In the grand scheme of things, says Wichita Eagle outdoor writer Michael Pearce, it’s not just about hunting.
“What happens after the kill means as much to me as what happens before. The entire thing is a process and the kill is the middle,” he said.
It’s about a bonding experience shared with loved ones, an affection for the outdoors and, in the end, a good menu of wild game and fish that Pearce and his wife, Kathy, have been fixing up for family and friends for decades.
“Kathy and I have lived largely on wild game all 34 years of marriage,” he said.
Now the veteran outdoor writer has turned his experiences into a detailed cookbook that features 53 recipes and 110 tips for fixing Kansas fish and game.
Moreover, it also showcases the beauty of the Kansas outdoors.
“Michael Pearce’s Taste of Kansas Outdoors Cookbook” is a comprehensive book by Pearce, along with co-workers at The Eagle. The book features stories regarding different species, as well as summaries before each recipe.
Recipes include a wide range of Kansas wild game and produce, such as venison, goose, crappie and even sand plums and mushrooms. Almost all the photos were taken by Pearce. Eagle photographer Bo Rader took the shots of the prepared food.
“The whole project was to try to portray a complete Kansas outdoor experience,” said Pearce.
He noted that while there are outdoor cookbooks, he doesn’t know of one that encompasses stories and colorful, graphical designs and photographs of Kansas wildlife and nature – along with the text recipes. “I’m proud to be a Kansan and an outdoorsman. This is a combination of several of my loves.”
After all, there may not be anyone more fitting to author a Kansas outdoor cookbook. Pearce is a guy who grew up fishing and exploring the outdoors by the time he could walk. He was the kid who would take a stick and turn it into a bow and arrow or a fishing pole. While kids headed home from school, he might spend time walking in the woods – even if the weather was frigid.
Moreover, Pearce was a kid who, by age 6, knew he wanted to be an outdoor writer when he grew up.
“When I was 6 years old, my grandmother bought me a subscription to Outdoor Life,” Pearce said. “I said I was going to write for them someday.”
By his senior year at the University of Kansas, he was freelancing for Outdoor Life. He wrote stories over the years for other publications, including for the Wall Street Journal. He also was the writer for The News’ outdoor page from the mid-1990s until 2000.
Since 2000, Pearce has been writing and taking photos for the Eagle’s outdoor section. In all, he has more than 30 years of outdoor writing experience.
The cookbook features his recipes, as well as a few recipes people have sent him over the years.
He also brings Kansas’ beauty into each recipe, which is designed around photos of a hunting experience or of the food itself.
Peace Creek Duck is named after a hunt in Reno County. Meanwhile, Pony Creek makes a path through southern Leavenworth County through his family farm where his son, Jerrod, has spent years bowhunting deer – hence the name for this recipe: Pony Creek Venison Meatloaf.
Nevertheless, it takes more than just good recipes to have the best culinary experience. Pearce provides tips to make the taste of the outdoors better.
“I figure 70 percent of our success goes back to how the meat is treated from the time it’s shot until it hits the heat of cooking,” writes Pearce in the book.
For instance, Pearce notes the flavor and tenderness improve with venison if the fat and membrane are removed. Also, don’t cut through any bone.
Meanwhile, Pearce says that while plucking waterfowl takes time, leaving the skin on birds does help keep birds moist when cooking.
On white bass, striped bass, wipers and large catfish, he recommends removing the dark line of flesh just below the skin, which removes most of the “fishy” taste.
With the Christmas season, book sales have gone well, he said.
“I’m very pleased with it,” Pearce said. “It does a good job of portraying the entire outdoor experience.”
“Michael Pearce’s Taste of Kansas Outdoors Cookbook” costs $19.95. It is available at The Eagle’s customer service counter, 825 E. Douglas, or customercare.kansas.com/books.