TRIADELPHIA – Gun season – the crown jewel of West Virginia’s fall deer hunt – doesn’t start until tomorrow. But Isaac Knight was already managing the family influx that the annual “buckstravaganza” brings at the start of last week.
“My uncle is arriving by plane… and I have to pick him up,” Knight said from his office at Cabela’s in the Highlands. The native of Wheeling is general sales manager there, specializing in boating and marine supplies. “He’s excited.”
Over the weekend, he expected a dozen parents to reunite at a Wetzel County hunting camp that the extended family bought around the time of his birth. It’s mostly guys, he laughs, noting that his Florida sister is a “beach girl” who intentionally skips the crowd.
Knight has said the camp – close enough to his current home that he can return for a decent Thanksgiving meal – is his happy place. It was there that he grew up with his cousins. This is where the youngest family members now have their own chance to interact with the great outdoors and more.
“The kids can come over there and learn how to make a fire, swear and carve with their knives,” Knight joked about the relaxed atmosphere at the camp. “It’s great … We laugh, we fight, we keep going.”
There is also commotion. Mornings are early – preferably crisp, windless mornings that allow hunters to listen to telltale rustles in the brush but don’t spread their scent, he said. Meals are prepared. And, before a shot is fired, the family has already prepared the ground.
“A lot of firewood is cut, we check the tree stands, put our floor shades – several generations in one place. “
Knight is a multi-faceted hunter who sits up excitedly as he discusses the topic. There are so many things he loves about it, he said. Being with family, being outdoors (he is also an avid hiker), the thrill and skill of the hunt. He said he wasn’t a trophy guy.
“I have hunted all over this great nation,” he said, checking off some of the western states he visited. “I hunted archery, rifle, and muzzle loader – every season.”
The fact that a crossbow is leaning against the wall behind his desk is a testament to the nature of his workplace and his preferred hunting method. But, it’s also pretty trendy – despite the importance and cultural romance of rifle hunting – he added.
When West Virginia joined neighboring states of Ohio and Pennsylvania a few years ago to legalize crossbows – which can shoot arrows considerably farther and don’t require as much force to pull the string as shooting traditional single bow – equipment sales have taken off like a rocket in Cabela, he says.
Newer models often include a spotting scope similar to that found on rifles, he noted another accessibility factor for hunters who may be younger, older or disabled in a way. or another.
SAVOR THE SEASON
There is also the food. Knight said dried venison rocks.
“I’m going to be doing five pounds of jerky and my wife and kids will be eating it in a few days,” he said. He has a smoker and a dehydrator but also enjoys using his conventional oven.
“It’s so cheap. You just hang the jerky on toothpicks. And when I have no more deer, I go to Mikla’s to buy a roast beef and I have them sliced. Knight, who admits to enjoying tofu soup on occasion, is also known to turn turkey breast into jerky.
He offered a tutorial on his oven technique. Start with thin slices of meat that are submerged in a simple marinade of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Sometimes he adds a single drop of liquid smoke or a little red pepper to warm it up.
Cover the oven floor with aluminum foil to protect it from dripping. Place a rack on top of the oven and hang the slices of meat on toothpicks. Set the oven to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for six to eight hours until the meat has the texture of a jerky.
“There,” Knight said with a smile that turned into a knowing nod. “That’s a tip for my fellow outdoorsmen in the Ohio Valley. Your home will smell great.