Game Care from Field to Fork

Doug Leier

By Doug Leier

My neighbor taught me another new word. Locavore. I wasn’t sure if it was in Websters or if it was slang. But the meaning hit home.

There’s a growing interest in fishing, hunting or even planting food on your own. Securing it “locally.” Maybe it was grown in your own garden or you shot the duck or grouse just down the road. The unique aspect of the English language is at times you make the word fit.

I’ve dined on an array of wild game, from delicacies like lemon-pepper broiled walleye, to more obscure offerings such as deep-fried sandhill crane strips, and the tradition of fried deer heart, liver and onions. There’s something to be said for the personal satisfaction of hunting for birds or big game and preparing your own meal.

Most would agree this interest is likely to continue to grow, with a learning curve of sorts.

Similar to dining out, we each have our own preferences when it comes to wild game cuisine. A few pointers to help:

First off, you can’t make a fillet mignon out of ground chuck. If you don’t take care of the meat in the field, no amount of seasoning or any style of preparation will overcome the damage done. Take care of your game from the field to the fork.

Properly cleaning the meat, cooling it down quickly, keeping it cool and processing it efficiently are important. Along with that, proper packaging and storage will ensure the meat stays fresh longer.

Arm-chair deer processors will fry pounds of back straps as they work their way through carcasses. When the work is done, the end result is an array of products, from breakfast sausage, deer roasts and burger, to venison brats, summer sausage and stew meat.

Odds are, if you enjoy traditional food such as stir-fry, you’ll be able to modify the recipe to include the bounties of nature. Some will work with the flavor and the texture of the meat to enhance it. Others may prefer to mix in different rubs, spices or sauces. It’s up to the individual.

One final note years ago we also didn’t have access to information that today’s modern technology provides. I’d venture to guess that for every cut of meat or species of fish or game, somebody has tried a unique way to prepare or cook it, and they probably have a recipe or even an instruction video online somewhere if you want to look for new ideas.

However, similar to other internet cautions, you may want to stop and think before you decide to give pickled partridge a try. Yes, it exists, and no I haven’t tried it … yet.

The bottom line is that all of us who hunt and fish can look back on days afield or on the water when we had memorable times with no game or fish in the bag. It’s those types of days that help us appreciate the successes that lead to fine dining courtesy of our great outdoors.

Leier is an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.

Featured Photo: All sorts of products sourced from a harvested animal are made better by quick, clean processing. NDG&F Photo.

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