Fishing in Panama Part 1
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In mid-January I was contacted by friend Tim Williams and he asked “Whatcha doing April 1-8?”. I responded that I wasn’t sure and asked what was going on. “Fishing in Panama” he replied. And that’s how it started… Travel for me is a logistical challenge. My wife has some health issues that necessitate a caregiver almost around the clock. I was in the midst of a season of hell at work, my Passport had expired and of course – there was the issue of cost.

Well, Tim made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. My wife agreed to “rough it” for a week, with my daughter’s help and that of a fill-in caregiver. My co-worker Amy encouraged me to go, insisting she’d hold down the fort at work. Finally, I learned my passport could be renewed relatively quickly. With all that, the game was afoot.

Some context, I rarely travel. I rarely fly, and hadn’t ventured outside of the continental United States. Any trip that far and to a foreign country would be a big deal; a fishing trip? That was the makings for a trip of a lifetime.

Soon my flights were booked, my bags were packed, my family and coworkers were ready, and my trip had finally arrived. We flew from Phoenix to Miami and then from Miami to Panama City, arriving in Panama in the early evening. Some of the group was there already, some had travelled from Phoenix, some we had met with in Miami and some were at the Panama City airport. We were picked up at the airport and transported to the Hotel El Panama. We got checked in and then regrouped for an evening out. We enjoyed some amazing food at an authentic Panamanian restaurant, had a few libations and then turned in for the night. The next morning we were taken to the other airport in Panama City (Albrook International)to take an Air Panama flight to the city of David, about a 45-minute flight.

We were then picked up at the David airport by Captain Mike Augat and some staff from Pesca Panama who transported us down to the marina in Pedregal. There we boarded the five fishing boats which took us down the river towards the ocean. The intent was to intercept the converted barge which would serve as “home” the next five days.

The barge is ingenious. While other fishing operations have to return to the mainland every night, Pesca Panama utilizes a “floating lodge” which travels with the fleet of fishing boats. This makes the daily trips back and forth from the fishing grounds much shorter. The barge sleeps 16 or so guests, has a full bar and dining area and crew quarters too. There’s a galley, a small “living room” and provisions for laundry, crew quarters, etc. Staying on the barge itself was worth the trip! So we rendezvoused with the barge just before lunch; then we settled into our rooms, had lunch and headed out for an afternoon of fishing.

That first afternoon was relatively uneventful but it was a great opportunity to start getting our sea legs, catch some bait fish, start to get into the rhythm of throwing poppers and of course – to get to know our boat’s Captain and Mate – Tomas y Felix. The meal that night set the tone for the week – lobster. Yummm

Breakfast on the barge was always delicious, with some of the best coffee you’ve ever had. Locally grown, dark and rich. We typically ate around 6ish, and were in the boats by 7. Monday was our first full day of fishing, and tuna (yellowfin) was the name of the game. Spirits were high, we were excited, and away we went.

We headed towards Hannibal Bank, a go-to for big fish in Panama. The crew watched the birds and porpoises for feeding activity, and soon tuna were sighted feeding as well. Live bait in the water, and spare poles casting poppers. It wasn’t long before we hooked up and someone handed me a rod.I was fighting a tuna on a regular spinning rod. A few minutes in and I literally thought my arms were going to fall out of their sockets. Tim and the crew each took a turn fighting the tuna, then it came back to me and we got it into the boat. My first fish in Panama was estimated to weigh 120 pounds. Prior to that, I had never caught a fish bigger than five or six pounds – in my entire life. Then it was Tim’s turn. He landed two in quick succession that were estimated to go 150 pounds. After lunch he boated another that went 150 pounds. Finally, it was my turn again. I fought a tuna for about 45 minutes on big tackle. We got him in the boat and they estimated it at right around 200 pounds. At the end of the day, Tim and I had boated five tuna total – about 800 pounds’ worth. Most boats landed tuna that day, but we came out on top!

Another amazing evening meal, camaraderie and a cocktail or two – and I was in bed anxious for Day Two.

