You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers—and if we don’t, we make ’em up. Every day fellow MeatEaters send us more than 100 emails and direct messages. Some are excellent questions, and we have to think real hard (or get real creative) to answer them. So, we decided to publish a series of our favorite FAQs. We’re here to help you become better hunters, anglers, cooks, and conservationists, so talk to us, ask us anything, and let us know what we got wrong. This week, we’re opining about catch-and-release ethics, elk hunting weapons, and cooking morels.
Why do sportsmen chase the biggest big game, but usually release the biggest fish? -Dave, Pennsylvania
There is obviously no catch and release in hunting. But we do make the conscious choice to harvest more male animals than female for the sake of population health. Removing the largest males has a relatively small effect on the population as a whole.
With fish, the size structure is often reversed. The largest bass, pike, walleye, and muskie are usually old females, which produce a magnitude more and better offspring than smaller females. Even with fishes where males grow larger, like trout and panfish, anglers often choose to release the biggest fish simply because they have the volition to do so. Catch and release may provide another angler the opportunity to interact with the same special fish. The oldest fish also tend to have lower quality flesh than younger specimens. There’s nothing morally wrong with keeping large fish where it’s legal, but some anglers simply prefer a photograph. –Sam Lungren
I want to go on my first DIY elk hunt this year. Do you recommend using a bow or a rifle? -Lindsay, Wisconsin
You’ll usually be limited to archery equipment if you want to hunt the rut. The good news is that in states like Idaho and Colorado, archery tags can be purchased over the counter. In states where elk tags are distributed by a draw, archery tags are often easier to get your hands on. But remember, even though the bulls are bugling, archery season success rates are typically much lower than rifle seasons. Still, calling a rut-crazed bull into bow range is worth the trade-off.
Rifle seasons generally take place after the rut, but success rates are higher because you don’t need to call a bull into spitting distance. If you glass long enough in a productive area, you’ll probably be able to locate a herd of elk. If you’re able to find elk in a spot you can get to, you have a good chance of closing the distance to 300 yards or less. However, during rifle seasons elk can be difficult to find. They don’t give themselves away with loud bugles, and as the season progresses, hunting pressure sends them into steep, timbered hell holes.
Whether you’re packing a rifle or bow, elk hunting is hard work and most hunters fail to fill their tags. The amount of time you’re willing to put in is as important as your chosen method of take. I’d recommend picking a state like Montana or Wyoming that allow you to hunt during archery and rifle seasons. And if you’re on your first DIY elk hunt, don’t pass up any legal bull, or even a cow if regulations allow. –Brody Henderson
What’s your favorite way to cook morels? -Nick, Missouri
Morels are like walleye: They have a firm flesh and mild flavor that make them super versatile in the kitchen. I feel like Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue from “Forrest Gump” when I start talking about all the different ways to prepare morels. You can put them on a burger, throw them in a pasta, make a mushroom cream sauce, cook them with eggs, serve them on toast, mix them in a soup, deep fry them, etc.
With that said, my absolute favorite way to cook morels is the simplest—sautéed with butter. Just heat up a pan with a few tablespoons of butter and toss the morels with fresh garlic for about five minutes. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top and serve immediately. In my opinion, it’s the purest and tastiest way to enjoy the best tasting mushrooms. –Spencer Neuharth