Sunday, January 5, 2014

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Arrow Making with Ted Fry

Keeping the tradition alive. His work tells you that he cares about what he does. Mastering arrow making...I am looking to learn!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Making Wood Arrow Shafts

Eric making it look easy. I am setting up a shop soon with the intention of making arrows.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

2012 Bow Hunting--What Happens After the Shot

Here are a few reflections on a doe I shot in October during the 2012 New Hampshire archery season. When I speak to people about bow hunting many are surprised to learn that my arrows almost always travel cleanly through the deer and exit unobstructed. This is known as a “pass-through” to hunters, and is a shot that one practices in the off-season. After a pass-through I inspect the arrow, looking for any cracks or stress marks, and will use the same arrow again if it is undamaged.

This pass-through led to an interesting conversation with Sheikh Abdul-Karim Yahya. Over dinner he mentioned the hadith where the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Some people will emerge from [the east] who will recite the Qur’an, but it will not go beyond their throats. They will pass through Islam as the arrow passes through game.” Sh. Abdul-Karim said he did not fully understand the meaning of the phrase “as the arrow passes through game” until he saw these photos.
The most ethical shot when hunting big game is placed directly behind the shoulder blade. The majority of the animal’s vital organs are clustered in this area. Thus, a well-placed shot causes hemorrhaging, and the animal dies due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

The deer in this photo presented a perfect broadside shot at 22 yards. My arrow found its mark, and after the shot, the deer ran about 40 yards and expired. I thank my Lord for the bounty of wholesome food that is pure, and nothing less than a gift from His benevolence.
After the shot, I gathered my equipment and descended from my tree perch. I followed the blood-trail to the deer and “tagged” it. Tagging requires that a hunter fill out all appropriate information on his or her state-issued hunting license. This process allows the state to track the number of deer killed during a season and provides other important statistical information, such as the size of the herd, which helps regulate the deer population.

The next step is to field dress the deer, that is, removing the animal’s entrails. Field dressing is always a sobering experience. The animal’s body is still warm—depending on how quickly you recover it—and the warmth inside the animal is a stark reminder of the proximity between life and death.
When field dressing a deer, I make sure the entrails are taken far away from any place where people or dogs may encounter this “gut pile.” By leaving the “gut pile” uncovered and not burying it, I am intentionally allowing it to return to the earth. The entrails will be eaten by carnivora, rondentia, corvidae, insects, and so on, and after a short period it will all return back to the soil in one form or another. This is what the author Tovar Cerulli describes in his book The Mindful Carnivore as a “cyclical system,” nothing is wasted!

I remove the skin of the deer before beginning the quartering process. Quartering refers to the removal of the deer’s limbs by cutting off the two hindquarters and the two front quarters. During this time I also remove the backstraps and tenderloins, arguably these are the best cuts from a deer. Speaking from experience, I fully agree with that claim!

This is my current set up for processing the deer. Not ideal! However, it gets the job done. I plan on investing in a larger cutting board and better knives for next season. On the right is the hind-quarter. A butcher once taught me how to make a “butterfly cut,” which starts at the top joint of the ball and socket. By keeping the knife pressed tight against the bone and working it down the full length of the bone, I am able to open up this large group of muscles. Once the hind-quarter is opened, I remove top and bottom round (cuts), a rump roast and other steaks that I use for kababs. The bones are used for stews, and then boiled down for stock.

The cuts normally look something like this.

In the photo on the right, the top left tray is meat from the hind-quarters—steaks, stews and kebabs. In the top right tray are bones that we use for stews and stocks, and we also use the entire neck for stew as well. The bottom tray (left corner) is meat that we grind into ground venison. We normally use this for burgers and spaghetti sauces. Two of my children have a wheat allergy, and we use spaghetti squash as a replacement for pastas. The piece of meat in the middle is a roast, and it’s pretty self-explanatory what we do with that. The meat on the right is backstrap and tenderloin. We normally broil these cuts in an oven or grill them after marinating them for a full day or longer. My wife found this venison tenderloin marinade that works great with either of these cuts. This recipe will blow you away!

I like the backstrap and tenderloin because they cook fast and travel well. I have even taken them cuts into the field with me and cooked them on my Pocket Rocket Backpack Stove.

Industrial meat production is a business shrouded in mystery. The consumer is locked out, and is rarely offered the opportunity to actually witness how animals live, how they are slaughtered, and how they are processed. I find solace in knowing exactly where my meat comes from, where it lived, what it ate, and how it died. Hunting is my objection to factory farming; it is my personal response to this oppressive practice. All of us have choices and we should try our best to exercise these choices in a way that creates a paradigm shift in thought and practice.

As Muslims, our nourishment is directly related to our spiritual states—we are concerned with what goes in our mouths and what comes out of them. I hope this helps readers understand what hunting can look like, and I hope this motivates us to search for what is Beyond Halal!

