Tom: 07:21

You know, I think we’re, we’re very lucky in Minnesota and that the different levels of government tend to have comparable rules about how to use the land. So, um, you know, I think most once upon a time you could build a permanent stand in Minnesota on federal land, on state land and Coney Atlanta permanent stay. Of course you’d bring the two by fours out, you’re bringing along nails, pounded it into a tree and it stays there. And, and, uh, all levels of government has gotten away from that. And the reason is because those forests are still managed for timber. So, uh, it’s not a, you can’t do as a logger or you can’t as a mill have timber that’s got nails in it. And so, uh, just even recently the federal government has been going to the state as been going to. This county is going as a use of portable stands only. So you bring it in, you bring it out. It doesn’t have nails in a tree. But other than that, you know, I think almost all of those lands have comparable laws. You only think, I think, well, what am I going to do as a hunter? Well, the one thing I might do, it’s somewhat intrusive if you will, would be to put up a stand, but if you’re using a portable, uh, the, the, the rules are comparable all the way across. You can go in with a portable, you put it up, you can leave it overnight on state forest land, federal land, a, not even a wildlife management area, but you can state a state forest county unfortunately and so on. But then it’s just common sense. You know, I don’t leave a bunch of garbage there. I don’t crossover on a private land. I don’t drive where I shouldn’t be driving. So the good thing is that the rules are pretty comparable across all three types of land.


Mark: 09:01

And so, so you can leave a stand overnight on state. Does county in Minnesota, is that vary or is that consistent across all the counties?


Tom: 09:14

I think there is something like eight counties that own that have land under management and it’s for the most part in Minnesota. This is more detail than you need, but it’s county texts for Finland, so tracks of land that had gone texts forfeit to state technically owns it, the county managers and they’ll, they’ll typically manage for timber products or for recreation. And so here we are in Itasca county is a bunch of land and a test county that is owned by the state, managed by the county and are open to public access.


Mark: 09:46

So, how much…Do you know off the top of your head (how much) public land (there is) in Minnesota specifically?…how much we have?


Tom: 09:54

It is something approaching 12 million acres.


Mark: 09:57



Tom: 09:58

And a significant portion of that, 8 million acres give or take, is actually owned by the state of Minnesota, which means you and me, right? It’s owned based in Minnesota. About two and a half million of that is, is County tax forfeit. The remainder is owned by the state, managed by the dnr, but then you know, the people, and again, people don’t necessarily need to differentiate who is administering wetlands, but we have a bunch of federal land. So here we are on the back door of Chippewa National Forest, right, beautiful, beautiful piece of land, you know, with a big lakes when leach and so on. But then we’ve got the Superior (National Forest) and you’re well familiar with Superior. It’s got the Boundary Waters (Canoe Area Wilderness). It’s got all of the Arrowhead of Minnesota. We’ve got two, 3 million acres of national forest and then we’ve got a federal Waterfowl Production Areas and National Wildlife Refuges on the western part of the state. So we are just extraordinarily fortunate to have this diverse mixture of public lands that are open access for anybody who wants to use them for birdwatching or hiking or hunting or fishing.


Mark: 11:01

You know, I, I was recently doing a hunt out west in antelope hunt out west and it was my first experience with the patchwork of public versus private lands out there. And we don’t really have that problem here in Minnesota. Do we? I mean our, most of our, you know, we have obviously private versus public, but it’s not, it’s, it doesn’t appear to me to be that type of patchwork that becomes challenging. But how does a new hunter know, where’s public and where is private?


Tom: 11:31

Yeah. Well, and you know, in fact, in this part of the state and the forest in Minnesota, we actually do have quite a patchwork and it’s, and it’s kind of interesting when you look at a plat book because you will have a, the section is owned by the state of Minnesota administered by DNR. You have this part that’s owned by the state of Minnesota, owned by a managed by the county of this section that’s owned by the federal government managed by the Forest Service. We do have very much of a patchwork, but it is all still public. Right? So you can still cross those lines I think. And the other thing is we have a trespass law in Minnesota that says you cannot walk past a sign that says no trespassing, but if forest land is unposted, a Minnesota law allows you to walk onto that land. And so on. In northern Minnesota, we have a lot of load, I would call industrial forest. So Blandin owns land in Potlatch owns land owns land. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of acres. And that is historically been, uh, treated as public land. That is, the, is private legal notice. Private companies have allowed people to just walk into those lines of hunter’s land. So when you’re in northern Minnesota, if you see a don’t trespass sign, it’s typically a small owner that owns that. If you don’t see a sign there, technically you can, you can go in there and hunt.


