Wild Game Hunting

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The Camaraderie, The Hunt, The Taste

Venison, deer, is one of the most traditional, widely-eaten and vastly hunted varieties of wild game. They are a nuisance to corn fields, they damage our vehicles, they eat our vegetation, yet, passersby are stunned by their grace in clearing highway and barbed wire fences. We marvel at their beauty and the tenderness of a mother deer with her twins frolicking behind her.

Turn 180 degrees and…IT IS DEER SEASON! Early American colonists relied on deer to provide them with a source of protein, getting them through long and difficult winters. The more modern hunter continues to pursue deer for food, and, beyond that, the thrill of the hunt prevails. As farming replaced hunting, domesticated meat such as beef, pork, and poultry replaced venison as a primary meat source, making venison an exotic alternative.

Deer season is an event that a community either loves, despises or feels indifferent about. For me, when I see a truck loaded with hunters in camoflauge and orange hats I get an adrenaline rush. A rush that stems from a childhood in which deer hunting was a grand event. Friends from Massillon, Ohio came to stay with us and laughter roared through our home. Huge bear hugs, handshakes, and, hand slaps on legs from stories being told. They brought succulent cheeses and meats from Amish Country to share with us. I thought life couldn’t be any nicer! These long-time friends met while in the service and their connection expanded beyond military time. Deer hunting flowed in their blood as individuals and bonded these men as a group. I used to sit close by, or on someone’s lap, with a smile listening to all of them talk about hunts of the past and what was awaiting them in the woods this season. Even after being put to bed I could hear all of them getting their gear organized for the next morning…what a wonderful way for a child to drift off to dreamland.

When I awakened on a new day the house was silent except for my mother being busy somewhere. The hunters had long been gone. I was excited for their return because it was lonely without their enthusiasm. My mother never let me go hunting with them because of her own fears, but, I always felt I was with those fellas in spirit. I lived through them! As the evening was drawing near, headlights from all the pickup trucks pulled in the driveway and I could see antlers sticking up from the hunt. It was a good day for most of them! For those that didn’t find their target, the next day would bring better fortune. The hunters were tired, but, it was a good tired as they reflected on the day’s hunt.

The day came when our friends had to return home. There were tears, jokes, pats on the back, promises to see each other soon and definitely for the next deer season. Over the years our basement held deer hides, antlers, a front pair of deer legs with hooves like black glass, and, always a freezer filled with meat.

I am accustomed to eating deer, squirrel and rabbit, but, obviously not everyone feels so fondly about a wild game taste. Properly prepared, however, lean venison can be even more delicious than beef or other meats. There is, however, that mental block that prevents some from even sampling wild game. A perfect example of this is when my best friend was visiting for a weekend from the city. I decided to fix tacos for the Saturday night meal and instead of ground beef I fried deer meat and seasoned exactly as I would the beef. I invited my parents to join us for a full spread of taco fixings. Everyone was happy, content, bellies getting full, and praises to the chef for a delicious meal. After my friend sang my praises I thanked her and replied “the deer meat turned out really well, didn’t it!!” She dropped her fork, looked down at her plate and sickishly said “what?” Slightly cocking my head I said “the deer meat, it turned out well.” She was instantly nauseated and could not eat any more. She apologized and knew it was all in her head. I certainly wasn’t trying to fool her I simply loved the flavor of deer and didn’t realize that someone else might have a problem with it; after all, I am a country girl. It was an appropriate time to redirect, bring on dessert, rabbit pudding…JUST KIDDING!

In spite of the flavor I guess the obvious health benefits of deer are still not enough to impress some. For those curious to try or those of us looking for another method of preparing, here are some marinade ideas:

  • For a simple marinade, use Italian salad dressing, or make your own with a half-cup each of vinegar and olive oil, a clove of minced garlic, and a teaspoon each of brown mustard and Italian seasoning (or oregano and basil).
  • For a BBQ marinade, sautee half a finely-chopped yellow onion and 3-4 cloves of minced garlic in about 5 tablespoons of butter until translucent. To this, add two cups of tomato sauce (or a cup of ketchup), a half cup each of apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar, and two tablespoons of chili powder.
  • If you’re not a fan of the “gaminess” of venison, use a citrus-based marinade. Citrus tends to mask the strong flavor of venison, and can make it more palatable to children and less adventurous eaters. Try a marinade with a half-cup of lime juice mixed with a half-cup of olive oil, half a cup of chopped cilantro, a minced green chile, and teaspoon of ground cumin, and a shot of tequila.
  • For a succulent deer rub prepare your deer by piercing the meat and inserting whole garlic cloves. Cover with olive oil, garlic powder, Grill Mate Pork Rub and red pepper. On a grill, char both sides of the meat, wrap in foil and return to the grill for 3 ½ hours. *Bonus – once ready to serve drizzle with Kiser’s BBQ Shack’s Carolina Vinegar.

Thank you to all deer hunters who put food on the table, bring money in to local economies, and, for the love of the sport!


Credit to: Dave Stanley, Jacksonville, Ohio; John Green, Millfield, Ohio; and Steve Skidmore, Albany, Ohio. Kiser’s BBQ Shack, Athens, Ohio.

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