Monday, October 1, 2012

NY Times: A New Breed of Hunter Shoots, Eats and Tells

I wrote this in my blog post Sunday September 30th: 

"I hunt to feed my family and I want to be clear about that. However, this should never be confused with the idea that hunters are not intensely connected to the landscape and everything that lives there. The time I spend hunting is not about killing something, it is about connecting with all that is around me and feeling at peace with God's creation, and having God's creation feel at peace with me. This is what stewardship means to me! It is real, not some slogan or label that is donned when it is socially appropriate. It is how I live and what makes me who I am, and it is how I approach the natural world."

And Monday October 1st this article came out in the NY Times:

A New Breed of Hunter Shoots, Eats and Tells

Who is the most famous hunter in America? If you’re over 30, the first names that come to mind are probably Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent or Dick Cheney. If you’re under 30, the answer is easier. The most famous hunter in America is Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

For the Love of Hunting

Two weeks ago was opening day of archery season for Whitetail deer in New Hampshire. For a hunter the nine months between seasons seems like an eternity. In the off-season there are plenty of activities that occupy your time, however, nothing is like trying harvest a deer with your bow. Nothing!

I look at each season as an opportunity to correct mistakes and missed opportunities from the year before. Its a time when all the "what ifs" are put to rest and you are afforded another season of opportunities to better yourself. 

This is the fourth for me in New Hampshire and Vermont. Four long seasons without taking a deer. During these four years I have spent  many hours sitting in my stands or slinking through the woods looking for "the shot." And in four years I have only shot at two deer, and missed both! As one of my friends said, "this ain't Nantucket; there's not a deer behind every tree." The big woods of New Hampshire and Vermont have been a challenge for me.

My stand sits on the perimeter of an area that was recently clear-cut. Staying true to who I am, I ran out the night before the season opened and hung a stand in a huge oak tree situated next to an equally large eastern hemlock pine. The limbs on the pine provide me perfect cover for any approaching deer. I took the time to find an area with "a lot" of acorns. The lack of rain this summer has affected the amount of acorns, making this year's yield very low. So finding an area with acorns on the ground was a huge score. Look for the food and you'll find the deer. Sounds really easy, but nothing is that simple!

On Saturday the 15th, I got up at 3:40am, showered, got dressed, and headed out to my stand. I prayed fajr outside under the stars. Lately, the mornings have been crisp; I love the cold morning air. There is something majestic about seeing each breath. Perhaps its the closest we get to the “veil being lifted.”

As I approached my stand I tried to incorporate all of the skills that I learned at my time at the Maine Primitive Skills School—reading the landscape, using wide angle vision, looking for that which is hidden in plain sight and using the bird’s vocalizations and silences to understand activity in the woods. I read in a hunting journal that the hunt actually begins when you leave your home, not when you arrive at your stand. In other words, the mindset begins when you make your first step towards your desired goal. Kind of like making your intention in Medina and heading to Mekkah to perform the Hajj. It’s the intention that brings about the mental state of consciousness. 

I walked to my stand with relative quiet. The forest can be unforgiving at times, amplifying your every movement. About 20 or 30 yards away from my stand I thought I was home free, I had not “bumped” a deer walking in. Then, there was the sound that every hunter dreads, the blowing sound of an alerted "spooked" deer! The deer must have been bedded right behind my stand. After the sound all I heard was the deer running off alerting any deer in the area that a clumsy hunter was now in the arena! Immediately that deer becomes the one that got away, and the logical mind quickly begins to play the "what if” game, running a thousand scenarios through your head. All you can do is try better next time.

My time in my stand opening morning did not produce any deer as I had hoped. I spent most of my time engaged in salutations on the Prophet (peace be upon him), and listening to the alarms of the blue jays. The blue jay is probably the most reliable bird to alert you to movements in the forest. It will let you know when both predators and prey are moving about.

I feel that the energy, which is in us, is detectable by other living animals. I have learned directly from people who spend a large portion time in the woods and from direct observation that animals which are prey, have a keen sense of detecting predatory "energy" as it radiates out from other creatures. So I use the salawat to calm myself by bringing about a state of inner tranquility, which will in-turn be a means of comfort to the animals as well. 

I sat for about 3.5 hours and did not see a deer. I climbed out of the stand around 9am. As I got to the ground I saw two does feeding about 30 yards from my stand. The wind was in my face, so my scent was not an issue. I sat there for a few minutes observing them. They looked too young to take; I was looking for a mature doe without fawns. Suddenly, something scared them. Perhaps an acorn fell off a tree on to her back. Whatever it was, the deer ran away as if her life depended on it. The morning hunt was now over for me.

I came back to my stand for an evening hunt. I prayed Asr outside, and made my way through the woods back to my stand. Seeing the two deer in the morning gave me hope that other deer would present themselves for a shot at some point. Early in to my sitting a young doe made her way back to my stand. She remained about 50 yards from my stand and continued to look over her shoulder. This normally indicates the presence of another deer. Sure enough, a few minutes later a larger doe walked out. The size of this doe made her one that I would harvest. I have waited three years and nine months to take a deer in the northeast. And here was my chance.

I sat in my stand and my heart began to pound as it usual when the time comes to take the life of an animal. I concentrated on the thikr, and tried to bring the meaning from my tongue to my heart. The two deer approached each other with a semi-hesitation. Then they did something I have never seen before. They began to groom each other. Licking each other on the head, shoulders, back and rib area. It was beautiful!

