FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Hunting, fishing and outdoor enthusiasts filled Club Stewart for Pass and Permit's annual Wildlife Gala and Venison Cook-off, Jan. 9.

They came to swap hunting and fishing stories, learn about opportunities to throw out a line or hunt at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, and to check out vendors' exhibits and displays.

They also brought healthy appetites and a willingness to sample some of the wild game recipes cooked up by Scott Leysath, known as "The Sporting Chef" on HuntFishCook TV.

The buzz of the night apparently was Leysath's rattlesnake-rabbit sausage, although he also served up other tasty morsels, such as quail, wood duck and venison flank, balancing sweet and sour flavors in an effort to please the samplers.

There were awards given out as well, for the Big Buck and Big Gobbler contests, a Wildlife Photography Contest and the Venison Cook-off, in which contestants battled it out just a short distance from Leysath's cooking demonstration table.

Staff Sergeant Jesse Everson of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, his wife Angela, and their four children Makenzie, 15; Abigail, 11; Asa, 8; and Mathea, 3; were among those enjoying the evening.

Angela Everson said the rattlesnake-rabbit sausage had a "subtle flavor, very unique." Husband Jesse called it "tasty." Both said they liked to taste wild game.

"I'm pretty adventurous," said Angela, "I'll try pretty much anything."

"I liked the meatballs (on the buffet table)," Asa chimed in.

Angela said she particularly appreciated the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' reptile and amphibian display.

"My son is studying about reptiles in school right now, so his getting to hold a snake was the neatest thing," she said.

Harvey G. "Buck" Buchanan Jr., sampled friend Rodney West's venison steak and Leysath's rattlesnake-rabbit sausage and some quail.

"Everything was tasty," he said. "I look forward to going back for some seconds." West won first place in the venison steak cook-off for the second consecutive year.

"I was here last year and it has probably doubled in attendance," said Buchanan, whose wife of 18 years, Lt. Col. Shatrece Buchanan, is deployed. "They have more exhibits."

Leysath stayed busy cooking at his demonstration stand, attracting a steady stream of sample seekers. He knew the rattlesnake-rabbit sausage would create a buzz.

"It's a commercial product that I buy out of a place in Colorado," he said. "What's really cool about it is that out of all the things I cooked today, tomorrow when people go talk to their friends they are going to say, 'You know what' I ate rattlesnake yesterday.' It's got that mystique. That's the one I think people believe they will show the most bravery by eating."

Leysath, who has a degree in psychology, had his own restaurant and catering business for nine years.

"We would do 40 jobs a year with Ducks Unlimited, Safari Club, all those big game things," he said.

Development of the skills that have brought him renown as "The Sporting Chef" on the HuntFishCook TV show involved a lot of trial and error, he said.

"I'd like to have some of the wild game that I cooked 25 years ago back. Some of the stuff that I cooked tasted like liver and it was overcooked," he said. "We all make mistakes in the kitchen, and we just have to order a pizza that day."

He has two main points of advice to hunters and fishermen who want to have the best-tasting meals they can from their catch.

"Get the game or fish cleaned and cooled as fast as you can, as fast as humanly possible," he said. "And once you start putting it in a pan, do not overcook it. That is what I have been beating people over the head with for decades."

For more information about Scott Leysath, or to find his free recipes, go to

Supporting the Army
Scott Leysath, "The Sporting Chef," and Donny McElvoy, the co-host of the HuntFishCook TV show, are big supporters of the Army, Leysath said.

"Our eyes have been opened in the three or four years we have been working with the Army to try and show people about some of the career possibilities with the Army. We are frankly impressed by the career possibilities that are available to people within the Army," Leysath said.

"I have a 12-year-old son, and I have no problem saying, 'Son, you ought to consider the Army as a career choice. There are great opportunities there.'"

He added, "We strongly support what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They need our support. "

The Winners:

First Place: Greg Harvey (gobbler scored 79.5 double beard)
Second: Chris Gross (gobbler scored 74.9 double beard)
Third: Greg Harvey (gobbler scored 69.4)
Fourth: Leo Barret (gobbler scored 68.5)
Fifth: Greg Harvey (gobbler scored 64.8)

Grand prize winner: Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Christenbury - $400 and a deer mount. Deer scored - 44.180 and 8 points.
First Place prize winner: Robert Stout - $400. Deer scored - 44.675 and 9 points.
Second Place: Allan Murray - $200. Deer scored - 36.315 and 8 points.
Steak: First Place Rodney West; second place, William Ward
Sausage: First Place Ted Eby; second, Christina Schirman; third place Cornelia Gillis
Chili: First Place Nicole Bowen; second, Danny Dees and third James Vanderzyl

Actuve Duty Grand Prize ($100): - Staff Sgt. Joseph Hanline
First Place prize winner: Shaina McClure, $75.
Second Place: Edward Blackmon, $50.
Third Place: Sgt. Alan Kielor, $25.