Last May, I hunted black bears at my place on Prince of Wales Island with my good friend, Ron Boehme. We didn’t film that hunt, as I was doing a feature about it for Field and Stream. I know Ronny from my hometown, Twin Lake, Michigan. His company, Twin Lake Installations, kept me busy all through college with highly flexible hours and better-than-average pay. His generosity has always impressed me; he once gave me a Dodge van outright, and traded me a Chevy van for a Husqvarna chainsaw. More than once, Ronny actually kept me on the clock when we left work early in order to go grouse hunting – a passion of his. As I mention in my Field and Stream article (April, 2012 issue), Ronny often manages to turn one-flush days into one-grouse days, which ain’t easy.
His bear hunting skills aren’t as developed, but he makes up for it with enthusiasm; he’s the kind of guy who’s got the coffee going before you’re out of your sleeping bag, and he’ll probably be working on breakfast before you brush your teeth (but man, does that bastard snore!)
We hunted bears for six days and located over a dozen of them. I tagged out first, with a medium-sized boar, and then Ronny killed a bigger boar on our last night. Here’s a photo of my bear hanging at my shack, and another of Ronny’s bear on the beach where we killed it.
Ronny had his bear turned into a rug by Mike Hiner, our hometown taxidermist. It turned out gorgeously. Then, he saved the two back hams for his buddy’s retirement party, which just happened a couple weeks ago. He built a new smoker just for the occasion, and then asked me to send him a good brine recipe. I complied by sending him the ingredients list for Michael Ruhlman’s American-style ham as it appears in Ruhlman’s wonderful book, Charcuterie.
After the retirement party, Ronny sent me this dispatch to let me know how the hams turned out. I’ve modified the dispatch slightly, just so that it conforms to basic editorial expectations of grammar and spelling (Sorry, Ronny.) After the dispatch, you’ll see where I’ve added some definitions to clear up any confusion about what Ronny’s talking about. Beer Mountain is the house, or compound, rather, where Ronny bases his crew while working a large, ongoing project in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. At night, cold beers can be found in the hands of everyone present, hence the name.
“Steve: Here are the pictures from the weekend. I brined the bear hams for 5 days at Beer Mountain and then took them over to Lester’s house where the now famous Beer Mountain Smoker resides. Lester made a rub that put a nice glaze on it. He also injected them with about 8 ounces of Coca Cola (It is supposed to tenderize the meat.) I think the Coke heated back up and oozed out slowly to mix with that rub because it really looked like a glaze when it was done, We served it cold all sliced up for the party here. The ham was the talk of the party. When we told everybody what it was, they all laughed and started with the jokes. The new slogan for my place is now, “Come to Beer Mountain and get bear assed.” The one ham served 20 people with some left over. I froze the other ham.”
Below, you’ll see a few process photos from Ronny’s project. –Steven Rinella