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Will Elliott’s Outdoors: Summer reading includes fishing fare and fowl

Published numbers of outdoors books have declined in today’s cyber and social-media means of story and information sharing, but here are two texts worthy of a perusal during idle hours this summer.

Jerry McKinnis is best known as featured host and producer of ESPN’s “The Fishin’ Hole,” an outdoors program which started on ESPN in 1980 and is second only to SportsCenter for duration on the network. Starting with a Bolex camera and ending with a lifetime of celebrity partners, including a brown dog named Archie, the McKinnis book, “Bass Fishing, Brown Dogs and Curveballs,” sums up a career that only made it to the minor leagues in baseball, but has been a major career in outdoors production that includes celebrity fishing partners in celebrated fishing holes around home and across the world.

The subtitle tells much about this text: “The Adventure of Jerry McKinnis.” Note that “Adventure” is singular, because all of his adventures were singular at the time they occurred and as they are recounted in this autobiographical adventure book.

From his remarkable mom to the loss of good friends such as Jose Wejebe near the end of this adventure, McKinnis writes a friendly letter to readers who enjoy fishing, ball sports and dogs as fishing partners. His last piece of advice when doing his last TV show was “Remember to always sing to your dog.”

That dog partner, Archie, suffering but surviving a severe setback, was still with McKinnis when the self-published JEM Publishing text went to print. Part of the proceeds from the book goes to Care for Animals, Inc. (

From first meeting Vernon “Gadabout” Gaddis in 1965 to an appearance on the David Letterman Show in 1989, McKinnis surrounded himself with stellar names such as baseball legend Ted Williams, B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott, TV fishing show hosts Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston, Forrest Wood of Ranger Boats and many other big names in fishing, ball-sports and television production.

He became fishing partners and best friends with top bass fishermen such as Dance, Kevin VanDam and Billy Murray but remembered the guides and local gurus back home in Arkansas, the Ozarks and fishing holes across North America.

From a Lowrance Fish L0-K-Tor, the “green box” sonar unit he used and promoted in the early 1970s to the latest in freshwater and saltwater tackle, his programming stressed holes where good friends went fishing rather than simply product sales.

From Darrell Porter, Ted Williams, Bobby Knight and Bill Dickey to Wejebe, of the “Spanish Fly” program lost in 2012, and Mark Zona, celebrities were and are friends and family. He writes of Zona, “He’s one of the family now. I love him, but he’s crazy.”

McKinnis’ adventure continues in Flippin, Arkansas, as part owner of B.A.S.S. and caregiver of Archie the fish-loving Dachshund.

For hunter-cooks one of the most challenging aspects of the pursuit is having others enjoy the bounty of the harvest. Wild and even domestically grown ducks and especially geese can be a delicacy or a disaster with the right or wrong choices of cuts, seasonings and cooking methods, according to veteran wild-game cooking author Hank Shaw in his 2013 publication “Duck, Duck Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese, Wild and Domesticated.”

Waterfowl cooking, at home or in camp, improves with the addition of wine, port or brandy for flavoring and for making sauces and stews. Dabs of jelly, honey, syrup or molasses adds sweetness. Any vinegar except distilled will cut the fattiness (gamy) flavor of wild waterfowl meat.

Overcooking kills more budding tastes than selections of seasonings. Shaw writes, “Duck breasts should be served rare or medium” despite the fears that prompt cooks to prepare wild game well done. He suggests removing meats from the heat and allowing them to finish cooking at rest. He notes, “the interior of a solid piece of meat, such as a duck breast, is sterile. No pathogens will be lurking at its center. Any bacteria will be on the surface, and a good sear will kill them.”

Hence, cooks should consider full heat presence before placing game meat on a grill or baking rack.

Stock, homemade or from the store, not water, should be used as an added liquid for flavoring or to make stews and sauces. For example, poaching duck breasts calls for four cups of stock for four small-breasted ducks. His tip: “Err on the side of more stock, not less.” Sliced or diced goose breasts go well with ham or a barley and celery root stew.

Shaw’s text provides dozens of tips and specific recipes, more duck than goose dishes, in his book available from Ten Speed Press at