Day Two found us chasing tuna again. Back out on Hannibal Bank, “running and gunning” – watching for tuna feeding and chasing into the schools of feeding fish. It was a hectic pace, and pretty damned exciting. Then I hooked into something big. I was buckled in, and it was just like something Hemingway wrote about. A harness braced the stout rod into a lap plate and hooked onto the reel. Tim encouraged me. The Captain kept maneuvering the boat to try and gain the upper hand. They gave me water. They poured water on the reel. Then we saw color in the water. Then we got it close. Tomas and Felix got one gaff into it and then another. It seemed all they could do to get it into the boat. Soon Tomas was on the radio and I heard “Monstruo, monstruo!” – a monster. They estimated that fish to be better than 270 pounds. Later based on actual measurements, Captain Mike declared it at 275.

We weren’t done though! Now it was Tim’s turn! Tim hooked up and fought a fish for over an hour, and then he was exhausted. Tomas and Felix took over, with both of them on the rod at the same time. It would be another 45 minutes before that tuna was in the boat. It was bigger than mine, calculated based on taped measurements of length and girth to be 316 pounds. After lunch, Tim and I agreed and issued a plea to the crew that I never thought I would ever hear – “No more tuna. We’re done. Let’s go after something smaller after lunch”. We were beyond beat. We had an awesome lunch on the boat and then the crew obliged and we headed inshore for something a bit smaller.

Desert Rat note – this is too big a story to tell in one sitting. Look for Part 2 coming up soon!

Stacy Lyn Harris Talks About Her New Cookbook
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I’m really excited that Stacy Lyn took some time to talk with me about her new cookbook “Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook” (look for a review in the next week or so!) From the release, “Alabama chef Stacy Lyn Harris, editor of GameandGarden.com, cooking show host on The Sportsman Channel, and popular wild game cookbook author.

Hunting is a way of life for Stacy Lyn’s family of nine. Her husband always kept their freezer full of wild game and as her sons came along, they’ve had to buy more freezers to keep up with the amount of venison harvested each year. And Stacy Lyn wouldn’t have it any other way – it’s contributed to the closeness of her family, she says.” ~DesertRat

This is your 3rd cookbook. There are lots of great cooks that never publish a cookbook. What made you decide to start writing cookbooks?

It all started the day I married my husband. The freezer was full of huge chunks of meat I had never seen or tiny little birds (dove) that seemed impossible to cook. It looked nothing like what I grew up eating. I couldn’t find any cookbooks that had photos of the recipes and since I am a visual learner it was very difficult for me to want to cook wild game. I was determined to learn how to prepare the best dishes possible from wild game, make it beautiful and share everything I learn with others to make their lives easier.

This led to a life of wanting to cook everything as fresh, pure, and tasty as possible. Since I am from the South and my grandmother cooked amazing food, I added all of my family’s favorite Southern seasonal dishes to Harvest and fresh farm raised meats such as pork, beef, and lamb. Who doesn’t love Braised Short Ribs?

I knew that most people not so long ago grew and harvested their own foods. They had kitchen gardens and a few chickens running around out back. They hunted and fished and paired their harvests with seasonal vegetables available at the time. After pouring over ancient recipes trying to find the secret to cooking great fresh food I couldn’t help but share what I had learned.

It’s not only about the food for me. I’ve seen our family relationships grow throughout the years because of our common interests in bringing food to the table. Whether it be a fishing or hunting adventure, planting the garden, harvesting the fruit and vegetables and canning them together, or cooking an amazing meal together, relationships are solidified. If I can help promote that in anyway, I am there. It’s truly one of THE BLESSINGS in this life.

What is the biggest mistake people make when cooking wild game?

People try to cook wild game the same way they prepare their grocery store counterparts. Wild game is totally different than meat raised on corn and feed on a farm. Animals that forage for their food and use their muscles looking for food have more muscle fiber and connective tissue that must be addressed during the preparation and cooking.