Mark: 12:49

So, we were just a couple weeks ago recording a podcast with a land tawny who is the CEO and President of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. And your last name is Landwehr. I believe your forestry division head, his first name is Forrest. So I’m just wondering, do you need to have land or forest in your name to be working in this field?


Tom: 13:10

You know, I, I don’t think it’s a requirement. I have not seen that in the position description anywhere. But I think in my own case, my dad always used to say, you know, it’s a German name Landwehr. Obviously he. Oh, she’s a defender of the land. Yeah. And I think it’s more from the terms of militia. I think that, you know, if you’re actually in Germany, it’s sort of the name of the militia, but I always took that to heart. Well that’s my job is defending the land. Yeah. So tell us a little bit about your background. You are, you are that the commissioner of the Department of natural resources appointed by the governor of the state of Minnesota. Um, how do you get, how do you get there? Where did you start? You have to be really bad and you have to really, you know, uh, deserve a place, a special place in the Netherlands in order to get this job.


Tom: 13:54

It’s punishment for what I did in my youth, what I’m convinced. But. Well, I, uh, I grew up in the cities and uh, I’ve always had an interest in hunting and fishing and uh, Kinda floundered through my first years of college until I realized that there was actually a program at the University of Minnesota in fish and wildlife management. And I thought, well, that would be outstanding if I could get a degree in hunting and fishing. And so I started in the wildlife management program at the university, uh, you know, went through, got my undergraduate, got a graduate degree, started working with dnr back in the eighties as a wildlife biologist and I started working on private lands, a counseling land owners how to improve their land for pheasants in particular. Ultimately became a wildlife manager where I worked on public lands and always in the southern part of the state.


Tom: 14:39

So it was always a grasslands. I’ve always had an affinity for birds, pheasants and ducks a. So really got to work, uh, you know, in some really nice places in Minnesota doing wetland management too. Aggressive management, a promoted Indian are ultimately got a job with ducks unlimited, a move to ducks unlimited and help them do their conservation programs in Minnesota and Iowa. I did that for five years. And then I took a job with the nature conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota doing the same thing, managing, you know, conservative and these large landscapes for wildlife and managing those to produce maximum a while they’d benefit one at. And at that point the committee and the governor appointed me as commissioner and that was what, how long ago was that? A 2011. Governor Dayton came into office in 2011. January sixth, 2011. The governor appointed me.


Mark: 15:31

Okay. So what’s your…You, I think are the classic generalist outdoorsmen from the standpoint of your personal perspective. I think a lot of people nowadays may want to specialize the big game out west Chester upland hunter. I myself am a generalist. I don’t consider myself a focused on any one specific one, but I think people still have their preferences. What are your favorite things to do? You know?


Tom: 16:01

And, and I totally am a generalist. I mean, I think when, when I looked back in my younger years, I was, I considered myself a duck hunter. And that’s what I did. I hunted ducks, I looked down my nose at deer hunters. I looked down my nose at pheasant hunters. It’s like duck hunting is the pure Minnesota thing, right? Well, as, as I have gotten older, I’ve realized that, you know, why would I limit myself to one thing? Because we have so much opportunity for so many things here and when duck hunting is bed, I’ll go pheasant hunting. Pheasant hunting is no good to go deer hunting, you know, and you’re good to go fishing. And so we are so fortunate in Minnesota, have the opportunity to do all of those things and with each change of the season and another opportunity presents itself. So I find that being a generalist, well I can’t be, you know, I can’t be the top notch angler. I can’t be the top notch deer hunter. Like I am a generalist in by definition than I am not specializing any of those. I still have a great time being out every season that we have in Minnesota


Mark: 16:56

I do too. It’s that, that to me is, that is the beauty of, of being that way is you literally. My, my, uh, my mom used to joke that my dad, when they got married, said, you know, don’t worry, it’s just, it’s a hunt. But in the fall, and she soon realized that that fall bird hunting went into deer hunting and deer hunting went into early ice fishing season. I went into


Tom: 17:19

Well fall for restarts in liberty, I go pick wild rice, right, pick wild rice and, and it’s hunting and gathering, pick wild rice on labor day and shortly thereafter the small game season opens and shortly after the Hetero, the, the duck season opens and then the pheasant season, then the deer season and know the festive season goes till the end of the year, January one, January one comes and goes and it’s the saddest day of the year because I cleaned the guns and put them away. I’m always fixing them next day, you know, it’s like, Hallelujah.


