Nothing warms you up on a long, cold day afield like a hot meal and a cup of freshly brewed coffee, and it's easier than you might think
A duck hunt or a late-season deer hunt can leave you cold. Bone-chilling cold. But those same bitter temperatures can push ducks down from the north or make deer move during the daylight hours in search of something to eat.
Nothing breaks that chill like a good hot meal. You don’t have to hike back to camp or drive home to have one though. With a few tools, you can whip up lunch in no time. Some of what you need might even already be in the blind, but other gear can easily fit in a daypack.
Cooking a meal in a deer or duck blind is easier than you think.
You are going to need something for heat. If you have a propane heater already in the blind, it will work.
A propane heater doubles as a cooking surface.
If your heater doesn’t have a flat top that will hold a pan, you can rig up or buy any number of add-ons for most stoves that serve that purpose. Don’t have a propane heater in the blind with you? No worries—here are a few other options that work well.
There are multiple options for compact heat sources for cooking in the blind.
Solo Stove Lite
The Solo Stove Lite punches heavier than its size suggests. You can use sticks or pine cones you pick up around your blind, pack along some pre-split firewood sized for the stove, or even use smoker pellets with the pellet adapter.
The Solo Lite burns sticks or limbs from your surrounding area and doubles as an emergency heat source.
What about the smoke smell, some might ask. Wild animals have been accustomed to fire from the beginning. From Native Americans to many modern hunters, campfire smoke has been used as a cover scent forever. I’ve had deer in easy bow range while using the Solo Lite in the blind and they paid no attention at all. Not having to worry about fuel is a plus, but you might want to pack along some dry stuff to get your fire started if conditions are really damp.
The sturdy Lite will hold up to the weight of an iron skillet.
I keep one of these in my main pack. It folds up small, and I don’t have to worry about packing along or running out of fuel. With the Solo, I just grab some small limbs off a nearby tree and fire it up. This one works for both cooking and emergency heat, should the need arise. Solo also offers a folding wind screen for use in open areas.
Long a favorite of backpackers and hike-in campers, the Jetboil system uses a blend of propane and isobutane fuel in small canisters to feed the burner and heat food or liquid in the included cup. It’s perfect for heating soup or chili, or heating water for freeze-dried meals, coffee, or tea.
The compact size and light weight make the Jetboil perfect for those hunting spots that require a long walk where weight is an issue. With the insulated cup, transferring hot liquid is a breeze.
Mini Camp Stove
Mention camp stove to most folks, and the venerable green Coleman two-burner immediately comes to mind. Those have been around forever and for good reason. When weight and space aren’t an issue, they will cook even a large meal in a hurry. But they are also big and heavy, meaning they aren’t practical for walk-in hunts.
Enter the mini stove, which runs on canned butane or propane fuel canisters. Fold-out legs and a pan holder mean it weighs just ounces and packs away into a small space. We’ve cooked many a meal on backcountry camping and canoeing trips on these stoves; they work great on everything from boiling water to frying freshly caught fish. We subsisted off a pair of them on a multiday canoe trip during a fire ban and still ate well.
Most folding mini camp stoves fit into a baseball-sized case.
Now that you’ve got a heat source, you need a pan of some sort to cook in. If you are doing water for freeze-dried meals, soups, stews, and the like, a 1- or 2-quart aluminum pot will handle most tasks without taking up a lot of room or adding a ton of weight.
If you are frying up some ham, sausage, bacon, and a few eggs, or a steak, a small nonstick camping skillet in the 9-to-10-inch range is perfect. Getting one with a removable handle helps to keep things compact and tidy in your pack.
WHAT TO COOK
Just about anything. Bring along leftovers to heat up, make a pot of ramen with some added meat of choice, or cook a meal. One of my favorite easy-to-make lunches is a hot ham and cheese sandwich. If I get really carried away, I might even add a fried egg. If I have my propane heater fired up, I’ll toast the bread on it while I cook the ham.
A quick ham and cheese sandwich and a hot cup of coffee will refuel and warm you and get you ready for the evening hunt.
Freeze-dried meals designed for camping have come a long way. Brands like Mountain House and Peak offer a wide range of food styles and recipes to make it easy for everyone to find ones they enjoy.
Just add hot water: Freeze-dried meals make a quick and easy warm dinner.
While I sometimes pack along a thermos of hot coffee, it tends to disappear way before I’m ready for lunch. I use a simple pour-through system to make a fresh cup or two in the blind whenever I’m in the mood.
Fire in a blind isn’t fun and can be dangerous. If you are going to cook, do a little prep work before you start. Clear any dried leaves or combustible material from the area where you plan to place your stove. Make sure the ground is level so your stove doesn’t tip over with a skillet or pot on top of it. If you find a large flat rock nearby, that makes a perfect cooking surface.
A hot meal in a blind can be as simple as a warmed-up honeybun or as involved as you want to make it, but whatever you cook, having a hot meal after a cold morning sit will make you feel better and fuel you for the evening hunt to come. And you never know; you might even have to stop cooking to shoot a deer or a few ducks mid-meal.