How to Prepare wild Game – Harvest to Table

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For folks who have eaten of venison the experience has Either been great, or not so much so, because the cook didn’t know how to prepare wild game from harvest to table! I am in the camp that loves venison! Growing up my mother could cook anything and make it awesome! She made some best squirrel dumplings ever! The idea that wild game has a “Gamey taste” or “it’s as tough as shoe leather” is the standard response from those who have had a bad experience. But wild game can be a delicious and healthy source of meat and protein.

We will look at the proper care and cooking of wild game from the moment it is harvested until it is placed on the table and enjoyed by your friends and family .

Properly caring for the meat at harvest

There is perhaps no greater or more important step to a delicious dinner with venison on the menu than the processing and care of the meat at harvest! If this step doesn’t have the attention it deserves the whole idea of having a healthy venison dinner is out the window.

And even more important! Venison that isn’t cared for properly will not only taste on a scale of a little funky to absolutely horrible, it can get you a trip to your local hospital. And no one wants that. In fact, you have to be pretty darn careless and incompetent for that to occur. But we must make sure that the animal we harvest is properly cared for. Not only for the health of our families, but the respect for natures natural resources and the animal we have harvested.

Native Americans had such a reverence for the taking of an animal that the village would come together and participate in all sorts of rituals in thanks for the life sustaining meat that they had been blessed with. It would do us well to have the same reverence for the blessings of feeding our friends and family from nature’s bounty. So extra steps and work are essential for doing it the right way.

  1. Good shot placement.
  2. Field dressing
  3. Skinning
  4. Cooling
  5. Butchering
  6. Packaging
  7. Cooking

In step one of the care for your harvest is the simplest. A well-placed shot whenever possible is the first and likely one of the most important steps in putting venison on the table! Not only is it the act of harvesting a deer, elk, bear or whatever animal you are hunting, but it directly affects the recovery of the animal and the amount of damaged meat tissue Needles to say here that a shot that results in not recovering the animal ends the discussion, but it happens! Even the most skilled hunter will have at least one point in his life where everything is done right and they just don’t recover the animal.

Field dressing your game
is as much an essential part of the process as anything mentioned here. After you harvest an animal the guts should be removed as soon as possible. Depending on the recovery time and temperature of the day that may vary. It is a good idea to make every attempt to have the animal Field dressed within 4-5 hours on a warm day
If it’s a hot 80-90 degree day like seen so often seen in southern deer hunts 4-5 hours should be the absolute max. If the day is cooler with temps in the 30s and 40s that time window might be a little longer. But in the case of a gut shot animal it should be done immediately upon recovery!

Skinning your game

is a widely argued and opinionated issue. Some hunters have the preference to leave the deer hanging with the hide intact for several days in a cooler in order to drain the blood. And many people do this. My favorite method is to skin the deer as soon as possible so that the meat can cool faster and lessen the possibility that bacteria can grow. When skinning your game take the extra time to look for and remove all hair possible.
Nothing is worse than the chewies in your food!

 

Cooling your game

Bacteria thrive between 70-100 degrees so getting the temperature down as fast as possible is an important step to having a good harvest and meat on the table. Many hunters carry a large cooler with them for the purpose of getting the meat cooled down as soon as possible. It is a good idea to have several frozen water bottles in the cooler instead of pouring ice over it. The ice begins to melt and a wet dark atmosphere is conducive to bacteria growth ! If you use ice, place the unopened bag in the cooler with the meat to stop as much water contact as possible .

 

Butchering your game
Cutting up your meat has no right or wrong way. I would suggest that you use an online source for determining the different parts and cuts of an animal as opposed to just going in and making a mess. I like to cut diagonally across the tenderloin or back straps to cut steaks. It cuts the fibers in a way so that the meat rests better and is more tender, The only absolute is to use a sharp knife and have a good quality sharpener close by. Cutting through tissue fibers helps with tenderness and makes a much more pleasant eating experience over meat cut on a straight line with a dull knife.

Packaging your Game
is one of those steps that cost people their valuable resources every year. Improper packaging leads to meat having to be discarded due to freezer burn, and it’s easily avoided by using a method and taking the care to make sure air is kept away from your venison while freezing.

Some of the most popular methods are packaging in good old-fashioned freezer paper,,zip lock freezer bags, or (my favorite) vacuum sealing. As long as you put a couple of wraps and in different directions, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using paper. I prefer vacuum sealing because I know that there is no air getting to my valuable meat, and I can see what is going on inside the package.