Mark: 17:48

Exactly. Always, always something to do, which reminds me, I do want to have a. we’ll have to have you on again sometime to talk about wild rice because, uh, I just, I love it. And uh, whenever we have a Modern Carnivore experience event going on, I’ll, I’ll serve for breakfast, I’ll do the mahnomin porridge and people love.


Tom: 18:06

People love that thing about wild rice is we sell about 2000 licenses. You, you have to have a license to pick wild rice, but would your $26 license, you can go out and you can pick wild rice for the whole season, which might be two weeks in northern Minnesota. Yeah, you can get hundreds and hundreds of pounds of water isn’t always painful and there’s bugs that will get you and stuff that gets in your sleeves and so on, but but you get a phenomenal product at the end of it. It’s, it’s, it’s a wonderful thing and when you pair it with venison or with a duck pancakes, I make pancakes at home, throwing some cranberries, throwing some pecans. It’s just phenomenal. It is.


Mark: 18:46

It’s it. It is wonderful. It’s a great tradition in going back. Just the whole history of it. I love it. And to that, to that point, you know, thinking about deer hunting in Minnesota in deer camp, what is, I think I maybe asked earlier, I forget if we touched on, but what is behind the whole deer camp tradition and the speakers talked about it last night at the dinner a little bit, but is it, is it something in your mind that is unique to Minnesota? Just the way we do it. And what would you say defines what deer camp is about?


Tom: 19:18

You know, so I’ve never hunted deer outside Minnesota. So what, what I know about the uniqueness of deer camp is what other people tell me who hunt and other parts of the country and they told me that deer camp is a very unique upper midwest tradition, so I think it’s not. I think you’ll find it in Wisconsin perhaps in Michigan as well. And what I think is the. When I think about that, what I think is the foundation of it is that it’s a public lands, public lands. So we have places you don’t have to own land, you just have to have a tent or a camper or you could have a cabin with no land and then hunting them public. And so I think it is a function of the fact that a lot of our citizens live in the twin cities. A lot of them hunt. They have traditionally gone north to hunt and so they have to have a place to stay, so they have put up a tent or they have a cabin or they have an rv and I, and I think it’s that sort of almost a migration between the twin cities and the deer country that has created this culture of a deer camp and it is, I think it was one of the most phenomenal parts about deer hunting, frank, is that this tradition of deer camp where you go up and you get together with people that you want maybe only see once a year and they are your best friends. Even if you only see them once a year and they have this shared narrative about hunting and they had this shared experience about being in the woods at dawn and it’s just a. it’s extraordinarily rich tradition. I think. Especially for guys, you know, the art, we don’t bond around, you know, this tv show in the morning. You know, we bond around these experiences, especially as outdoor. Yeah. So I think, I think the fact that it gives us that opportunity, I think is what helps keep deer camp alive.


Mark: 20:56

You know, it. Um, you really bring it. You bring up an interesting point that I hadn’t thought of before and people who listen to this podcast know that we talk about public land slot. I’m wearing my public lands, um, and it continues to come up in the dialogue consistently. Some people are maybe tired of it, but I like what you just said about that being a foundational element of deer camp because what it, what it means is, is people, you know, here in this state, half a million people know who the majority of them probably don’t have land that they owned a haunt on. Make that migration north, south east or west and meet up with friends. Like you said, that maybe they only see once a year. And, and I’m exactly like that. I’ve been at my family deer camp hunting, hunting deer for 35 years straight. And uh, and it is, it’s that some of the times when maybe relatives, I’m the only time of the year. I see them, what we do, we have that, we have that connection with the bonding and at, over over the fire and telling the stories and it’s fun whether the old guys are, the young guys are telling the story about one that got away or, or, or, or one that they just got. And


