The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters Honors Old Boots

The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters Honors Old Boots

    A recent piece of published prose recognizing a lifetime of journalistic achievement was a rare but well appreciated tribute to this author who has enjoyed a decades-long career as both a newspaper journalist and an outdoor writer.

    Being selected as one of only a handful of “Hunting Pioneers” by The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters is quite an honor for this Midwest country boy who came to Texas as just a lad and found a new home in the Lone Star State.

    The following is the tribute to Old Boots courtesy of The Journal Editor Horace Gore.

    Ralph Winingham came to Texas at the tender age of 17, joining the U.S. Air Force two weeks after graduating from Louisville High School in Nebraska and jumping at his first opportunity to escape the cold winters of the Midwest.

    “My first thoughts of getting to Texas as fast as I could popped into my young skull at the age of 14 when I was busting through snow drifts and battling 26-below-zero temperatures hunting pheasants.  I remember thinking ‘I’ve got to get to someplace that stays warm in the winter.”’

    That warm weather wish was granted as Ralph attended six weeks of basic training under the San Antonio summer sun before being assigned to Laredo AFB. He served at Laredo for two years and was one of the youngest military newspaper editors in the Air Force.

    He earned the Air Force Commendation Medal for his Laredo duty and the Air Force Commendation Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster, for his service as Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Air Training Command Public Information office at Randolph AFB in San Antonio.

    Ralph got his college degree at North Texas State University in Denton, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in December 1977.  He was editor of the North Texas Daily newspaper during his last semester.

    He became a newspaper writer and photographer at the San Antonio Express-News in January 1978.  During his 25-year career at the paper he worked with Outdoor Editor Dan Klepper to hone his outdoor writing skills.

    “I knew the moment I walked into the executive editor’s office looking for a job that my goal was to be an outdoor writer.  It took me 20 years to get there, but I did it,’’ he said.

    During his last five years at the Express-News, Ralph not only wrote a weekly column in addition to daily outdoor news coverage; he created the long-running “Campfire Chef” feature of easy fish and game recipes, which was a huge success.

    After retiring, Ralph spent the next 20 years as a freelance outdoor writer and photographer.  He earned numerous first place awards from the Texas Outdoor Writers Association for his work.

    He also served as president, board chairman and Newsletter editor of TOWA and was named as the 2018 recipient of the L.A. Wilke Award, which is the highest honor that the organization can award to a Texas outdoor writer.

    In the wing-shooting arena, Ralph was one of the first U.S. journalists to cover the fledgling competition called sporting clays when the event was first introduced here from its native England in the 1980s.

    Many of his award-winning articles and photos have been published in The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters, where he was the Shotgun and Wingshooting columnist and creator of the “Beyond the Hunt” column.

    Ralph began his competitive shooting career as a member of the Tiro Al Pichon Association in the late 1970s, winning the 1984 TAPA Live Flyer World Championship held in San Antonio by besting 168 of the finest live bird shooters in the world during the two-day competition. He is also certified as a National Sporting Clays Association Level II instructor, in addition to his current ranking as a Master Class shooter.

    Ralph’s latest work in publishing is “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game with Old Boots & Bacon Grease II” that masterfully melds together the worlds of wingshooting and outdoor cooking.  The unique offering also features masterful illustrations by Texas State Artist Sam Caldwell.

    Bustin’ Clays” is the third installment of Winingham’s scribes, preceded by “The Campfire Chef: Old Boots and Bacon Grease,” and “Revenge of Old Boots and Bacon Grease,” which was the 2006 Texas Outdoor Writers Association Book of the Year.

    What else can I say—Ralph Winingham is what a lot of other people would like to be.  I’ve known Ralph for many years; have spent a lot of shotgun shells trying to beat him; reading his “How to” and “I’ve been there,” as have a lot of hunters and shooters here in Texas.

    Ralph is a long- time friend of Texas Trophy Hunters, and we are all proud to recognize him as a Pioneer of our Hunting Heritage. – Horace Gore

Wingshooting & Outdoor Cooking Wisdom Now Available With Publication of “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game” by Old Boots

Wingshooting & Outdoor Cooking Wisdom Now Available With Publication of “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game” by Old Boots

    Compiled after more than four decades of observing and picking the brains of a plethora of top shots and creative camp chefs, the ultimate collection of wingshooting wisdom and tasty culinary delights is now available to the public. 

   Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game with Old Boots & Bacon Grease II” masterfully melds together the worlds of wingshooting and outdoor cooking.  The unique offering is a collaboration of Old Boots, an award-winning author and the 1984 Live Flyer World Champion, and features masterful illustrations by the 2004 Texas State Artist Sam Caldwell.

    “Bustin’ Clays” offers a collection of fun, easy and informative suggestions on how to handle a variety of clay targets and wild game – featuring outdoor recipes for all types of tasty dishes. 

    The fun tales, delightful dining delights and healthy dash of veteran wisdom are a must have for the gear bag of outdoor enthusiasts of any skill level. 

    “Bustin’ Clays” is the third in a series of Old Boots cookbooks and was preceded by the publication of "The Campfire Chef: Old Boots and Bacon Grease," in 2002; and "Revenge of Old Boots and Bacon Grease," that was the Texas Outdoor Writers Association book of the year in 2006. 

    In addition, Old Boots is the mastermind behind Chef Ralph’s Super Seasoning, the best universal seasoning since salt and pepper that brings out the good taste in a variety of game, meats, fish and vegetables. A dash on the rim of a margarita glass makes a “Ralph-A-Rita” a magical beverage.

    The wide variety of artistic creations and illustrations featured in “Bustin’ Clays” vividly display the talents of Caldwell, a veteran award-winning artist who is among the very select few to be honored with the title of Texas Artist of the Year.

    Caldwell’s creations are both entertaining and informative, providing an artistic perspective of the great outdoors through an accomplished illustrator’s eyes.

   If smacking targets with authority and enjoying the bounty of the great outdoors is a person’s goal, “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game with Old Boots & Bacon Grease II” can help get the job done.

    As an example of the offerings in the book, the following is just one informative and tasty tidbit provided for the entertainment and enlightenment of our fellow outdoor enthusiasts:


   All the practice time spent with an instructor and analyzing the numerous books and videos on the subject won’t help a shooter consistently break targets as much as faith.

   Every time that shotgun hits your shoulder and a target is in the air, you should be confident that you will make the right move at the right time to put that charge of shot where it will do the most good.

   This sage advice was driven home during a sporting clays session with my brothers at the Prairie Grove Shotgun Sports Club run by veteran shooter and instructor Ralph Gates. 

    The club near Columbia, Mo., offers a wonderful array of targets that can test the talents of both fledgling and experienced shooters. One of the more challenging stations is a “squirrel” target that is a clay running along the top of a tree trunk – tough and fun.

    Gates likes to accompany the Winingham boys during our friendly competition and is quick to offer suggestions and advice on how to handle the variety of testy targets.

    As he told us on one of our first adventures at Prairie Grove, knowing the fundamentals and using the proper form to break targets will be for naught unless the shooter has faith in his ability.

    “Faith is the key. You have to have faith that you will do what you have to do in order to hit the target,’’ he said.

    His demonstration of this philosophy was impressive.

    After sliding a four-inch square piece of cardboard with a hole in the middle just large enough to fit on the barrel of his trusty and well-worn Model 12 pump-action shotgun, Gates took us to one of the skeet fields at his range.

    “I don’t have to see the barrel to know where I will be shooting. With a properly fit shotgun, all I have to do is look at the target and rely on faith,’’ he said. 

    Busted clay after busted clay while shucking shells through the Model 12 clearly demonstrated his point.

    While it is not advisable to put cardboard on your shotgun barrel, if the scattergun is properly fit to you and you follow the fundamentals, faith in your ability to handle the target will produce good results.

    The following recipe also requires a little faith that the potato balls will cook to golden brown on the outside and remain soft and tasty in the middle. 

    I like to sprinkle the potato balls with a little Chef Ralph’s Super Season after they are cooked to add additional flavor.


Have a Little Faith Potato Balls

3 medium red potatoes 

2 cloves roasted garlic 

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheeses 

1 teaspoon Chef Ralph’s Super Seasoning 

olive oil or bacon grease

    Place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender.  Remove from water and refrigerate.  When potatoes are cold, peel off skins and shred with a grater into a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, except oil or grease, and mash everything together with your hands.  When well mixed, roll out about a tablespoon of the potato mixture to form a ball the size of an emu’s brain (an English walnut) and place on oiled or greased baking sheet.   Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, turning once about 20 minutes into the cooking time.  Serve hot as an appetizer with your favorite dip or as a side dish for a main course.

