For Tasty Venison

Venison in the freezer can be wonderful or not so wonderful, depending on what the deer was doing when taken, how it reacted upon being hit and how well the venison was cared for afterwards.

Venison from an alarmed deer — tail up and fanned, snorting and/or bounding or trotting — abruptly becomes loaded with adrenaline, blood sugar and lactic acid, giving it a “gamy” flavor. Gaminess peaks while a deer is fleeing any great distance, whether wounded or not. The best (most tasty) venison comes from a deer that was unalarmed (unaware the hunter was near) and dropped to the ground immediately or moments after being hit.

To preserve “tastiness,” after being dropped by a quickly fatal shot, the carcass must be quickly cooled, made possible by immediate field dressing and allowing cool air to enter the body cavity. My hunting partners and I are always careful to avoid hitting a deer in the abdominal cavity and always equally careful to avoid spilling contents of abdominal organs (stomach, intestines, urinary bladder and rectum) into the abdominal cavity, all capable of seriously tainting venison. During late fall or early winter where I hunt whitetails (northern Minnesota), outside air temperatures capable of quickly cooling venison are generally perfect (and insect free). To make certain all venison is soon adequately cooled, immediately upon transporting our deer to camp (hauled on foot on a heavy duty plastic toboggan), we hang the carcass clear of the ground, head end up, to allow complete drainage of blood and prop the body cavity wide open to hasten cooling. During the few hunting seasons when it was unseasonably warm, we quickly transported our deer to the nearest deer processing business to be cooled and butchered or we butchered it ourselves (we are good at it) and then transported our packaged meat to the same business to be quickly frozen. Usually, however, our daytime temperature rarely exceeds 40-degrees, perfect for cooling and aging. To enhance tenderness and flavor, we prefer to hang our deer carcasses (hide on) up to a week before butchering.

Venison is little marbled, making it healthier to eat than other meats. The fat generally lies outside or between muscle bundles. Unlike fat of beef and pork, venison fat not only has a slightly offensive flavor, but has the unfortunate characteristic of solidifying on the roof of your mouth at your normal body temperature. While butchering, therefore, we trim off all the fat we can. Fat being an important ingredient of sausages and ground meat, while grinding tougher cuts such a shanks and trimmings, we mix in 15–20% beef or pork fat and grind again. Quickly pan-fried or grilled venison steaks are served medium-rare to ensure juiciness and tenderness. Our roasted venison is cooked in various ways to keep it from becoming dry and tough even when well done (draping bacon over a roast, adding a half cup of water and other preferred ingredients and cooking it slow at 300 degrees in a cast iron roaster with the lid on, for example).

For great tasting venison, then, drop an unsuspecting deer at close range in its tracks (with a heart/lung or spine shot in the forward part of the chest or neck), carefully remove entrails, cool the carcass quickly, trim off fat (and wipe off deer hair) while butchering and cook properly to avoid toughness and dryness.

I hope all the tips I’ve provided via blogs, You Tube, my website, my books, videoa and Midwest Outdoors articles this fall will help you to enjoy one of your best deer hunts ever.

Best of luck everyone.


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