Tom: 22:12

It is sort of the great equalizer. I mean anybody, you know, the lunchbox guy doesn’t, you know, it paying off a mortgage on his host, doesn’t have any spirit change, can still go to northern Minnesota and still have a phenomenal experience. You know, I just bought a, a, a wall tent this year. Are you dead or for hunting purposes? We use duck hunting and Canada, but it’s one of those things when you go in northern Minnesota, people will set up a wall tent for weeks. Then they’ll go grouse hunting, deer go deer hunting. They’ll go duck hunting or base camp and uh, and, and you can do that. Yeah. Even if all you can afford your mortgage on your house, you could still go to your place up in northern Minnesota and it is your place because people respect each other. You got a tent there I’m going to go half a mile away, a mile away, and I’m gonna set up my tent. But, you know, I’m a, the end of the season. We’ve talked about pheasant hunting earlier. Uh, go through the new year. Uh, I get together with a group of guys. We do a kind of a blog. It’s combined public and private land that we hunt on. I see these guys once a year and that’s it. But these guys who I’ve gotten to know over five or six or eight years of, of hunting there, they’re like friends or like long lost friends. We’d get together once a year. We share stories, but we talked about all of our health problems, right? And, uh, and it’s, it’s just, it’s just a great experience knowing that I have this circle of friends who share this common interest, common love of going out and hunting pheasants.


Mark: 23:40

Right? Right. Exactly. So if somebody wanted to, somebody who hasn’t, who has a deer on it before they want to start their own deer camp, what would you, what would you recommend?


Tom: 23:52

You know, first off, I will say it is the easiest thing you can imagine. I’m used to just primarily be a bowhunter, but when my kids came along, that’s. Bowhunting is a very solitary thing. It’s not a deer camp experience in my, in my, uh, history. Uh, when my kids came along, I said to myself, I want my kids to know deer camp. And so we started firearms hunting when my son who’s now 19 son came along. And so, uh, we just went up to the Chippewa. We took our summer tent, which actually has a screen rough with a, with a, with a flyover, right? So it is not at all suited for November, but that’s what we use. We went up, we set up a tent in the Chippewa national forest. We got the aerial photos, you know, we found out where we want to go hunt. We brought our portable stands out and we just went and hunted. It is, it is like falling off a log, you just find a corner, you pitch your tent and you had gotten your hunt.


Mark: 24:43

I love, you know, it’s, it’s interesting because I’m seeing several people have been talking about that over the last or the last couple of days about the simplicity of it. And um, I used to think that that it would be sort of the, the final step in people’s journey to, to start hunting and get outdoors. And what’s interesting is as I’ve continued to, to, to do this more and more over the last seven, eight years and realizing that it actually is where people are starting a lot of times and I think there’s an attraction to it and I think there is a simplicity to it, like you said, which is, you know, versus if you’re, if you’re going to go duck hunting and you got to get a big spread of decoys.


Tom: 25:21

Oh yeah, yeah. Oh, you use a gun whether your shotgun was and assault or your rifle with the bullet in the north. It’s, it is simple. It is. It requires less equipment than virtually anything else. Pheasant hunting, you got to have a dog or duck hunting decoys in a boat, you know, it is a grouse hunting was comparable. Perhaps, you know, all you need is a gun and a piece of land.


Mark: 25:47

Yup. Yup. No, exactly. Um, so you, I know are doing a lot of interviews this morning and people are tugging on your sleeve. Um, what, you know, you know, I want to talk about about public waters a bit just because I think you’ve done a lot here to protect them. I’m just real quick. What, what, what are you in the Governor doing relative to waters here?


Tom: 26:12

You know, Minnesota is an interesting place because west of us we have what we call western water law and that is the water belongs to whoever owns the land underneath eastern water law says the water belongs to the public and if you can get access to it, you can go anywhere you want on it. So Minnesota is one of those states. So if you can get access to a body of water, you can go anywhere on the surface that water. So we’re very fortunate in that regard. And we have a long tradition going back, decades were dnr acquires accesses, so we call them public water access, right to the boat ramps, everybody knows of and by virtue of just having that little bitty access on a piece of water, the whole water body opens up. Just a phenomenal legacy is phenomenal heritage. We have Minnesota, the state of Minnesota owns 1500 public water access is so 1500 bodies of water you can go onto by virtue of his legal access and fish or hunt or you know, Waterski, whatever you want to do. But in addition to that, there are another 1500 that are owned by other units of government, whether it’s the federal government on the spirit national forest or it’s Chippewa national forest or the county or a city. So there are 3000 public water access instead of Minnesota. It opened up all of that public water for people to use. And then there were an additional 3000. Private access is on that water. So you know, we often talk about and you mentioned and you’re absolutely right, we talk about public lands. We failed to mention that we have millions of acres of public water in Minnesota as well. Right? Right. Now it’s, it’s a wonderful thing. We get such a, a, a, a wealth of have that resource here in this every person’s backyard. Right. So what’s your best hunting story you told one last night at dinner with just the Kitty, kitty cat. Well, I’ll tell it again because it’s a great story. We, uh, on opening weekend we hung out of a buddy George’s place and George has got a couple of kitties cat. A couple years ago he had a kitty, a little bitty black kitty, I don’t know, maybe eight inches long. And when I went out in the morning to go to my stand, this little kid, he got out and it’s like, okay, well let’s find itself. It’s a barn cat. It’ll just walk around all the darn thing followed me a half mile out to my tree stand. And when I climb up with a tree that darn think stay there and me, our it said at the bottom of standing me out. And I thought, well, this is not helping my deer hunting. Also, I went down and picked it up, put it in a stand and that thing sat there the whole day at my feet on a tree stand, curled up in a corner ultimately, you know, try to curl up on my feet and everything and would not leave. And I finally, you know, at the end of the day I did not even see a deer. I suspect I smelled like a cat and when I went back to the farm, the cat came along with me. So the day a 100 with the kitty cat. That is a first. I don’t know anybody who’s ever hunted with a cat before. Well Commissioner, thanks so much for spending time with us this morning. Really appreciate it. My pleasure, mark. Thank you for having me. And good luck and be safe. Yeah, you too. Thanks.


