Open Season: Expert Tips To Make The Most Of Each Hunting Trip
Kevin Paulson is an avid hunter and owner of both HuntingLife.com and HuntingInsider.com. Born into a family of nature-lovers, Kevin grew a passion for hunting and the outdoors at an early age, which led him to create a site for others who are interested in hunting and the role it plays in conservation. We reached out to Kevin to learn more about responsible hunting, his top game recipes and his tips for keeping meat fresh from the field to the table.
Kevin, tell us about yourself and how you became a hunter.
I was born in 1970 to a family that loved being outdoors more than being indoors. My father worked for the United States Forest Service, as did my mom later in her career. My first memory of hunting was tagging along with my father at about age 5, walking through the high desert near Bodie, California, looking for mule deer. We didn’t get a deer, but we did see a herd of antelope that, at the time, was the western-most herd in the country. I was hooked. I started hunting at age 12 after taking my hunter safety course with my mom. I hunted dove and I took my first big game animal in Wyoming in 1987.
Hunting alongside my father taught me about the lands we hunted, the trees surrounding us and the animals we pursued. I learned about ethics, integrity and doing the right thing even when nobody was watching. I learned all about meat: how to get it out of the field safely, how to process it and how to prepare it for friends and family.
How did you go from being a hunter to the owner of HuntingLife.com and HuntingInsider.com?
In 2004, an opportunity to buy into an outfitting business in Idaho and Montana opened up and I took a big gamble. For most of the year, I worked several states away. Because of this, I learned that being an outfitter without actually living on the land we were hunting was impossible. When the chance to sell my portion of the business presented itself, I jumped at it. Through this process, I did, however, learn that I loved to write and I wanted to make a difference in the hunting world. I bought HuntingLife.com the day after I sold the outfitting business. It has been 10 long, hard years of growth to become one of the nation’s leading news sources for hunting and conservation. In April, we purchased HuntingInsider.com to build a site focused entirely on interviewing hunters, guides and industry executives to share what works for them, what motivates them and how they have grown as hunters.
What is your favorite type of hunting?
Archery, shotgun, rifle and muzzleloader: I use a Mathews Halon during archery season, I hunt with a Weatherby all through rifle season and I hunt with a muzzleloader during black powder season. I hunt with a shotgun for dove, duck, quail and pheasant and I spend a ridiculous amount of time chasing spring gobblers. I really do not have a favorite season or type of hunting; I just love getting outdoors and watching the sun rise and set.
If I could only hunt one animal, I would chase mule deer. Something about watching them bound through the plains and high country sage makes my heartbeat a little faster.
What is your most memorable hunt?
My most memorable hunts are those in which I get to spend time in the field with new hunters and experience them taking their first animals. It is always an emotional experience.
What role does hunting play in wildlife conservation?
Wildlife conservation in North America is a direct result of hunting. Hunters throughout the U.S. pay for the privilege to hunt and fish in every state. These fees are used to fund wildlife conservation throughout the country. In addition, through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act hunters and shooters pay a tax on guns and ammunition that funds at least $371 million for conservation programs. In 2012, per the most recent numbers available, federal duck stamps sold more than 1.5 million duck stamps, raising another $37.5 million for wetland conservation. Hunting is conservation in North America. While models are different internationally, hunting has just as strong of an impact on wildlife populations worldwide.
What are five items that you would never go on a big game hunt without?
I will not hunt without a quality layering system for my clothing. I have spent far too many hunting trips without the right gear. I hunt hard and in a variety of different climates and altitudes. Sitka Gear provides me the layering system I need for all of my hunts. I also rely upon a quality knife, first aid kit, game bags from Caribou gear, Mystery Ranch Packs to get my meat out of the field and a quality cooler to get my meat from the field to the table safely.
Do you use dry ice when you go on hunting trips?
On any hunt that takes me out of state or more than 5 hours from home, dry ice is an essential part of my routine to keep the meat cool and safe. When regular ice melts, the water coats the meat and promotes the growth of bacteria. My experience with dry ice has been excellent. I have been able to travel great distances with meat in the cooler.
How do you pack a cooler with dry ice?
On all big game animals I pack the meat in quarters inside of Caribou Gear game bags then place the meat inside of a 125-quart cooler. In some circumstances, I will bone out the meat and place it into game bags. I get Penguin Brand™ dry ice from the closest grocery store and wrap it in newspaper to prevent the dry ice from coming into contact with the plastic of the cooler and from coming into direct contact with the meat. I have found that breaking the ice into two sections allows the ice to cool my large cooler and provide cool airflow around the meat.
Do you have any other tips for transporting meat home to the table?
On long trips, I keep the drain plug on the cooler open to allow proper venting on the cooler. This allows any gas to escape from the cooler. When I stop for gas for my truck, I vent the cooler by opening it up. I often check on the temperature of the meat by using a Kestrel DROP inside my cooler. The Kestrel DROP delivers temperature readings right to my cell phone through Bluetooth. It is a powerful tool to know your meat is safe.
Do you have any game meat recipes you would like to share?
I prepare meals and cook often. I use a wide variety of recipes. At the moment, my favorite resource for venison recipes is Hank Shaw’s book Buck, Buck Moose. For wild fowl, I rely on Hank Shaw’s partner book Duck, Duck Goose book. Hank has never steered me wrong and I rely on his recipes often.
What guidance can you offer others when it comes to responsible hunting?
Hunting requires integrity and ethics. Follow the laws and respect the wildlife you hunt. If you hunt ducks, then join Ducks Unlimited. If you hunt turkey, then join the National Wild Turkey Federation. If you are as obsessed with mule deer as I am, then join the Mule Deer Foundation. And if the bugles of wild elk excite you, join Rocky Mountain Elke Foundation. All hunters should join the NRA and SCI to protect hunting and our second amendment rights.
Most importantly, if you enjoy hunting pass it on and become a mentor to others around you. The tradition of hunting used to be passed from fathers to sons. I encourage you to step up and pass on the hunting tradition to our wives, our sons, our daughters and our neighbors.
How do you make the most out of each hunt?
I spend hundreds of hours in the field. The most important advice that I can offer is to take time to enjoy the land on which you are hunting. Notice things around you on a broad scale like the clouds, trees, sunrise and sunset. Notice the things around you on a macro level like the grasshoppers bouncing through the grass, plants and flowers blowing in the wind. Notice the wildlife around you, whether you are hunting that species or not. Soak it all in because these memories will keep you coming back year after year.
To find Penguin Brand™ dry ice before your next hunt, check out The Penguin’s store locator tool.