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The Roving Sportsman… Five Tips for Tasty Venison

In a little over one week, one of the largest “civilian armies” in all of the United States will go forth with one mission in mind — to enter the woods and fields of Pennsylvania in search of a whitetail deer that will produce some very tasty meals for family and friends. This year for

In a little over one week, one of the largest “civilian armies” in all of the United States will go forth with one mission in mind — to enter the woods and fields of Pennsylvania in search of a whitetail deer that will produce some very tasty meals for family and friends. This year for the first time ever, the traditional opening day will not be on a Monday, but instead has been set for Saturday, November 30. With the beginning of the rifle season soon to occur, let’s give some thought as to how we can improve our chances of providing great tasting meals from the deer that we bring home.

It all starts with shot placement, and that begins with a trip to the range. Sighting in your rifle and verifying that it is still on from its use last season is a necessity to insure a clean and ethical shot on any animal. A 3-shot group at 50 yards for an open sighted rifle to be used in a brushy woods, or a 3-shot group at 100 yards for a scoped rifle that will be shot in a more open setting will go a long way to being confident in your equipment and making a perfect shot placement.

Once you have headed to the woods, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, to aid in making an accurate shot, a great tool that more and more hunters are using these days is a set of shooting sticks — usually either a single adjustable leg or a bipod that has extendable legs. Secondly, try to avoid a running shot where you have the risk of either a miss or, worse yet, making a shot that misses the vital areas of the deer that will provide a quick and clean kill. If a deer is not killed quickly, adrenalin begins to stream through its veins to aid the animal in its escape and too much adrenalin can actually impart an undesirable taste in the meat. Hold out for a shot when the deer is either walking very slowly, or even better — stopped and providing an open broadside shot.

The next critical step to ensure good quality meat is to field dress the animal as quickly as possible. Opening the body cavity and removing the entrails will allow the carcass to begin cooling as quickly as possible. However, if you now need to transport the deer to another location for butchering, you run the risk of getting dirt and debris on some of the meat. Thus, if you can, it might be best to move the entire animal to the butchering location and then remove the entrails to begin the butchering process.

Process the deer yourself or have a local butcher do the work in such a way as to maximize the quality of the meat that is yielded from the numerous cuts that can be made. As with most animals, the tenderest meat is that in the backstrap or the inner tenderloins. The tenderloins are small, but the backstraps are large enough to cut into two or three parts for slow cooking over a wood fire, or cut into 1 — 1 ¼ inch filets and pan fried in good quality butter. Hind quarters yield either steaks or roasts, and the neck can be slow cooked as a very tender roast. Shoulder meat is often best used as burger, along with any other trimmings that you have.

The final step in assuring tender and tasty table fare is the proper cooking of the meat. So often, people who are not used to consuming venison are turned off to it because it is overcooked. A good quality steak should be cooked to medium rare and allowed to “rest” after cooking before placed on the plate. Cooking a steak or a large piece of the backstrap over a wood fire will yield an excellent flavor and the meat will be very tender, needing only a bit of salt and pepper during the cooking for seasoning. Roasts turn out best when slow cooked in a crockpot with root vegetables, allowing the flavors to blend during the several hours of cooking. Venison burger can be used in many ways, not just the typical burger in a bun. Try adding venison burger in place of the usual hamburger and you will be pleasantly surprised. Finally, if you cube the venison into 1” pieces and can it through a water bath process or by using a pressure cooker, the meat is extremely tender and can be used in soups, stews or as venison stroganoff.

Each of these steps is critical, and if followed, will assure a delicious and healthy (free range, organic, non-GMO) meal for family and friends to enjoy!

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