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Big Game Recipes & Cooking

Eating Ethically: How to Prepare Wild Game

by Andrew Fehr   |  October 19th, 2011 10

Preparing wild game meatHow to prepare wild game, and how serving it and telling wild hunting stories go hand in hand.

Someone asked me the other day why I eat meat. I detected a tone of righteous vegetarianism in the question.

I answered by explaining that I like to give my food a fighting chance. “I consider it unethical to eat anything that can’t run for its life,” I said. “Think about all those poor salads just lying around until someone comes along and eats them. How fair is that? At least my food has the opportunity to outwit, outsmart or outrun me, and usually it does.”

I got the distinct impression that my answer was not well received, so I went home and ate a steak. I felt much better after that.

In hindsight, I suppose I could also have pointed out that a number of recent medical studies have demonstrated that red meat, in particular lean red meat from wild game, reduces the risk of heart disease. My own family physician verified this not long ago after sending me for some routine blood tests.

“Your cholesterol count is a bit high,” he announced, holding up my chart.

“What do you prescribe?” I asked.

“Go shoot a moose,” he said. “And don’t forget to bring me a backstrap.”

Who am I to argue with medical science?

I admit it, I am an unrepentant carnivore. I like meat. I like the flavor and aroma. I like the sound my steaks make when they are sizzling on the grill over a bed of hot coals. I like to slice into a thick slab of venison seared on the outside but still red and juicy in the center. I even like the anticipation when I go to the refrigerator to sneak a quick look at the steaks that I have marinating in oil, vinegar and fresh garlic, and sprinkled generously with a variety of herbs and spices.

Mule buck

My muley buck is obviously big, but he’s even bigger when I tell friends the tale of this hunt.

But perhaps most of all, I take pleasure in the simple knowledge that the food on my plate is there because I either stalked it, lay in wait for it, or tracked it down. Maybe that speaks to some sort of primal longing inside of me — a throwback to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of my forefathers. (My father and his father before him were also hunters.) Or maybe I’ve just discovered that I have more fun picking up my bow and walking a trail in the bush than I do pushing a shopping cart along a grocery aisle. Whatever the case, I have found that the hunt itself enhances the overall culinary experience.

An old proverb says, “He who chops his own wood is twice warmed.” That may be true, but I would better that by adding, “He who grills the meat that he has hunted over coals from the wood that he has chopped is both warmed and filled.”

On the wall of my study, right beneath a framed photograph of me posing with a recently deceased 6×6 bull elk, is a Biblical quote taken from the 27th chapter of the book of Genesis. The words, originally spoken by the patriarch Isaac to his eldest son, Esau, have since been repeated in some form or another by countless others down through the years, who, like the hero of old, have appreciated the opportunity to sink their chops into a good steak. The verse reads, “Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows out into the open country, and hunt some wild game for me. Prepare it just the way I like it so it is savory and good, and bring it here for me to eat.”

Granted, the dialogue is taken directly from a story of rivalry, deception, trickery, and lying — none of which draw a parallel to any archery hunter with whom I am acquainted. But despite this discrepancy, it seems to me that these ancient instructions must not be ignored. I can assure you that I, for one, will not be accused of showing disregard for a clear Biblical directive. If the Bible tells me to pick up my bow and arrows and go chase down some wild game, that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

I have also found that I enjoy introducing others to the savory delights of wild game. Recently my wife and I donated a dinner party to the annual charity auction that is put on by my church. The meal was advertised as a wild game barbecue that we would host on our back deck.

Venison steak

For me, nothing beats the taste of a good venison steak. I do eat vegetables, as long as they are served at their rightful place -- on the side.

It was a great success all around. A good price was fetched for our chosen charity, and the eight people who together made the purchase — five of whom had never before parted their lips for a piece of meat that had not been domestically raised — left with a new appreciation for the succulent flavor of well-prepared game. They started off a little tentatively, but within a short while were lining up for the kabobs, chops, and steaks that were coming off the grill.

To create the right atmosphere, and to ensure that our guests would have the full experience, I had hung a couple of whitetail mounts on the corner posts of the deck. I was worried at first that I had made a strategic error, as I began to hear whispers of, “They’re so cute.” But once the meal began not much was heard other than the smacking of lips, brief words of approval, and a smattering of incoherent phrases that seemed to indicate gastronomic delight.

As the evening progressed, the conversation naturally began to shift from eating wild game to hunting wild game. This took surprisingly little prompting on my part. Having been primed by the fine meal and a few glasses of wine, they were now eager for the main course — a full and detailed account of some of my most memorable hunts. For the next hour, as I toured them through my trophy room, I entertained them with tales of my accomplishments and left them with the general impression that my skill and cunning as an archery hunter border on the legendary.

