In just a few days, Saturday, October 2 to be exact, The Archery Antlered and Antlerless Deer Season open statewide. Bowhunters across the state will enter the Pennsylvania woods in search of a whitetail deer that will produce some very tasty meals for family and friends. From the time we head out for a day of hunting until when we begin the preparation of a venison dinner, there are things we can do to 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 bow or crossbow to verify that it is still on from its use last season is necessary to ensure a clean and ethical shot on any animal. Certainly, by now, you have already been seriously practicing shots on paper targets and 3D silhouettes, but spend more time on the range to make sure you are completely comfortable with your equipment.
Once you are heading to the woods, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Make sure you know your effective range for shooting – that distance where you are entirely confident in your ability to make an accurate shot placement. Either use a rangefinder or mark off the distances ahead of time that keeps you within the bounds of that distance. Be patient. Wait for a standing broadside shot to ensure making a shot that hits 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. Too much adrenalin can actually impart an undesirable taste in the meat.
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.
Hindquarters 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 being 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!