Mark: 29:07

So thanks for joining me on today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. And just a reminder, make sure you check out your state’s agency, whether it’s the department of natural resources game and fish or what have you. Check out their website and get to know your local conservation officer who is often times referred to as a seal. They can be a wealth of knowledge and a great resource on your journey into the outdoors.


Outro: 29:36

Thanks for listening to the Modern Carnivore podcast. You can continue the journey by going to



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Discovery Of A Natural Foie Gras

Discovery Of A Natural Foie Gras

Foie Gras (pronounced “fwa-grah“)

There are rarities in the hunting and fishing world that most of us will never see. A 200 inch whitetail deer, a 30 inch walleye, or a banded duck to name just a few. I’ve shot a banded duck, I have caught a 30 inch walleye, and I have never even seen a 200 inch deer.  However, this last hunting season revealed a couple of rarities that were completely new to me. A spruce grouse and a natural foie gras, and they were both a real joy to experience.

Pleasant Surprises

Back in September while on a canoe trip with my younger brother, I saw and ate my very first spruce grouse. Having only dark meat under its feathers this bird has a reputation for tasting a little piney. Personally, I found it to be a tender and delicious.

At the end of the duck season while hunting in Wisconsin I shot a large and very fat Canada goose. The size of the goose amazed me but when I plucked it and reached inside to remove the heart, liver and gizzard I immediately felt something different.

The liver of that goose felt larger than others I had pulled out recently. When it came out I knew exactly what I had, a natural Foie Gras.

The Controversy

Foie Gras can be a controversial topic. It is the liver of a duck or goose that has been gorged with food in a domestic setting by it’s handler. This process causes the liver to retain fat, swell and change from a deep reddish purple to a pale tan color.

What most people fail to understand is that this is also a natural process that can occur in the wild. During fall migration some ducks and geese will gorge themselves on various edibles causing their livers to swell and retain fat. Those fat stores are then burned during the long flights south. This typically happens most in puddle ducks and Canada geese that spend a lot of time in corn and bean fields.

typical goose liver vs natural foie gras

Many people object to the way foie gras is made today because of the method farmers use to feed their ducks and geese. It involves a funnel and forcing the fowl to gain massive amounts of weight so that the liver swells to 3-4 times its natural size. A natural foie occurring in the wild doesn’t get as large as one produced through this method, but it does taste just as good.

A Rare & Beautiful Thing

On very rare occasions a person will shoot a duck or goose where this natural phenomenon has occurred. If you have the opportunity to try one I’m confident that you’ll agree it’s a delicious treat. The extra fat tends to give the liver a milder flavor and a very pleasant texture that can melt in your mouth when cooked correctly.

A natural foie is not something you want to cook for a long period of time. I seared mine over medium high heat with a little salt for about a minute on each side. It goes really well with something a little sweet and acidic so I caramelized apples in butter and made a hard cider reduction to drizzle over it.

natural foie gras with a hard cider reduction

There is nothing in the world quite like it and the rarity of it makes it that much more beautiful.

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Wild Game Flatbread Recipe

Wild Game Flatbread Recipe

From Freezer To Flatbread

The Minnesota hunting season has been in full swing for about two months now. Hopefully you’ve had some success and your freezer(s) are starting to fill up. And, if that’s the case you may be staring at that full freezer wondering what kinds of wonderful delicacies you could make with all of your game. Well here are a few ideas.

