Jason Wright, Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV
The appreciation of preparing wild game, serving it and sharing hunting stories go hand in hand every weekend throughout the big game season. Whether we are spending the weekend at the Arman Ranch or grilling thick sliced venison steaks wrapped in bacon beside our wall tent in Wyoming, the camaraderie and atmosphere provided by the unmistakable sounds and aroma of wild game cooking on the grill unleashes past outdoor memories.
During a recent shopping excursion at Scheels in Bismarck, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder at the checkout counter and asked me why I choose to eat meat – more specifically why do I eat wild game. I detected sincere curiosity and noted he most likely wasn’t from the area and/or hadn’t grown up in a family with a strong hunting heritage and wasn’t necessarily a big fan of eating meat.
I answered (slightly sarcastically with a bit of humor) 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 it usually accomplishes all of the above.”
In return he gave me an open mouth blank stare, but then quickly realized I was just having fun with him and he loosened up and became quite intrigued with my hunting background and the various ways to prepare wild game. We ended up talking for quite some time about how hunting, preparing and eating wild game has been passed down in my family from generation to generation. By the time I left the store my mouth was watering terribly after sharing many wild game recipes so I drove straight home, reached into the freezer and grabbed a package of backstrap. The evening meal was mouthwatering and my girls kept us entertained as they asked many questions about the hunt that provided the meal.
Thinking back to that conversation which took place in Scheels, I suppose I could have pointed out that a number of recent medical studies have proven that red meat, in particular lean red meat from wild game, reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, a local physician verified these findings after a friend of mine had blood drawn for routine blood tests which would obviously cause them to be 100% accurate; right?
When this friend of mine received his results the physician said that his cholesterol count was a little high and that at his young age he needed to get this under control. His obvious response was, “What do you recommend that I do?” The doc then replied, “Get your bow, head west where you can get away from your stress, walk the hills and shoot a big buck. And, don’t forget to bring me a backstrap.”
As a big game hunter, who am I to argue with the common sense of a physician that understands the importance of exercise and healthy eating habits. I admit it; I truly enjoy planning for the weekend meal, preparing and eating all wild game especially in camp when the stories seem to rekindle like the hot embers of a bonfire with a slight breeze as the meat goes from the grill to the plate. I like meat. I like the flavor, aroma and the feeling of accomplishment taking the game from the field to the dinner plate. I like the sound of a perfectly seasoned steak or marinated mallard breast as it sizzles on a hot grill. I like to slice into a thick slab of perfectly seasoned 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 peak at the steaks that I have marinating in a homemade concoction of oil, vinegar, soy sauce and fresh garlic sprinkled generously with a variety of herbs and spices. It must be the curiosity of every hunting enthusiast to check the steaks frequently turning them to be sure they are thoroughly seasoned. But if you’re not the daring type, my favorite wild game marinade is Don Diego South American Sauce which can be purchased locally at most grocery stores. I guarantee you cannot go wrong with the special sauce when you combine it with your favorite wild game.
Many of the animals I have had the opportunity to harvest aren’t necessarily the largest, but the tale I can tell will most likely be entertaining throughout the meal.
Perhaps most of all, I take pleasure in the simple knowledge that the food on my plate is there because I either: spot and stalked it, lay in wait for it or tracked it down. It’s possible that speaks to the generations of hunters before me and the importance of what my dad passed down to me. Or maybe I’ve just discovered I have more fun picking up my bow or rifle and walking a trail to my stand than I do pushing a shopping cart along a grocery aisle. Whatever the case, I have found that the hunt and created memories enhance the overall culinary experience.
I have also found I enjoy introducing others to the savory delights of correctly prepared wild game. Not long ago I had the opportunity to share an assortment of wild game prepared in a variety of ways with a group of people who have been confined to non-wild game meat. Everyone knew what to expect and that my deck would host the succulent dinner which would include everything from Ontario bear, North Dakota whitetail to Wyoming antelope.
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 with the wild game taking center stage.
It was a great success all around and a number of our guests hadn’t eaten anything from the grill that wasn’t domestically raised, but they all left the table with a new appreciation for correctly prepared wild game. Although in truth, they were a bit apprehensive at first, it wasn’t long before most were going back for more venison steaks, bacon wrapped backstrap and marinated duck breasts as they were coming off the grill.
As the evening proceeded, the topic changed from preparing and cooking wild game to the actual hunting of big game. I was a bit taken back by their interest but in the same token extremely excited to share some of my most memorable hunting adventures and why it’s so much more than the hunt itself. Not knowing what they were in for, I gave them the long detailed version of some of my most memorable hunts. For the next hour, I pointed to various animals on my wall and reminisced as I told the story of each hunt, from the preparation to the conclusion, leaving them with the possible impression that my hunting skills could possibly border on legendary and/or my ability to tell a great story is right up there with the best of them.
Now it is possible that to the untrained ear it may have sounded as though I was bragging, and perhaps even overdoing some of the details as I told my stories. But to everyone else it was obvious. Of course I was bragging! Isn’t it the rite of all sportsmen? All kidding aside, I wasn’t bragging about the fact that I think I am this great hunter, but rather I am thankful for the fact that my dad had passed down to me his hunting beliefs/traditions and that I have had such wonderful opportunities in the outdoors.
The evening couldn’t have turned out better even if we weren’t at the ranch amongst the stars while preparing the evening meal. Our guests left with their appetites satisfied and the knowledge that not only am I able to prepare wild game with culinary skills, but that I could take my story telling on the road. As they were leaving they mentioned how great the food was and how thankful they were to have had the opportunity to try a variety of wild game.
I call this a successful introduction to the benefits of cooking wild game.
And just to set the record straight, I really enjoy eating vegetables especially since they are “good” for me. But until cauliflower develops the keen senses of a whitetail buck and brussel sprouts learn to keep up with an antelope buck crossing the horizon, they will most likely not 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 simple side dish.
Anything else just wouldn’t be right.