To those with an untrained ear it may have sounded as though I was bragging, and perhaps even embellishing some of the details as I told my stories. But to everyone else it was obvious. Of course I was bragging! Unabashed, shameless boasting is one of the foremost rites of those who hunt.

The evening could hardly have turned out better than it did. Our guests headed for home with their appetites satisfied and their ears ringing with some of the juiciest hunting folklore that has ever been told. As they were leaving, they told me that next year they would outbid anyone for the privilege of coming back for more of my food and my lies.

How good is that?

And just to set the record straight, I do eat my vegetables. (I’ve been told that they’re good for me.) But until broccoli develops the stealth of a whitetail buck and peas learn to keep up with a speeding antelope, they will never be served as a main course on my table. And until a head of lettuce grows a body, some legs, and maybe a set of antlers, it will remain a lowly side dish.

Anything else just wouldn’t be right.

The author, a resident of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has written several humor stories for Bowhunter.

  • Frank Somma

    I can’t wait to share this with my hunting partners! BTW I recently converted a vegetarian to a vegetarian who will only eat meat I’ve hunted and prepared. Great article. Thanks


  • Cindy

    Great story. Just yesterday I got "scolded" by an environmentalist about my hunting. I wish I had read this story before I replied to her. I'll print it out anyway on the off chance that she and I exchange words again.

  • Omar Dawkins

    Nicely said

  • Vladimir Radchenko

    The Lord gave us the right to kill and eat animals:
    “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3)
    I think, if our Father, Who taught us ethics, gave us something to eat, it is not ethical to say to Him: “It is not ethical to eat your food”.

    • Colbie

      As an avid hunter, self proclaimed meat-a-tarian, and devout Christian I ask that you are careful with the above verse as it is always dangerous to pull select passages (they will almost certainly be refuted). For instance, in Genesis1:29, God only gives man the seed bearing plants for food and make no mention of man eating animals.

      It isn't until after the fall of man and after God decimates all living creatures outside of Noah and those on the ark that we are given animals as food.

      I am completely on your side here however using scripture as your defense may prove to be counter productive if you come across someone who knows the Bible.

  • Jose A

    very nice article thank you.

  • College Teacher

    I was once asked why I hunted deer. I replied that some of us preferred not to use hired killers to get our food.

    There is no need to apologize for eating meat. We have a symbiotic relationship with domestic animals in which we protect them from starvation and disease and consume the surplus. The only losers in this situation are the predators and parasites who would have otherwise gotten the animals we protect.

    With wild animals, such as deer, we maintain habitats for them. As a result, there are now more whitetail deer in North America than there were before Europeans came.

    The so called animal “rights” groups are actually “anti-symbiotic” groups — they do not want humans to interact with animals in any way. They are not “rights” groups because they want to deny animals the right to associate with humans, a right which has made domestic animals far more successful than their wild relatives.

    For a scientific article on this issue, go to:

  • Luke S

    Although I enjoyed the article, I felt that the title promised something a bit different than what the article provided. Was there any advice in there on "how to prepare wild game"? Perhaps it should have been "why to eat wild game".

    That said, I agree with most of what you said in the article. Although farmers markets are providing an increasing percentage of the food purchased by Americans (still a measly 2%), I find it fascinating that more ethically-minded people aren't taking the next logical step and hunting their meat. Not only does this provide a life of freedom (especially relative to those animals raised in confined animal feeding operations), but it is also far less energy intensive than feeding animals vast quantities of corn and soy.

  • Jay "JJ"

    I'm surprised Bowhunter supported this article. THIS is insensitive (& I'm a die-hard meat eater, & phenomenal cook, wild game or not): AUTHOR: [I answered by explaining that I like to give my food a fighting chance. “I consider it unethical to eat anything that can’t run for its life,” I said. “Think about all those poor salads just lying around until someone comes along and eats them. How fair is that? At least my food has the opportunity to outwit, outsmart or outrun me, and usually it does.”]. From a teenager maybe, but a writer? You are doing the industry & sport no favors. Plenty of much better responses, you should work on that…unless your arrogance prevents it. Maybe educate yourself better to vegan lifestyles, and learn how to communicate with respect…the whole "fighting chance" and "helpless salad" philosophies are ridiculous, I'd laugh my effin *ss off if I heard this at a respectable bowhunting club. The opening of your article lacks good hunting ethics, and pushes arrogance. I made it through the rest of the article. The only thing that provided reassurance to me was that Bowhunter stated in their footer that the author had written several "Humor Stories" for the mag. I found humor in the weak immature writing…& found nothing humorous about folks like this voicing their opinion as the sport's delegate. FYI, I've been bowhunting since early 1980's, & have cooked & eaten a *elluva lot of venison for myself any many others (both in small private parties, and large celebratory parties/events).

  • Chuck in Ks.

    Check where the eyes are? Vegetarian on the side of face. Carnivores in frunt.
    Any thing with eyes in frunt eat the thing with eyes on the side of face

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