For instance, those meats with the most connective tissue and muscle fiber like the hindquarters roasts taste best braised low and slow or cut small and pounded out and the lean cuts like the tenderloins and loins need to be cooked no more than medium rare for best flavor and tenderness.

My mission is to help people match the correct cooking method with the cut of meat. If you do this, you will always have exceptional meals on your table.

What is your favorite wild game to cook and why?

I love cooking all wild game. It’s so good for you; Usually higher in Omega Fatty 3 Acids, zinc, vitamin B, niacin, and phosphorus and lower in cholesterol and calories. Once you get the hang of how to cook wild game, it’s all pretty simple. Quail is just amazing. It’s so light and mild in flavor and the texture is perfect making it quite versatile. Roasted Quail, Quail Pizza, and Stuffed Quail are a few of my favorites.

Turkey and Pheasant are incredibly great to work with. My Turkey Piccata is a joy to eat! Squirrel is another game meat that graces our table quite often in that I have teenage boys that have a need to extend hunting season a bit. Squirrel Pot Pie is really very good, and I’ve never been a fan of squirrel.

I cook more venison that anything because my family harvests at least 13 deer a year. They are such large game animals making them go further. The sky is the limit in preparation. The loins are great steaks, the hindquarter makes great stew and fajita meat. The neck makes fantastic burgers and chili. I, like Isaac from the Bible, think Venison is the best meat in the world. Isaac requested it for one of his last meals (Gen. 27:3)

What is your favorite recipe in the book?

It kind of depends on the season. In spring, the turkey burgers are one of my favorite along with homemade blueberry pie! In the summer, I adore the Fried Squash with Tomatoes, Pesto, and Marinara as well as the fish tacos. In the fall, Slow Cooker Pheasant Nachos are a winner and in the winter, the award winning Venison Chili will ROCK YOUR WORLD.

Oh, and I can’t forget my Homemade Sausage! Tweaking the flavors will completely change the entire dish in which it used. I show you step-by-step how to make it. It’s one of the bases to many of my favorite recipes like bolognese, spaghetti sauce, gumbos, dumplings, and soups to name a few.

“Sustainable southern dishes with a healthy twist” – classic southern food isn’t (or wasn’t) known for being healthy. How much of an adaptation is it to cook healthier?

It’s really not difficult at all. Many people still remember eating exactly as I am promoting today: clean, healthy, seasonal, straight from your harvest.

It’s the processed foods that Southerner’s have begun adding to the foods just in this last century that creates the unhealthy problem. I’ve just brought back what was already there. Adding fresh herbs, a few seasonings along with using the correct method of preparation make fresh food outstanding in flavor and healthy.

Do you like to “invent” new recipes or do you enjoy perfecting (or tweaking) recipes that are handed down?

I do a little bit of both. I love tradition and remembering my grandmother and her way of life so I keep her recipes and tweak them to perfection. Many of them were already perfect. I love perfecting a recipe by cooking it over and over in a week or month or whatever it takes to get it right.

For instance, this week my focus has been on meringues. Our chickens started laying tons of eggs and I need to use them up. What better than way with meringues and custards! I finally have it – it’s such a great feeling to make a no fail meringue or anything for that matter and then be able to write about it on my blog or books.

But I also love to create brand new recipes. My most recent was a Pumpkin Lasagna with Homemade Pumpkin Noodles. It was so creamy and delicious with a smooth silky white sauce.

Using wild game in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily can become an obsession if you let it. I suppose that’s why I love writing books. I say I am creating these recipes for the readers, but I derive so much pleasure from it, it may be mainly for me.

Who should buy this cookbook? Beginners? Experienced cooks? Folks new to wild game?

Anyone who likes great food should buy my book. Truly, I think anyone will love it. I have traditional recipes such as Fried Green Tomatoes and I added a lighter version of a Crunchy Baked Fried Green Tomato recipe. I have sweet potato fries with chipotle, but give additional tips to make it a sweet cinnamon flavored dessert.

I have over 15 “how to’s” in the book from preserving, gardening, and saving seeds to step-by-step instructions on deboning a quail or making homemade biscuits and crusts.

