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The Roving Sportsman… Do All the Right Things

We are rapidly approaching the second week of the initial Pennsylvania statewide archery season, which runs until November 18 this year. Additional archery, muzzleloader, special firearms, regular firearms, flintlock, and extended firearms seasons throughout the state give hunters ample opportunities to “bring home the venison” this year. Along the way, there are several important steps to follow to ensure that the deer you take will provide some mouth-watering meals for family and friends.
Take the right shot:

It all starts with shot placement, and that begins with a trip to the range. Certainly, by now, any bowhunter has put in hours of practice before the season even began, but for rifle hunters, sighting in your rifle and verifying that it is still on from its use last season is a necessity to ensure a clean and ethical shot on any animal. A 3-shot group at 50 yards for an open-sighted rifle to be used in 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 your equipment has been verified and you are headed into the woods, it’s time to focus on being an ethical and respectful hunter. Be patient and try to wait for a clean shot at the animal when it is stopped, and provides a clear shot at the vitals. 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.
Proper field care:

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 processing the deer. Next, remove the hide as soon as possible. Yes, I know some hunters who will leave the hide on for several days to let the carcass “age,” but most experienced hunters will agree that removing the hide quickly lets the carcass cool down more rapidly.
Maximize the use of the meat:

Whether you process the deer yourself or have a local butcher do the work, make sure it is done 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.
Don’t overcook the meat:

The final step in assuring tender and tasty table fare is the proper cooking of the meat. 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 soups, casseroles, and when making meatloaf. 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 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!