Properly storing the meat until use

Pressure cooking deer stew

If a survey was taken of all deer hunters across North America I bet there would be multiple stories of freezers that went out and meat was lost among other things. There are also stories (Including mine) of huge cookouts and meat given away when meat starts to thaw after a power outage or freezer failure. But there is another way.

Pressure cooking Venison was once a widely used method of storing deer meat. But in the past 30-40 years freezing has all but done away with the pressure cooker method! But I still love to put a deer in jars every year ! Some folks don’t like the hassle, but I enjoy it greatly! And if my freezer fails on me or some other calamity occurs I won’t lose everything, because the quart jars of deer stew are sitting on a shelf in the pantry. The jars can be re used year after year and after the first year there is no expense except having to replace a few jars.

Once you have a pressure cooker and a few dozen jars you can make deer stew very easily !

The recipe I like is easy and tastes awesome !

  • .Place venison into canning jars along with onion carrots and bell pepper. (I use a tiny food processor to mix onions bell peppers and carrots into a sauce consistancy, and use about 4 tablespoons in each jar)
  • Jars should be filled to within 1/2 inch of the top with the venison veggie mix.. Wipe rim clean with a clean, damp cloth, and seal with lid and ring.
  • Place jar into a pressure cooker filled with water according to manufacturer’s directions.(My method is to bring water to a boil and put lid on and clamp. Then cook for a while until pressure popper pops up. Then turn off heat.
  • Let the pressure cooker stand until steam stops pouring out the top and the popper goes back down .
  • Carefully remove jars and sit on a towel on the counter top.
  • When the tops of the jars pop in they are ready to store
  • When ready to use, 1 jar can feed 4 people. (Simply cut up potatoes and other desired veggies and cook in a pot. When potatoes get soft add a jar of deer stew and simmer for about 5 minutes. )

Preparing deer meat for people who won’t eat deer meat

My kids hate the idea of eating deer meat. My daughter loves the stew but that’s about it. And my son will not touch dinner if he has any idea there is deer meat in it.

So the bulk of our deer meat is processed into burger and sausage, And that works out great! We use the burger in multiple recipes including spaghetti sauce. And biscuits and gravy breakfast is an excellent way to get them to eat wild venison.

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A few proven and delicious recipes

I’ll share a few proven recipes to please even the pickiest eaters !

Deer Vevison Tenderloin

Time to prepare”

  • 20 minutes prep time
  • 20 minutes to cook
  • Serves 4-6- people
  • Hardwood apple chips

What you will need:

  • I use a standard grill, which is simply one of the round(barrel type) grills that can be purchased at Wal-Mart or Home Depot. The grill needs the little smoking pod on the side. You can use the Wood, charcoal or pellet type.
  • Qty2 11/2 pound deer tender loins
  • 1/4 cup of dry red wine
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary * keep a few of the xtra sprigs for garnish

Directions:

*Trim any silverskin that was missed during the cleaning process off the tenderloins’ and transfer to a sturdy resealable plastic bag.

1- Make the marinade: Combine the red wine, garlic, and soy sauce in a small mixing bowl and mix to combine. Stir in the chopped rosemary and the pepper. Slowly mix in the olive oil; mix until the mixture is emulsified.

2- Pour the marinade over the meat inside the resealable bag and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight.

3- When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 450F (or High) and preheat, lid closed, for 15 minutes.

4- Remove the tenderloins’ from the marinade (discard the marinade) and pat dry. Knock off any pieces of garlic or rosemary. Season generously with Black Pepper, freshly ground and less generously with coarse salt.

5- Arrange the tenderloins’ at a diagonal to the grill grate and sear, turning with tongs as needed, until well-browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

6- Continue to cook until the tenderloins’ reach your desired degree of doneness, 15 to 20 minutes total for medium-rare (135F on a meat thermometer).

7- Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing on a diagonal. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired. Enjoy!

Fried Tenderloin, backstrap and steak

This is a favorite !

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Deer meat tenderloin and/or backstrap, sliced in to 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt for soaking
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt for flour breading + additional to taste after fried
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 3 Cups Vegetable Oil
  • Your favorite seasoning mix. I like to use the hidden valley ranch  dip mix.