If you are new to wild game, this book is a must. You will save your hard earned time, and money by making the most of your harvest the first time you cook it. Even if you don’t cook wild game, the techniques I cover in the book and the vegetable recipes are well worth it. I also have a wild game substitution table in the book so you can buy the right meat for the recipe from the grocery store to use if, God forbid, you run out of wild game.

It’s so funny, my kids who are cooking age (above 3) are always asking, “Where’s Harvest?” I want to make a pie crust, or sweet potato biscuits, or stuff a loin, etc. It’s a guide, reference and friend in our home. I even find myself using it from time to time.

I’d really like to thank Stacy Lyn for taking time out of her busy schedule to share some thoughts with my readers. You can purchase the new book on Amazon where it is enjoying amazing reviews! As mentioned, look for an upcoming review. The recipes look amazing, and I can’t wait!

Desert Rat Talks With Outdoor Personality John Stallone
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I’m hoping you caught my earlier post about John Stallone’s podcasts which are a great source of hunting information – how to, where to, and why.. I thought it might be neat to catch up with John and ask a few questions so my readers could learn more about him. A big “Thank You” to John for taking some time to chat. ~DesertRat

First off, some background on John. From his website:

“I am the marketing Director for The Hunting Channel, a National pro-staff shooter for Mathews, Swhacker, Trufire, Sneek Tec, Bow IQ , Cogburn and Gold tip as well as many more . I am an outdoor videographer and writer in the hunting industry. My program is viewed over 4 million x monthly, I am a published outdoor writer and have over 4 million views on youtube and receive traffic upwards of 65 million each year on my video clips. I have completed my whitetail slam and currently working on my super slam. My TV show was voted viewer’s choice for 2014 on Carbon TV and I have been successfully producing shows for over 11 years.”

1) How long have you worked in the hunting industry?

I started “prostaffing” for companies in 2001 I started getting paid to hunt 2002

2) Is this your full time occupation?

Yes and no I do it full time and make a portion of my livelihood from it but I also own a commercial swimming pool company ( remodel, service and repair)

3) How did you get into this business?

I started by helping develop hunting products and writing articles for blogs and websites then got my first article published in Midwest whitetails form there I started the hunting channel online and my TV show days in the wild

4) You’re a writer, you do podcasts, you have a TV show – which is the hardest for you and why?

The TV show is by far the most time consuming and has the highest cost to produce which consequently requires me to spend a lot of time selling sponsorships. Obtaining sponsors is my least favorite thing to do but is a necessary evil and takes up the brunt of my time.

5) What’s your proudest hunting achievement?

Although I’m very proud of my Ibex there’s not any one trophy or animal that I have taken that makes me feel “proudest “because they are all equal in my eyes although I’d have to say what I’m most proud of is my consistent success rate for the last 10 years has been over 75% and I typically do 12 hunts a year

6) You’ve traveled a lot, killed a lot of game – what’s still on your bucket list?

This interview isn’t long enough lol… my top three right now are moose, mountain goat, and red stag


7) Whats your favorite thing to hunt?

Whatever is in season and I have a tag for. But if you have to make me choose only one species to hunt for the rest of my life it’s a toss up for me between whitetail and elk

8) What’s the hardest part of working in the hunting industry?

Having to chase down sponsorship money and having to constantly be selling yourself . I hate having to go hat in hand asking for money. I’m not a salesman and unfortunately in this industry being a salesman is more important than being a good hunter. But a close second is always being under scrutiny; there is always someone ready and waiting to point out what you did wrong.

9) What are some of your product affiliations?

Mathews, Swhacker, Sneektec, Goldtip

10) What are some big upcoming projects for you?

I am working on a new film right now, it’s a South Dakota spot and stalk archery whitetail hunt I hope to have it ready by May 2017 but other than that my main focus right now is my Podcast Interviews with the Hunting Masters its growing really fast and I’d like to keep up the momentum . I really enjoy the medium almost better than filming. I get to interact with my peers and fans, share info, and I get to do it as often as I like.

