Sports
Chili meat from the wild
By Luke Clayton
Feb 1, 2023
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I like to create little challenges for myself that add fun to my outdoor lifestyle. A few days ago, I was with a group of friends and the subject of chili came up. The weather was cold and chili was a fitting subject. Everyone had their favorite method of making chili and when it was time for me to chime in; I stated that Iíve been making smoked chili for decades over a wood fire.

ďChili just ainít chili unless itís made from fresh game meat, never frozen and has a smoked flavor,Ē says I. 

"Smoked chili!" sounds great a couple of friends say, and exactly when do we have some of this smoked chili? Well, says I, I could make some out of venison steaks I have in the freezer or, God forbid I go to the store and buy chili meat but to make it right, it needs to be freshly harvested from the wild and never frozen; wild pork makes great chili. I could see a few eyebrows raised and one said he had never heard of making chili from wild hogs, venison and elk yes but hogs?

We had plans to get together at camp in a couple days and I went out on a narrow limb and told them to expect some fresh, smoked wild pork chili at camp. I would go out near the house that evening and shoot a hog and grind some fresh chili meat.

In the back of my mind, I had plan B which involved defrosting some venison steaks and turning them into chili meat. But I knew chances were pretty good of sitting over a corn feeder in the back of a nearby field just after dark and procuring some quality wild pork. My trail camera had evidenced a sounder of hogs coming in to the spot each night just after dark and a fat sow was always the first hog at the feeder. 

About an hour or so before dark that evening, I loaded my little Mossberg .223 topped with an Adder thermal scope into the truck, tossed in my folding hunting chair and cushion and made the long half mile drive to the area I would hunt. I donít like to drive close to a spot Iím hunting and in this instance; I couldnít without getting my truck stuck. The back of the big field I would be hunting, adjacent a grove of trees was standing a couple inches water from recent rains. I parked at the entrance gate, slipped into my Muck boots and eased quietly back to my hunting spot.

On these late afternoon hog hunts, I like to get in place an hour or so early, one never knows when the hogs might change their pattern and move just before dark. I needed pork on this hunt and wanted to have all my bases covered!  But the last hour of daylight was spent watching wood ducks drop into a pond across the field.

Ducks and geese always roost on water to avoid predators and the sky is usually full of ducks heading to their roost sights the last fifteen minutes of daylight. Why they wait so late to fly I have never learned but when out hunting, if you watch the sky during the last few minutes of daylight, you will probably see ducks heading to their roost ponds. Iíve often wondered why they donít settle in for bed a bit earlier; possibly to avoid being spotted in daylight by a coyote, fox or hawk?

The first thirty minutes of darkness was somewhat uneventful if listening to the evening assembly call of a nearby pack of coyotes could be described as uneventful. There is something absolutely wild about the howls and barks made by a pack of coyotes as they gather each evening to go about their quest for fresh meat. In this instance they were not alone in their quest for food.

Through the thermal scope and spotter, I had a commanding view of everything within several hundred yards and I saw the hogs coming way before I could hear them splashing through the water and later the sucking sound of their feet pulling out of mud. I could see my targeted Ďeaterí sow in the lead as the sounder wound its way through a field of dove weed and tall gramma grass.

The hogs would be partially obscured from view at times but through the thermal scope, I was able to track them until they popped into view near the corn feeder. The lead sow sensed something was not right. Being upwind of my location, she could not have smelled me. She left the pack and heading straight to my location, head in the air, testing the slight breeze. Wild animals, especially older ones, have a sixth sense and this one knew something was not right. She couldnít see me, although only 45 yards away but I could make out every hair through the scope.

I was soon packing the meat back to the truck. Thank goodness it was a cold night. Once home, I left the meat in the back of the truck to chill for the night. The next morning, I put my knife to work and cubed up an entire ham which I turned into chili meat with the 90-year-old meat grinder that was a gift from my friend the late Bob Hood.

When Luke's friends challenged Luke to make a big Dutch Kettle of chili, Luke went 'grocery shopping'. This good-eating wild hog became the centerpiece of the meal! (photo by Luke Clayton)

The smoked wild pork chili turned out great. It always does, hard to mess up quality lean meat with plenty of hickory smoke and seasonings applied.  I think I may have converted a few of my friends to making smoked chili!  There was only a dab of chili left in my big cast iron Dutch Kettle when five hungry hunters pulled away from the table! May this lifestyle go on forever!

Contact Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org