First an important fact about wildlife recipes, but not so widely known is:
The way your wild game tastes after it is cooked is less dependent on the recipe used and more on several other factors most of which are controllable by the hunter. Culinary quality starts in the planning stages of the hunt. Quick death and field dressing is imperative. Most gamey taste is a byproduct of poor hunting, dressing and processing procedures followed, it is not necessarily inherently in the meat.
For purposes of this article the discussion is about prepping for big wild game (such as whitetail deer, mule deer, elk and moose)recipes but following the same procedures go for small game taste quality also.
The deer’s diet can make a difference, of course an Indiana or Iowa corn fed deer is going to taste a little different from a grass or acorn fed one just as with beef. This is a good reason to feed your deer heard as pointed out in the
deer feeder articles. However even these differences can be mostly mitigated by proper preparation.
To prepare for the best meat possible start by printing out this check list and referring to it a couple of weeks before opening day and throughout the season. I like a heavy caliber rife .308, 30-06 or equal with recently calibrated scope, I do not like my harvest to run off. The longer you have to wait prior to field dressing is one factor in degradation of good tasting meat for your favorite wild game recipes.
- 30 ft. of parachute line
- small block and tackle with 20 ft min rope
- 3 ft stick cut from a 1″ diameter hardwood dowel, drill a 3/8 in hole about 1 in. from each end (use this as handle for pulley rope).
- sharp 5″ to 6″ skinning knife and if you can find one with a hook shaped like a hooked safety letter opening razor knife get it get one of these also. If not get a separate “belly opener” knife.
- sharpening steel, the best ones will have diamond powder embedded in the surface.
- 6-8 clean water or very clean milk jugs,
- 3 ft feet of heavy cotton string
- small roll of poly sheeting, at least 10ft wide (it will need to be wide enough to roll the animal from one side to the other and 10ft long
- cheese cloth or old sheets; enough to completely cover the deer
- small hatchet or small bone saw
- several clean rags
- small bottle of chlorine bleach
- package of large freezer bags
- One or more ice chests depending on latter discussion chosen to follow.
A few days before season starts put three jugs minimum of water in the freezer or optionally get three or four blocks of packaged ice. Fill the rest of the jugs with water and put in the refrigerator. Day of the Hunt Put the frozen and cold water jugs in an ice chest or a couple of them.Make sure the rest of the equipment and supplies listed are loaded.
Before taking an animal you must set the conditions.
Taking the Animal
When one decides on an animal he wants, make the cleanest kill possible. If not trophy quality a head or neck shot near the head is best. If the animal is to be mounted try take the shot at the spot just behind the shoulder. This will save the shoulder meat from damage (more meat for future recipes). If necessary due to obstructions shoot through the shoulder. In any case the faster the deer drops the better.
Do not shoot the deer in any other locations as they will most likely run off and increase the time to field dressing, this time is critical to proper processing. Never gut shoot an animal, the leaking of stomach, bladder and/or intestinal contents into the body cavity can affect the taste later.
The sooner the animal is bled out, internal contents removed and the carcass cooled to about 40 deg F. the better results you will get from the recipes chosen and the better the meat taste. If there is a tree close to the kill site drag the carcass to it. Attach the block and tackle to a limb and if the animal was shot through or near the shoulder it will bleed into the body cavity and there is no reason to cut its throat.
To hang the animal and make it easier to work on cut a slit between the tendon and thigh bone just up from the back of the back leg knees. Push the hardwood dowel through both slits and insert 3 ft length of rope through each end tie it off at each end to form a loop bridle to lift the deer with. Hook or tie the block and tackle rope to the center of the loop. Lift the deer off the ground and tie off the rope.
If no tree is available you can complete the field dressing while laying on its side, if you have to do this it will be less messy if you have a piece of plastic to pull it up on. This will keep dirt and grass out of the way.
Slit the belly open from the sternum to the anus (here is where the hook skinning knife will shine). Take care not to cut the intestines kidneys or bladder. One the belly is open take a piece of the string and tie the tubes leading to and from the bladder then cut them while holding the bladder. This urine can be used to make your own deer lures and artificial scrapes if saved.
Next cut around the anus and let everything spill out, then reach in to the throat and cut the esophagus as close to the throat as possible. Then remove the other organs saving the liver and heart if you like. Put them in the freezer bags and put on ice ASAP so your liver and onion recipes will be more successful.
Add a table spoon of chlorine bleach to one of the cold bottles of water, shake well and then wash the empty cavity with it. This does two things one of course kills bacteria that has been introduced in the previous process, the other it starts cooling the meat quickly. After rinsing w/ chlorinated water rinse the cavity off again with another gallon of non-chlorinated chilled water.
At this point most people stop the butchering process in the field and if this is the case, lower the carcass down on a piece of plastic. Place as many of the bottles or packages of ice in the cavity that it will hold (the more the better) and secure them in by wrapping it with the cloth and winding the closed carcass with parachute cord or rope. Place it in your vehicle not on the hood. Heat it on the hood while driving around showing it off and you will surely ruin the taste of your next steak recipes.
With this done I would take it immediately to the check station then to a meat processing service and let them skin and hang the meat. This curing process is important to relax the rigor mortise quickly and allow the natural enzymes to tenderize the meat. If planning to butcher the meat yourself and a protected place to hang the meat for 5 -7 days between 32 – 40 deg. F. is available hang it with the hide intact and age it. If skinned before hanging cover in the sheet or cheese cloth as completely as possible.
If not able to hang it at the right temp or if it is a big animal like bear, elk or moose go ahead and butcher it immediately into major cuts for later processing. Place these in a cooler and cover with ice and water. The experts suggest changing the ice and water daily for 5 – 7 days, this will help remove residual blood also. After aging you can reduce the parts to recipes cooking portions before wrapping and freezing.
Preparation of Meat Cuts For Cooking Recipes
Preparation for cooking is simple; trim off as much fat and muscle sheath (this is the silver muscle covering) as possible. These contain the unpleasant flavors of the food the animal has eaten. These flavors concentrate in the stored fat and sheath as poisons and heavy metals do in human fat cells. Simple right? If making sausage be sure to trim the fat and sheath parts from these cuts also and replace with beef and or pork fat in the recipes for the sausage processing.
To assure more elimination of any residual wild taste soak the meat in whole sweet or buttermilk in the refrigerator overnight. The fat in the milk will leach residual unwanted flavors. Do the same for the cuts to be ground into hamburger or sausage also you will like the difference.
After this is done prepare like beef using marinade mixes and recipes designed for that cut and cooking process. My favorite place to get my wild game recipes for marinades, spices, side dishes and etc. will become yours once you try it.
There are endless recipe ideas for your meat preparation. For instance, you like the way that your favorite Outback Steakhouse steak, TGI Fridays Jack Daniels dipping sauce or Hooters hot wings tastes the copycat recipes tell you how to duplicate these and hundreds more for your next party or back yard bar-b-que.
A word of caution: When skinning take the future use of the head and hide into consideration. If the trophy is to be mounted do not slit the skin of the neck. Stop the cut between the front legs. If a shoulder mount do not cut the cape.
A very good way to assure any wild game has great flavor and tenderness is to use slow cooker recipes. Not only does everything come out tender and saturated with flavor time is saved in the process.