I’d really like to thank John for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about all the cool stuff he has going on.

View a sample of his hunting show here: Hunting Coues Deer

Check out one of his books here: Secrets of Hunting Western Game

Learn more about The Hunting Channel here: The Hunting Channel Online

Follow him on Twitter here: John Stallone Twitter

Finally, connect with him on Facebook here: John Stallone Facebook

ISE Scottsdale Off To A Good Start
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I was able to sneak away from work to stop by International Sportsmen’s Expo and Arizona Boat Show being held at WestWorld in Scottsdale.

It was great to see John Kirk, Director of Communications for International Sportsmen’s Expos and he always takes time out to chat and introduce me to some of his great vendors.

Attendance seemed brisk for an opening Thursday and the good news is that you still have three more days to fully experience ISE in Scottsdale. The show runs March 23rd through the 26th and there are tons of things to see and do, for the whole family.

There are lots of great live presentations

There’s some cool new stuff:

NEW—Watersports Pond—flyboarding, wakeboarding and SUP demos
NEW—Wilderness Camp, hosted byTodd Jostes
NEW—High Impact Archery Range, cash contest and Western Finals (rules here)
NEW—Fly-casting and fly-tying seminars/instruction
NEW—Best of Scottsdale Casting Contest, hosted by Desert Fly Casters and Arizona FlyCasters clubs (Sunday)
NEW—Eastmans’ Trophy Deer and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation elk Displays

And some favorites as well:

Offroad Test Track, presented by Kawasaki and Tomcar
Outdoor Product Showcase, hosted by Gear Guru Dan Kidder–see and win gear!
Youth Fair (free activities), hosted by Bass Pro Shop and Arizona Anglers
Arizona Taxidermy Association wildlife display and State Championship
Aquarium Demonstration Tank pro seminars, presented by Arizona Boating & Watersports
RMEF Adventure Theater
Zip-line and climbing wall (fees)

You can find the show at:

WestWorld of Scottsdale
16601 N Pima Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Hours are:

Thu.. 10am – 7pm
Fri… 10am – 7pm
Sat.. 10am – 7pm
Sun.. 10am – 5pm

Adult Admission – $14.00
Youth 15 and under – Free!

You can download a show program here: Show Program

Badlands Announces Groundbreaking Binocular/Rangefinder Case
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HUNTERS REJOICE AT INNOVATIVE BADLANDS COMBINATION BINOCULAR/RANGEFINDER CASE DURING ANNUAL TRADESHOWS

West Jordan, UT – Crowd control was key for Badlands at the 2017 ATA tradeshow as they unveiled the new Bino XR optics case. Utilizing Badlands Zip-No™ Magnetic Closure Technology, the Bino XR provides separate, easy-access compartments for a set of binoculars and a rangefinder. “Oohhs and aahhs” were frequently overheard as Badlands demonstrated the dual-carry capability of the new case.

Features of the Bino XR include:

• Badlands Zip-No™ Magnetic Closure Technology on both upper and lower compartments
• Upper storage fits most 10×42 binoculars and smaller
• Lower storage fits most rangefinder models
• Built-in lens cloth
• Tethers for binoculars and rangefinder
• New zippered side pocket storage
• Built-in (removable) rain cover for ultimate protection
• New slimmer, ventilated 4-way shoulder harness system
Badlands Supply Chain Manager Tim Shoaf said of the new case, “Honestly, this one is kind of pain in the you-know-what for me because demand is already through the roof.” He continued, “We’re working hard to fulfill all the demand and make sure everyone has one of these on their chest this spring.”

The Badlands Bino XR will be available April 2017 for $149.99. Available color options will be Badlands Approach camouflage, Serengeti Brown and Gunmetal Gray.

Now in its 23rd year, Badlands continues to focus on exceptional quality, continuing innovation, unmatched performance and as always the only unconditional lifetime warranty in the industry.

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For more information about this event, products in the Badlands line, or general inquiries, please contact Blake VanTussenbrook at 1.800.386.7839 or blake@vortexoutdoors.com