   Now, let’s get cooking! 


Winter Time is the Right Time for a Simple, Sweet, Hot Fry Bread

Winter Time is the Right Time for a Simple, Sweet, Hot Fry Bread

Whether an outdoor enthusiast is engaged in winter wingshooting (clays, doves and quail are the triple treat this time of year) or has a goal of enjoying a tasty hot dish to combat chilly temperatures; a good rule is to Keep it Simple.

Putting a shot pattern in the right place at the right time to knock down both clay and live targets is rarely a complicated maneuver. As one veteran shooting instructor was fond of saying: “Shotgun shooting is a simple game played by complicated people.”

Don’t over-think it, just make it happen and when the shot is done right a shooter’s subconscious will file that in the memory banks for use in the future.

The same Keep it Simple advice works for many recipes enjoyed by outdoor folk, especially in the winter time when good food helps keep a body in high gear for future wingshooting adventures.

Just like too many cooks make a mess of a meal, too many steps can ruin a tasty treat.

The following recipe is an adaptation of the camp staple popular in South Texas when cowboys working cattle did not have access to the neighborhood grocery store for a quick sweet treat.

Utilizing just a few ingredients and a couple simple steps, this treat is normally devoured with relish by any group of camp compadres.

This bread is best served warm right after it is fried and sugared.

Hunting Camp Sweet Treat Fry Bread
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
Crisco vegetable oil or lard, for frying
Sugar and cinnamon mixture

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add evaporated milk, a little at a time, until flour mixture holds together in a ball (it will be a little sticky). Roll out the flour mixture on a floured cutting board and divide bread into six small balls. Flatten each ball into the shape of a thick, small tortilla (about four inches across). Heat Crisco or lard in a deep skillet over medium heat. Hot oil should be about one-inch deep. Gently drop the flattened bread into the hot oil, turning several times until each side turns golden brown. The bread browns very quickly and the hot oil will pop, so closely and carefully monitor the frying process. Drain cooked bread on several layers of paper towels. While the bread is still warm, drop the pieces one at a time into a resealable plastic bag containing the sugar and cinnamon mixture (about three tablespoons of white sugar for each teaspoon of cinnamon is about right). Shake to coat and serve warm.

Now, let’s get cooking and be on the lookout in 2021 for Old Boot’s latest offering of sage wisdom assembled in “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game with Old Boots & Bacon Grease II.”

The collection of both shooting tips and cooking tips melds both outdoor activities together with fun tales; tasty recipes; and just a little veteran wisdom that will benefit outdoor enthusiasts of any skill level. If smacking targets with authority and enjoying the bounty of the great outdoors is your goal, “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game with Old Boots & Bacon Grease II” is a must have for your gear bag.

Watch for further details after the first of the year.

High Country Breakfast Trout Can Add Flavor to Any Hunting Trip

High Country Breakfast Trout Can Add Flavor to Any Hunting Trip

The select few hunters who snag the opportunity of enjoying the High Country on a trip after elk, mule deer or other big game can often double down on their adventure with a little trout fishing action.

Taking advantage of a little down time to check out a nearby trout stream is a great way to enhance an outdoor excursion and supplement the fine fare served up by a hunting camp crew.

The following recipe was published in The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters as one of the “Beyond the Hunt” columns I worked up at their request to give readers a little extra outdoor coverage:

A hunting camp breakfast can be become one of highlights of a high country excursion when fresh trout fried to golden perfection are including as part of the menu.

Allowing for the fact that all the ingredients and cooking gear has to be packed into the hunting camp, the following is a simple recipe for a tasty treat.

This dish calls for small trout about 10-12 inches long that have been de-headed and gutted, then rinsed in fresh water, before they are seasoned and fried.

The recommended Lamb’s Stone Ground Fish Fry is made in Inez, Texas, and works really well with all kinds of fresh fish, providing a wonderful flavor kick better than just flour and corn meal.