Comfort With Being Uncomfortable

One of the things I always try to encourage people to do with wild game is to step outside of their comfort zone. Yes, a piece of back strap that’s properly seasoned and grilled is delicious, but it shouldn’t be the only technique you use.

I grew up in your typical wild game household where all of our venison was made into summer sausage and all of our ducks were cooked in cream of mushroom soup. There is nothing wrong with either of those methods, but it definitely lacks variety and creativity. I feel like one of the biggest problems with wild game is that too many people think there is only one way to prepare each meat when in reality the possibilities are endless.

Whenever I am out to dinner at a restaurant I’m always looking at the menu thinking “how could I incorporate wild game into this dish?”. One of the dishes I’ve been seeing on a lot of menus in recent years is flatbreads.

What Is Flatbread?

Flatbreads are kind of like a pizza…but not really. They typically don’t use sauce and if they do it isn’t a tomato-based sauce. I’ve seen some pretty interesting flatbreads out there: pear and fig with prosciutto, steak and caramelized onions with blue cheese and a balsamic reduction. When I look at them I can’t help but wonder what kinds of wild game I could substitute in the recipe.

One of the best things about making a flatbread is that you don’t have to make the bread. Most grocery stores have them pre-made and you can usually find them in packs of 2-4 pieces. All you have to do is figure out what toppings you’d like to put on them.

Venison & Duck

When I started thinking more about how to proceed I immediately thought back to the steak and blue cheese one I’d recently eaten. So, clearly venison and blue cheese was going to be one of the choices. But I felt it needed something extra, another wild ingredient to put it over the top. Instead of caramelized onions and balsamic reduction I chose a ramp marmalade that I had canned earlier in the year.

For the second option I wanted to go with duck, but I also wanted to make it a bit more different. I thought peaches and a habanero sauce would be great. It would bring a little sweet, a little hot, and go well with the smokiness from the grilled duck.

The combinations worked beautifully together and even my six year old who can be a little picky gobbled them up. So, if you’re looking for a way to change up your cooking try a wild game flatbread, and if you do let me know what combinations you come up with so I can try them out as well.

For these wild game flatbread recipes I used the same method for cooking the meats, I used the Traeger big game rub on the duck and the venison and then grilled them on the grill to give them a little smoke flavor as well. I pulled them of the grill when the internal temp was 135 and then let them chill in the fridge before I assembled the flatbreads. Note: the meat will cook even more when you bake the flatbreads.


Duck, Peach and Habanero
Wild Game Flatbread

1 flat bread

2 duck breasts, precooked and thinly sliced

1 peach, skinned and pitted and cut into wedges

¼ cup Montana Mex Habanero sauce

¼ cup asiago cheese

Brush the Flatbread with the sauce and then arrange the cooked duck breast and the peaches on the bread, top with asiago cheese and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.

Venison, Blue cheese and Ramp Marmalade
Wild Game Flatbread

1 flatbread

1 pound chunk of venison backstrap, grilled and sliced in ¼ inch thick pieces

4 ounces Blue Cheese

¼ cup ramp marmalade, (recipe follows)

Spread the marmalade on the on the bread and arrange the slices of venison and the blue cheese on the bread, bake in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes .

Ramp Marmalade

2 ½ cups chopped ramps

1/3 cup maple sugar, (or plain white sugar)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce, use your favorite (I like Crystal Hot Sauce)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the ramps and sauté until soft and tender. Add the sugar, hot sauce and Worcestershire and cook until the sugar is dissolved and bubbling. Season with salt and pepper.

I hope you enjoy these recipes for wild game flatbread. Don’t forget to let me know what types of experiments you try out the next time you get creative in the kitchen!




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Wild Turkey & Wild Rice Bowl Recipe

Wild Turkey & Wild Rice Bowl Recipe

The Elusive Wild Turkey

For the past three years my buddy Jeremy and I have been trying to kill a wild turkey. Jeremy has sent me dozens of pictures of turkeys in and around his small farm in southern Minnesota. We have tried spring turkeys, we have tried fall turkeys and have always come up short.

This spring we had several hens within shotgun range but couldn’t get the big tom that hovered nearby any closer than 60 yards. The spring before that we had a nice 30-minute conversation with another tom (an adult male wild turkey) that was hung up at 80 yards but he wouldn’t come any closer. I was starting to think we were never going to close the deal on a wild turkey…and then we went squirrel hunting.

