John's Journal... Entry 181, Day 3
THE WAR AGAINST NUTRIA
Nutria Hunting for Money
EDITOR'S NOTE: Nutria, semi-aquatic rodents with the proper name of coypu, have eaten away at Louisiana's marshlands for some years. The federal government has sent Louisiana $2 million to fight the war on nutria. These l2- to 18-pound demons detrimentally impact about 100,000 acres of wildlife-rich marshlands each year. If someone doesn't stop them, other coastal states may face drastic land loss thanks to these furry Argentine invaders. So, now predator hunters have a new predator to hunt. And sportsmen who get permission to hunt nutria from Louisiana landowners can get paid for the nutria tails they harvest.
If you want to collect the $4-per-tail bounty on the nutria, and you live in another state, you must have the proper licenses for out-of-state hunting, including an out-of-state hunting license, which costs $150 for a season or $100 for a five-day hunt. Louisiana has some lands available where an out-of-state hunter can hunt and trap nutria, after buying a $200 trapping license. For a map of these lands and their locations, contact Louisiana's land office at (225) 342-4578, or go to the Website at www.doa.state.la.us/slo.
The coastal-wide nutria program for Louisiana has a boundary. If you plan to hunt nutria and sell their tails, you have to hunt south of I-10 on the I-12 corridor. Interstate 10 runs from the Texas border to Baton Rouge, and I-12 runs from Baton Rouge to Slidell, Louisiana. To stay up to date on nutria, nutria hunting and the do's and don'ts of this new nutria program, go to the Louisiana's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on the web at www.wlf.state.la.us.
REPORT FROM A VETERAN
Roland Perrin has hunted and trapped nutria for 39 years and earns his entire living from the marshes near Barataria, Louisiana. When not trapping and hunting nutria, he hunts alligators and guides duck hunters. "Back in the late 1960s, we got as much as $6.50 to $7 for each nutria we caught in our traps or shot," Perrin recalls. "In an average day, I could catch and/or shoot 35 to 50 nutria. So I made really good money." On his best day, Perrin took 70 nutria -- a huge day of nutria hunting and trapping.
But when the price fell to 75 cents per animal, Perrin had to get out of the nutria-hunting business. "I just couldn't make enough money trapping and shooting nutria," Perrin says. "Some of those nutria weighed 12- to 15- pounds each, and when you had to carry 70 of them out of the marsh, you'd toted a load for 75 cents a head." But with the new bounty on nutria, trappers and hunters now can make a living taking these critters.
Louisiana also has started a program to try and research the possibility of preparing nutria meat for human consumption. The program continues today. After trying Morgan Perrin's nutria sauce picante, I have learned to enjoy nutria. Some people say they taste like chicken. But with the amount of seasoning and spices that Perrin uses, nutria tastes pretty much like most other delicious Cajun dishes -- spicy and good.
RECIPE FOR NUTRIA SAUCE PICANTE (Courtesy of the Lodge of Louisiana)
Prepare the nutria meat. Thoroughly cover the meat with tenderizer and Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's is the best) overnight for best results. If pressed for time, cover meat with tenderizer and Cajun seasoning, and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces for best flavor. Use 3 to 4 pounds of meat for the following sauce recipe. If the hungry-man's portion is desired, use 5 pounds.
On low heat, in large pasta pot or good-sized heavy pan, slowly cook seasoned meat in 1 pound of real butter (with salt) until golden brown (about 20 minutes). Add 1 cup of chopped onions, 1 cup of chopped shallots, 1 cup of diced green bell peppers, 1 cup of diced celery, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of A-1 Sauce and 1 teaspoon of white pepper. Continue to heat on low, cooking for an additional 20 minutes.
Turn heat up to medium temperature, add 2 large cans of Ro-Tel diced green chilies and tomatoes - use medium or hot flavors to suit taste. Stir constantly for 10 more minutes to avoid burning the meat or the butter. Add 1 package of instant brown gravy. Only add the package contents. Do not add water as the package instructions indicate for making actual gravy. Tony's also sells a pre-made dark roux in a jar. If using this, add 1 Tablespoon of Tony's Dark Brown Roux. Turn heat to simmer. Add 2 large cans of your favorite tomato sauce (Prego, Ragu, Hunt's, etc.). My best results have been with Hunt's canned sauce -- use the garlic-and-herb-flavored sauce. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. If sauce becomes thick, thin with small amounts (1/2 cup or less) of water. Taste for salt & pepper seasoning, and adjust according to taste.
For a traditional Cajun dish, serve sauce in large bowl with an ice cream scoop of rice in the middle. For a traditional American dish, serve sauce in large bowl poured over pasta or egg noodles.
For information on the World Championship Nutria Hunt or to go nutria hunting, call the Lodge of Louisiana at (504) 689-0000, or visit the Web site at www.lodgeoflouisiana.com.