Two trout for each person savoring the fresh-caught breakfast is considered the normal serving, with fresh fried potatoes an excellent side dish.

Chef Ralph’s High Country Breakfast Trout


Season cleaned and rinsed trout with Chef Ralph’s Super Seasoning, both inside and out. Lightly dust seasoned fish with Lamb’s Fish Fry and set aside on a plate. Heat butter or oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add garlic and green onions to the hot butter or oil and sauté for about one minute. Place seasoned and floured trout in the skillet and sauté, turning once after about three to four minutes. Cook about three minutes more until trout is nicely browned on both sides and the flesh is moist and flaky. Squeeze a little lemon juice and sprinkle a little Chef Ralph’s on the trout right after they are removed from the skillet to be served to your dining companions.

Now, let's get cooking!


Cooking With Cast-iron at Any Speed Makes Delicious Dishes

A well-seasoned Dutch oven that has been properly maintained and put into regular use not only makes cooking stews and such a little easier, the taste factor is also kicked up a notch.

Some of the cast-iron cookware in the Chef Ralph's collection dates back more than 40 years and has been the utensil of choice for numerous memorable meals.

At one hunting camp where all the Winingham boys were spending a week at a back-to-basics ranch near Laredo, a veteran 16-inch Dutch oven spider (that is a large, deep covered skillet with a long handle in addition to the wire bail) was used to create a delightful dish.

Using about five pounds of fresh feral hog loin cut into small steaks, we seasoned the meat with Chef Ralph's Super Seasoning; dusted the steaks with a little flour and quickly browned them on both sides in the spider sitting over a pile of coals.

Two cans of condensed mushroom soup were spread over the browned meat and we turned to our family fire expert to create a proper oven that would finish off the dish.

Frank, the fourth of five brothers, worked his fire magic and was able to create an inferno that must have heated our homemade brick oven to more than 1,200 degrees.

Although we were barely able to withstand the heat long enough to slide the spider into the oven, we got it in and watched as the meat was cooked in less than one minute.

The soup and any liquid in the spider had evaporated and the feral hog meat was flash-cooked into tender, flavorful steaks. None of it went to waste.

The following is a recipe that also utilizes a Dutch oven to enhance the flavor of the dish - relying on more conventional temperatures to cook the stew to a tasty level.

Chef Ralph's Original Calabaza Tex-Mex Stew


Debone chicken, tearing meat into bite-sized pieces (removing skin is optional) and set aside on a plate. After boiling the chicken pieces, reserve 1 cup of the liquid to add with the canned broth. Rinse and cube squash. In large Dutch oven, heat grease/oil over medium heat and add squash, onion and garlic. Saute, stirring often, until vegetables are slightly tender. Add all dry seasonings (it helps to mix seasonings in a small bowl before adding them to the pot) and stir well. Add Rotel, drained corn and tomato sauce. Mix well. Add chicken meat and broth. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer about 20-30 minutes.

Now, let's get cooking!

Salsa To The Rescue During Hunting & Fishing Down Time

Feb 03 2019

This is a repeat of a 2016 articles as requested by a Campfire chef fan

Salsa To The Rescue During Hunting & Fishing Down Time

No matter when or where a group of outdoor enthusiasts are spending their time, there are some periods when the fishing is slow and the hunting is less than productive. Those are the times that should inspire a little culinary creativity.

Like a long-time hunting buddy would say about every meal time -- "You got to eat, it is like a rule."

Some of the Winingham family's favorite dishes have come about because we would spend our down time mixing and matching ingredients that happened to be found in the corners of a refrigerator or in the back of a pantry. The following recipe is one prime example of putting a few odds and ends together for a tasty treat.

Save The Trip Shrimp Salsa

Melt butter in large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, garlic, Chef Ralph's and tomato. Sauté until onion is transparent. Add can of tomatoes and chilies, stir well. Add ketchup, stir well. Reduce heat to low and bring mixture to a boil. Add cooked shrimp (I like to boil shrimp in a Cajun boil for three minutes to cook it) and stir well. Simmer for about 10 minutes, add cream cheese. Continue to simmer until cream cheese is thoroughly incorporated into mixture. Serve hot with chips as a dip or in warm tortillas.

Enjoy your outdoor time, even when the fish and game are not cooperating, and let's get cooking!