Is it the buck or the bounty?

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
June 18, 2004
Which is more fun, hunting and bagging a game animal or eating a fine dish made from its flesh? Hunting is in our blood, but in my case the "love to eat" gene flourishes in its chromosome to the point of crowding out others, like the "practice moderation" gene and the "watch those calories" gene. This makes my answering the question troublesome.
Suffice it to say that both hunting and eating the catch are favorite indulgences, some sporting types preferring the hunt while some meat hunters exult in the edibles. I am blessed with fixations on both.
June is a good month to look into the freezer and choose the ingredients for some good protein dishes. We ate well right after the hunting seasons closed, and then slowly we slacked off cooking our wild game meat that we so carefully stashed away for rewarding meals.
Making Room
So now is the time to note the progress toward having enough room in the freezer when the fall hunting seasons begin. Thaw out some packages of venison and cook some of those great meals you planned earlier.
Right about here one might expect that I should include a couple of scrumptious recipes for wild game dishes. But I choose not to have any unsuspecting soul get the idea that I could successfully produce an edible result from such an entry. It can't happen. The wild game cooking skills in my family were all assigned to my brother Ron, along with disproportionate allotments of brains, luck and other attributes. What I was left with was …well we won't go there.
The point is I wish I could cook a duck or a raccoon or something but such attempts always end in disaster. Just this week I burned the bottom half of a boiler full of new potatoes. And burning oatmeal is a particularly annoying perennial habit of mine. But just because I can't make tempting game dishes doesn't mean I don't know one when I taste it.
And through the years I have picked up some tips from the experts on preparing game meat for the pot that have moved my game dishes from the passable to the enviable (if my wife does the cooking part of course.) Two examples involve venison.
The Old Way
For years I would slice off a slab of deer backstrap or hind quarter steak, season and flour it and throw it into the frying pan. It's what you do with deer meat, right? Well some of it tasted great and some tasted gamey. Then I learned that if you run that steak through a tenderizing machine before you freeze it, the resulting steaks not only are tender but they always taste good when fried the same as I was doing before.
Even earlier in my deer hunting life I despaired when my link sausage failed to cure properly, some even spoiling before it could cure like they do it in Central Texas. The problem is the humidity we have here in the Deep South. I learned that drying is just as important as smoking in curing an ideal batch of deer sausage links. I now have mine cured by folks with dehumidifying smokers.
I suppose if you asked me which is best, the hunting or the eating, right after I dropped a big ten-pointer, I would say it's the hunting. But ask me when I am half through a link of hickory smoked sausage and the best part would be the eating. It depends on which appealing situation I find myself in at the moment.

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