Given the size and age of second doe I felt she was too young to be the mother of the littler doe, perhaps they were sisters? I watched the two deer groom each other for about 30 minutes. It was amazing to witness! 

Watching this expression of affection did something to me. I felt that I could not take this doe if she came within range and presented a shot. I felt a sense of closeness to these two deer.

I hunt to feed my family and I want to be clear about that. However, this should never be confused with the idea that hunters are not intensely connected to the landscape and everything that lives there. The time I spend hunting is not about killing something, it is about connecting with all that is around me and feeling at peace with God's creation, and having God's creation feel at peace with me. This is what stewardship means to me! It is real, not some slogan or label that is donned when it is socially appropriate. It is how I live and what makes me who I am, and it is how approach the natural world.

Perhaps God was testing me? Testing me so that I would know if I was being true to my thoughts and convictions about not shooting this deer. After 30 minutes the deer separated; one walking off away from me and the other walking towards me. I am watching this deer walk directly towards my stand and I begin mentioning the distance between us in my head. I say to myself, “when she passes that tree she is at 20 yards, and at the stump 10, and now she’s at 5 yards! 

This deer walked right below my stand. It walked and smelled the limbs I cut from the beech tree to open up a few shooting lanes from my stand the night before. She smelled the ground where I had just walked. And then she looked right in my face, right into my eyes, I tried to lower my gaze and squint my eyes while she stood 2 yards from my stand. Direct eye contact should be avoided, it will send the animal in to a "fight or flight" mode. She knew I was there, but, perhaps, she did not know what I was. Perhaps the salutations created a wall of tranquility that veiled me from her, who knows? What I do know is that if I wanted to shoot this deer, I could have done so at any time. But something got in to my heart, which was beyond compassion for that deer. After our encounter she carried-on down the trail and out of sight. 

My mind remained on our encounter. I still don't quite know what to make of it? What I do know is that it was a great way to begin my season, seeing deer in both the morning and the evening makes me feel good about my choice for stand placement. 

Hopefully this is only the beginning of many encounters with deer in this area. Hopefully it is not the last. And hopefully as I learn more about myself spiritually, the meanings and encounters will become more profound!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Celebrating Eid...American Muslim Culture

As the dust settled from Eid we moved immediately in to the school year at Dartmouth and the Waldorf school with my girls. The last thing I remember was making all the preparations for the eidul-fitr service and post-service celebration on campus. And now we have begun the same process for the second eid! The movement of time always amazes me.

Shortly after the eid I received a call from my good friend Adnan Durrani, CEO of Saffron Road. He called to wish our family a blessed eid, and hear how things are going in his favorite part of the country (Quechee, VT). I let him know that our eid was great, and we were able to spend time in Boston with friends.  My family and I spent time with Nuri and Kristina Friedlander and had an amazing meal at an Algerian restaurant--Baraka Cafe! The kids were happy, a ton of candy, a remote control helicopter buzzed around our living room, and new faux-jewlery embellished little wrists and necks. Kind of what you would expect on a "traditional day of Eid."

I asked Adnan how he spent his eid, thinking it would have sounded like something similar to mine. However, it was not similar at all!

Adnan and I have had many conversations regarding the American Muslim experience. The beauty about these conversations is that American Muslim culture is constantly developing and we are creating it as we live it.

During my years in Damacus there were many age old traditions around the eid that had formed distinct cultural norms. For example, it was understood that the Syrians always spent the first day of eid with famliy members and then would open their homes to guests on the following days. Or the tradition of placing a green palm frawn at the grave of a deceased family member, and other various customs that are distinct Syrian Muslim culture.

However, in the States we don't have distinct traditions. Perhaps you will find certain members of the immigrant Muslim community upholding traditions from back home. But as far as established traditions, its still being formed.

That's what was special about my conversation with Adnan. His answer to "how was your eid?" was nothing that one would expect about how Muslims would celebrate eid. Adnan had celebrated his eid on a fishing  boat off the coast of Block Island, NY with his son and his son's classmate from Columbia University. The catch was filled with Porgies, Sea Bass, Blues and mainly Striped Bass.


If you know me, then you know that I love the outdoors. And you also know that I am equally excited to get people connected with the outdoors. So when I heard about Adnan choosing to celebrate the eid by heading out to sea for some fishing, I was ecstatic.

Adnan had mentioned that his son's friend, Abdul, is the current president of the Columbia MSA. A bright young man from the Gulf, with an equal amount of passion for his intellectual and spiritual development. Growing up near the water he had never been on a boat and had never fished! You could not contain the excitement!

This is what I am getting at! As American Muslims we have every oportunnity to create meaningful, intelligent and beautiful expressions of Islamic tradition. Traditions that are one-hundred percent authentic, with regard to Islamic tradition and one-hundred percent American!

These are amazing times we are living in. At this moment in history the American Muslim community is blessed with the opportunity to create its own narrative. I am happy that people like Adnan--through Saffron Road--and many others are carving out spaces in all segments of society that people will be able to recognize as authentic American Muslim culture.