The Hunting Paradox

A couple of weeks ago we headed out to try and arrow a deer and while we were out saw dozens of squirrels. If you’ve read other posts of mine then you know that I love squirrels. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get these squirrels out of my mind. So, when we both had our next day off, I was focused on getting one or two of those little furry critters. We headed out on an incredibly windy morning hoping to see some big fox squirrels we had seen the week before.

On hunts when I carry my bow I tend to see tons of squirrels, and when I bring my shotgun I inevitably see deer that I could shoot with my bow. On this day we hadn’t even made it 40 yards into the woods with our shotguns and a big doe was blowing at us. After sitting for a while we saw no squirrels, so we decided to move.

As we neared the crest of a steep hill a driving wind out of the northwest hit us in the face. The other thing that struck us was the sight of a rafter of turkeys just across the way. There must have been 15 or so just sitting there sheltering themselves from the wind. They had no idea we were there and we were able to crawl to a distance of about 20 yards from them.

When we got into position I picked out one of the bigger hens and took my shot. Immediately the birds scattered and went in every direction. One of the birds decided that the best plan was to fly to a tree branch that was directly above us. Jeremy took his shot and dropped that bird to the ground just a few feet away. And just like that our three year dry-spell chasing turkeys was over and we had doubled up on a couple of fall hens.

Jamie Carlson carrying wild turkeys Modern Carnivore

Field Preparation

Our squirrel hunt quickly transformed into a morning of cleaning these large birds. For me plucking a turkey isn’t worth the end result. The skin on most turkeys is very delicate and rips very easily. If I were to be cooking the bird whole I might consider plucking it but cooking a wild turkey whole is a very difficult thing to do. For that reason I like to skin the bird whole and then break it down from there into usable portions.

two wild turkey hens lying in grass


The way I see it there are three groupings of turkey portions: the breasts, the legs/thighs/wings and the carcass. The breasts are everyone’s favorite; they can be grilled, seared, schnitzeled or cooked it any number of different ways. I package the legs, thighs and wings together because there is a respectable amount of meat on them but it can be tough, so you need to cook it on low for a long time. It is, in my opinion some of the best meat out there and makes great stews, enchiladas or confit. Then there is the carcass. When roasted and used to make stock it gives you one more element of wild food to use for soups or risotto.

While out hunting with Jeremy we came across an apple tree that was dropping some of the biggest most beautifully red apples I have ever seen. I was kicking myself when I got home because I wanted to incorporate apples into this dish, but had forgotten to grab one of them (however, store-bought will work too). Jeremy also sent me home with some acorn squash that I thought would go well with the bird.

The best way to use these ingredients is to make a fall themed wild rice bowl. The flavors of fall all mix well and are bound together with a fantastic highbush cranberry pan sauce (also recently used in a duck breast recipe). You can grill or pan sear the turkey breast which ever you like. I seared the breast in a pan and then roasted it in the oven until it reached an internal temp of 165 degrees.

Wild turkey breast in cast iron pan

Wild Rice and Wild Turkey bowl Recipe

Wild Rice and Wild Turkey Bowl by Jamie Carlson

Wild Rice and Wild Turkey Bowl






1 large wild turkey breast, cooked and sliced about a ¼ of an inch thick

1 acorn squash, roasted and cubed into bite-sized pieces

1 apple, peeled and diced

2 cups cooked wild rice

½ cup chopped hazelnuts

Sun flower sprouts

5 tablespoons butter

½ cup wild turkey stock, or store-bought turkey stock

2 heaping tablespoons Highbush cranberry jelly (you can substitute red currant jelly)

1 small shallot, finely diced

To make the sauce, melt one tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the finely diced shallots and cook until soft and translucent. Pour in the stock and spoon in the jelly. Stir to combine and continue heating until the stock reduces down to a couple tablespoons. Remove from the heat and whisk in chunks of cold butter one tablespoon at a time until all the butter is mixed in. taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

To Assemble the Bowl

Pile about ½ cup of cooked wild rice in the bottom of a bowl, arrange the meat, squash, apples and sprouts in the bowl then spoon on a generous amount of the sauce. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top and serve. This will make 4 bowls.


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A Memorable Hunt (Pheasant Chislic Recipe)

A Memorable Hunt (Pheasant Chislic Recipe)

A Memorable Hunt

What makes a memorable hunt? For some it might be the location, for others it might be how successful the hunt was or how big the animals harvested were. Maybe the people you are hunting with or some other variable I’m not aware of. The farther into hunting I have gotten I have found that there are many variables that go into a memorable hunt.

