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Outdoor Yarns and Outright Lies by Gene Hill and Steve Smith
...and other Christmas Gift Ideas

With the Christmas Holidays just around the corner, I thought that I would make a few suggestions for book gifts - for yourself or others - with a hunting or spaniel theme.

Bathroom Reading

For most of us, bathroom reading should be fairly brief in nature. Having stood in line at field trial port-a-potties, I can unequivocally state that some of you might do well with War and Peace, but for most of us, a book of short stories fit the bill. Gene Hill might smack me up the side of the head for saying this, but no one writes bathroom reading like Hill. Unless you consider Steve Smith.

The two of them have collaborated on a collection of short stories called Outdoor Yarns and Outright Lies. While the book jacket suggests a comfortable armchair by the side of a well-stoked fire, I think we all know where this is going to end up.

Of course, I sat down and read the whole thing in one evening. Yes, I have no self-control. Better to ration it out - as this type of classic collections do not come out but only so often. In this case, the publication date is 1983. Why it took me so long to get around to it, I'll never know.

Both Smith and Hill are well known for their short stories - published in numerous magazines over the last several decades. What’s interesting, is how well they go together. With the author of each story listed at the end of the story, many stories had me guessing which author was speaking. Pretty amazing. Generic hunting tales - would work well as a gift for just about any hunter.

Spaniel Training

Because new spaniel training books are also few and far between, I would like to reference the review I did on Tony Roettger and Chip Schleider's recent work Urban Gun Dogs: Training Flushing Dogs for Home and Field. As mentioned in my review from the last issue of SJ, "The premise of the book is that the scarcity of suitable land, coupled with a more urban lifestyle, has brought forth the need for a different approach to training. This, coupled with up-to-date commentary on the contemporary American field trial and hunt test scene, makes it an interested read for anyone."

I can guarantee that this book will be the topic of gallery discussions in the years to come - especially as more and more newcomers read it. So go ahead and get a copy; you may not agree with it, but at least you will know what you disagree with. For a detailed review, click here.

I would be remiss if I did not mention James Spencer's book Hup! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way. If this is not in your collection, it should be. Long considered the reference training manual for spaniel training, it continues to sell - now in its second edition. More about Hup! here.

Cooking Your Goose

More precisely, "smoking your goose". Because game smokers are popular gifts, books that discuss home smoking are also popular this time of year. As an ardent game smoker and cook, I have read many such publications over the years. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend many of them.

So, perhaps I might mention which books you might steer away from. The issue is this: in the 1970's the use of saltpeter was severely curtailed because of links to cancer. Now it might be argued that those test involved high doses, and that the carcinogenic properties (nitrosamine formation) were seen only meat that was cooked at high temperatures - as in frying bacon. Perhaps... but most food safety experts will not suggest using saltpeter (potassium nitrate) as a preservative. In fact, since 1975, its use as a cure for smoked or cooked meats has not been legal.

However, many books have been published since that time that suggest the use of saltpeter, or in some cases just table salt (sodium chloride) as a cure. Two that are still in publication, one with a new cover and in at least its 28th printing, and the other which states on the cover that it is "updated for the 90's" are The Quick and Easy Art of Smoking Food by Chris Dubbs and Dave Heberle and Home Book of Smoke Cooking Meat, Fish and Game by Jack Sleight and Raymond Hull. Both books have some really interesting chapters showing how to make various kinds of homemade cookers, discussions about some of the commercially available cookers on the market, and both have some really neat recipes. On that basis, they may be worth having on the bookshelf for someone who is really into smoking. But I shudder to think of these books in the hands of a novice.

To suggest that salt alone is a suitable cure, is just plain reckless. And yes, I have spent a day with the room spinning after eating home-cured chipped venison to know what I am talking about. To ignore the suitable modern cures such as Morton Tenderquick and Insta Cure (Prague Powder) that are readily available is worse than reckless. A lot of home smoking takes place at temperatures around 120 degrees in an anaerobic (low oxygen) setting and this is a prime incubator for botulism.

Granted, our pioneer fathers did not have these modern cures. They also did not live so long; get the connection? This is 2004, if you buy a book on home smoking, you should be able to expect that the information presented is fairly up-to-date.

The Smoked-Foods Cookbook by Lue and Ed Park is one book that does incorporate some current information on cures. Oddly enough, although the cures are discussed in the text, many of the recipes omit the cures. I believe this is because the book is oriented towards smoke-cookers, which usually operate at temperatures above 140 degrees.

Because game meat such as goose or pheasant will be more tender if smoked at lower temperatures, the use of cures is very helpful. This book does have some good discussions of the issue and is a good starting point, especially for those who are using the moist smoke-cookers such as the Brinkman or others that include a water pan.

Believe it or not, recently deceased spanieler, Keith Erlandson, wrote the book Home Smoking and Curing. It was updated in 2003, but I have not been able to obtain a copy, at this point. Because of his affinity for game and the cold-smoking techniques, I think I will put this one on my Christmas list.

On a side note, at sometime in the future I intend to do an article on my game-bird and waterfowl cold-smoking techniques for an upcoming Spaniel Journal issue. If you would sample my smoked chukar, you would never again leave a hunt test without stopping by the shag basket for a few take-home birds!

Hopefully, these suggestions will give you some ideas. Don't forget, all of my past Spaniel Journal book reviews are archived on-line in case you are looking for something else.

Happy Hunting and Good Reading!

Copies of these book are available from:
Spaniel Journal Bookstore

Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, Cindy, and his Springer, Jenna. He is a hunter, field trialer and member of the M-AHSC. He also maintains a public FB ESS pedigree database at

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