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix together water and 2 Tbsp salt. Soak sliced deer meat in salt water overnight if you’re able, or at least an hour.
  2. Bring vegetable oil to 325 degrees In a large skillet
  3. Remove deer meat from refrigerator, and discard the salt water
  4. You can either pat the meat dry with a paper towel or leave the deer meat wet and dip it in flour, the choice is yours
  5. Mix flour and 2 Tbsp salt, in a ziptop bag or a separate bowl/plate for coating
  6. Coat the deer meat in flour/salt mixture
  7. Carefully put the coated deer meat pieces in to the heated vegetable oil. (Sprinkle a bit of flour in vegetable oil. If it bubbles, you’re ready to cook. But don’t get oil too hot.
  8. After about 3 minutes(or when golden brown) flip the pieces
  9. Cook on alternate side until cooked through and there is no sign of undercooked meat. For more crispy meat cook a minute or two longer.
  10. Inside of fully cooked meat will be gray/brown, with no sign of red.
  11. Remove meat from pan and place on paper towels to drain excess oil..
  12. Sprinkling Greek Seasoning on the fried deer meat, after it is fried for optimal flavor! Or you can use your favorite seasoning. You can’t go wrong.

Delicious Venison roast

  • 2 (10 ¾-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 5 tablespoonsdry onion soup mix
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3- to 4-pound venison roast

Directions:

1. Spray a large slow cooker with vegetable oil. Add the cream soup, onion soup mix, beef broth, garlic powder, onion powder and parsley together; whisking until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms.

2. Place the venison roast into the slow cooker and spoon some mixture over the roast. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours (8 hours on low). If the roast is frozen, cook on high for 8 to 10 hours; or until meat falls apart. If you don’t have a slow cooker, just bake the roast at 275 degrees for 4 to 5 hours or until tender.

3. Serve over buttered noodles, cooked rice, mashed potatoes or bread slices.

Last but definitely not least I will share with you my favorite recipe that even my son loves ! I usually make this with the quantities listed when we have company and need to feed 6-10 people.

My number 1 venison Recipe

2 full size deer tenderloins’ (I also use the same recipe for wild hog tenderloin and it’s great ! )

  1. Butterfly cut the tenderloins’ length way .
  2. Spread 2 Tblsp garlic butter inside the butterfly split on each tenderloin
  3. Tie tenderloins back together with cooking twine.
  4. Sprinkle crushed rosemary, onion powder and McCormick cowboy run on the outside

Place in smoker at 225 degrees for approximately 5 hours depending on the size.

 

There are many other great recipes and ideas online that you can try. And don’t be afraid to come up with one yourself. Sometimes experimentation is the answer. Just make sure you write down the ingredients. I can’t tell you how many times I came up with an awesome recipe for something but couldn’t remember what was in it the next time I tried to cook it.

Last word

The care and attention given to our game is the payoff for our hunting efforts. And I believe that being thankful and going the extra mile to prepare, store, and cook the wild game we harvest is something that every hunter should do to make the most of nature’s bounty.

If you have any tips or recipes please share them in the comments! I would also appreciate any comments or questions left in the comments. I’ll reply to them A.S.A.P.

Have a great day and ……See ya in the great outdoors !

Mike

 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Really like the detail you go into throughout the article. I think it is good you go through it step by step and provide a number of recipes to use. Helpful information on storing the meat properly which can be a problem.

  2. Not a game person myself but can see a lot of research and passion here. I have seen programmes on TV of hunters how they are particular once they have their game. Your post portrays that you are very particular. Keep the good work up

    1. Thanks for your comment Kendra,
      If you have more questions or anything I can help with just let me know in the comments below and I’ll get back ASAP
      Mike

  3. Hi Mike!

    Thanks for the review! I really appreciate you taking the time to lay this all out!

    I was recently researching compound bows but hadn’t considered a lot of the “back-end” legwork it takes once you’ve actually made a kill.

    You’ve broken things down in a very clear and easy to digest manner. I especially appreciate the point you make about the reverence Native Americans showed in taking the life of an animal and that we would do well to emulate that respect.

    Again, thanks a ton for the useful information!

  4. Hey, interesting post! The food looks great as well. As someone who gets their food exclusively from the supermarket i’ve always wanted to try catching and cooking my own food. As somebody, doing this for the first time, do you have any top tips to avoid you see ever beginner doing? Thanks

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