This year for the Minnesota pheasant hunting opener Modern Carnivore founder, Mark Norquist, Sportsman for the Boundary Waters director  Lukas Leaf and myself were invited to participate in the MN Governor’s Pheasant Opener in Luverne, MN. Luverne is a small town on the western side of the state not far from the South Dakota boarder.

We made our way down the Friday before opening day and took part in a few of the events including the dedication of 93 acres of new public land, Rooster Ridge Wildlife Management Area .There was the typical banquet and then a party at the Take 16 brewery in town. Fun was had and beers were drunk late into the evening.

Morning Comes Early

Saturday morning came early and we all gathered for breakfast and then out to the field with our host hunters. I was teamed up with a bunch of guys from all around the state. A local landowner had donated access to his private land and a couple of guys from Nebraska had brought their dogs to help host the hunt. The morning passed quickly and a few pheasants were flushed and one was dropped. It was a beautiful morning but was more of a formality than an actual hunt.

After the morning hunt there was a lunch and after lunch Mark, Lukas and I were invited by Eric Dinger to join his family for an evening hunt on public land. Eric runs a business called Powderhook  that helps people get access to land for hunting, fishing and being outdoors.

Bring The Family

We met up with Eric at his parents place and I was immediately welcomed like I had known them my whole life. As we geared up and got ready to head out Eric’s dad Don told me to hop in his truck with him. I saw all the people getting in their vehicles and was thinking with this many people I probably don’t even need to bring my gun. So I left my shotgun and grabbed my camera instead.

After some planning Don had decided on the right spot for all of us to hunt. When we arrived at our destination and we all piled out of the vehicles I was a little shocked at how many of us there were. Eric’s wife and daughter, his dad, his brothers and their wives, Mark, Lukas and me and four black labs were all heading out for an evening hunt. There were eleven or twelve of us stretched out over a couple hundred yards all in a line ready to push through the field.

Don’s plan was to push the field down to the end and be done there before 5:30 so when the pheasants started flying out of the corn we would be in place to push back through the field towards the vehicles. As we walked across the prairie it was amazing to watch the dogs work in front of us and to see Eric’s six-year-old daughter fight her way through grass, which in some spots, was twice as tall as her. All the while just wanting to hold her dad’s hand and talk about seed dispersion.

We pushed across the field and managed to jump a couple of hen pheasants and made it to the far side ahead of schedule. Don wanted to show me a small waterfall that ran through a grove of trees over the red quartzite rock that is predominant in the area. As the time got closer to 5:30 Don pointed up the hill towards the corn and we watched as the pheasants dumped out of the corn into the tall Bluestem grass. We all lined up for the big push and almost immediately started flushing birds.

Shouts of “hen” and “rooster” echoed across the field as we marched forward. The birds were flushing at an almost comical rate. At one point a rooster flushed on the right side of our party and flew the entire length of the party with almost everybody taking a shot, or three.

We were flushing mostly hens but there were roosters mixed in as well.  Several of those roosters made their way into our game bags. At one point in the hunt Eric’s daughter had reached her breaking point and wanted to be carried. Eric shouted for me to come get his gun so he could carry her for the rest of the drive. I managed to rattle off a few shots but didn’t hit anything. I was having too much fun watching the way everyone was enjoying themselves to care about the misses.

Eventually Don passed his shotgun off to Eric and took his granddaughter up onto his shoulders for the rest of the hunt. At the end we had a grand total of four nice roosters to bring home. When we got back to Don’s house we were invited in and made to feel like part of the family. Don had some pheasants from a previous hunt and wanted to prepare some pheasant Chislic. So we all ate and laughed and told stories and ate chislic together.

It’s More Than The Birds

So what goes into a memorable hunt? For me it’s the community, seeing Eric’s family all out together, and inviting us to be part of it. It was about as good as it gets. There were birds shot and though it was the birds that got us out there it was the company, the stories and the food that really left an impression. Thank you to the Dinger Family for a memorable hunt.

Pheasant Chislic

For the uninitiated, Chislic is the unofficial food of South Dakota. Traditionally made with lamb, beef or venison it is seasoned cubes of meat that are deep fried. It can be done with any meat really so this is a version using Pheasant.

1 lbs. cubed pheasant meat

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp chili powder

2 tsp salt

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp black pepper

Oil for frying


Combine the ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes. Heat the oil to 350 degrees and fry for 3 minutes.  Serve with hot sauce and saltine crackers.

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