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November for most hunters never lasts long enough, but many look forward to the memories and taste of deer season until the following year as each hunting season yields an abundance of sausage, jerky, pepper sticks and other wild game delicacies that wind up in hunting lunches and on evening dinner tables.

Just as hunters are always searching for new gear and gadgets to aid in the hunt, similar time is invested in testing and tasting new recipes and sharing the harvest with friends and family.

Deer preparation begins in the fieldWith ample game and hunting opportunities nowadays, imaginative chefs and connoisseurs have created new – and often improved – ways of preparing wild game. Some, such as a “favorite” coot recipe, will probably never convince me that, “you can hardly tell it’s coot.” Others, such as deep frying a big Christmas goose in a propane-fired turkey cooker, or charcoal-grilling a bacon-wrapped duck breast, are sure to find me searching for a fork.

Maybe all this innovation in wild game cooking is inspired by boredom with the time-worn recipe of: take whatever wild game meat you have, mix it in with a can or two of cream of mushroom soup, and dump it all into a crock pot set on low and let it cook all day.

While this is a time-tested method to produce a worthy meal, wild game has so much more potential. “Edible” is a fairly low standard when “Can we have this again next week!?” is usually possible.

Growing up at our house, sandhill crane in mushroom soup was and still is edible. Crane breasts cut thin and providing the main ingredient in stir fry is a much more pleasing dish.

Wild game has its own flavor and taste. Some of the best recipes I’ve tried bring out this flavor or enhance it. On the other hand, many of us occasional cooks, myself included, are often guilty of trying to disguise wild game flavor with an array of sauces and spices.

In books, and on television and internet sites, wild game gourmet chefs provide all sorts of recipes and advice for preparing whatever you bring home from a day’s hunt.

Since most freezer-stocking is already completed for the year, one tip which will never expire is to eat wild game sooner rather than later. The longer it sits in the freezer the more likely it is to develop freezer burn, which is irreparable. If you have more than you can eat, make plans now to offer it to others.

And in the future, remember to keep wild game meat clean and cold. The sooner you accomplish these two tasks, the odds of tainted or spoiled meat decrease. Field dress birds as soon as possible, and if the weather is warm, put them on ice for the trip home.

One last personal note, as I recall a warm, almost hot deer season a few years back. I saw a truck with a stack of deer riding on one of those bumper-buddy hitch extension systems, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much dirt, dust and not to mention exhaust accumulated on those deer on that warm day.

Exposing any meat to exhaust fumes and road rubbish kicked up by tires is probably not going to enhance the flavor.

Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov


 

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