We find ourselves asking, Now What? If you follow this page you have read many great articles teaching you how to get out there and hunt. What happens when you get back home with your trophy? There are questions you should consider while planning your hunt. Are you going to process it yourself or will you use a butcher or processor? Do you have enough freezer space? Once it is processed, how are you going to cook it? These questions sound simple, but if you are new to harvesting wild game you might find it a bit different than the protein you pick up at the corner deli.
I am going to share some of the tips I have picked up through the years, which will help ensure the post hunt process is as enjoyable and successful as the harvest .
Growing up my family had a butcher shop. Therefore, I have the confidence to process my own game, but there have been points in my life when my living accommodations just weren’t set up to process in house. This is the reason I chose to outsource it to a butcher. As you begin your pre-season prep find a couple of local butchers that process game. You should have contact information for at least two you can take the animal to. As the season ramps up many processors stop accepting new drop-offs. This can also be true during youth or special seasons as more animals are being brought in.
We find ourselves asking Now What? What should you look for in a processor? The following are some things to consider. First, do they actually process the game I intend to bring in? There are butchers in my area that do not process deer and some of those that process deer are unable to handle a bear. You will need to know their drop off hours and locations. You should go to the location, view their drop-off dock and find out what you need to do when you get there. This is important!
We find ourselves asking, Now What. Find out what they require for a drop off, you cannot just deliver your deer and go back with a cooler in a few days.
You will need to field dress it (gut it), and remove the bung. If you want the antlers you will have to remove the skull cap or head unless you have made arrangements prior to the drop. If you plan to do it yourself you will need to have your own saw.
The following is an example of prep requirements from one of my local shops; fully field dress and remove the bung, use a saw to remove the antlers for mounting, when you arrive at their facility you must provide your own help to move the carcass to the loading dock. If the temperature is above freezing you will need to pack the cavity with bags of ice, two bags will usually be good for a typical whitetail deer.
Once you get there you will need to fill out a ticket, attach it to the animal, and fill out the matching processing request. Many shops have a standard cut. You should inquire about pre-season, you can also add or remove items on the request on your ticket. An example for me: tenderloins left whole, two roasts, a couple of pounds of cube meat, everything else will be ground. I don’t do steaks so they cut them into cubes for me, my processors know me and know what I like.
If your butcher has a website or facebook page they will usually have a pinned update at the beginning of the season. It will be updated daily during peak drop-off, and weekly during the rest of the season.
In my experience most butchers will be more than happy to walk you through the process on site.
Be prepared when you go have some towels or wipes, wear your muck boots, and have an extra pen!
So after a few days go by, you will get the call. Your meat is ready for pick up! This is an exciting moment! You rush it home, pack it in the freezer, and pull out a roast for supper tomorrow night. Now what? Many first time game cooks may not like how their meat turns out and will be reluctant to cook it again. We find ourselves asking, Now What?
Don’t give up! Here are a few of my personal tips to help when you find yourself asking Now What.
Remember it can take a lot of years of trial and error to get it right. It is ok to try a few different ways. The most important advice for your venison is to trim all the silver skin off the meat. Most butchers do a good job, but I always end up trimming a little more. I don’t like any of it in my dishes. Then I rinse the meat and I prefer to soak it if I am going to cook it directly. This isn’t required, but I prefer the way the meat turns out by doing this. I will soak the tenderloin for a few hours in milk and salt. However if it is going in a crock pot I don’t soak the meat.
Either way, rinse it thoroughly then pat it dry when you are ready to cook with it. Don’t overcook. Use a good quality meat thermometer and make sure you stop cooking the meat just a few degrees before your desired doneness. The meat will continue to cook internally for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven.
If you are pan frying the meat, a great tip is to use some bacon grease to cook the meat in. It adds a really nice bit of flavor that doesn’t overpower the meat. Again, be careful not to overcook it! One last fun trick learned from a very experienced hunter was to put the roast in the crock pot and cover it with pickle juice. You heard me right, pickle juice! Put your roast in, season the way you prefer.
I use powdered horseradish, then cover with pickle juice.
I like to cook it on a low setting all day while I am at work. The result will be one of the most tender roasts you will ever have! To accompany the roast you can make a delicious dipping sauce from mayonnaise and fresh horseradish.
Ultimately, you need to prepare for success before you go to the woods. There is nothing worse than having a successful hunt and arriving at the butcher shop at 9:30, only to find they are closed or not accepting anymore game. Also when you get all of that wonderful meat back from the butcher don’t give up if your first meal isn’t exactly what you thought it would be, learn from it and try again! I bet if you find yourself asking Now What, you can put a shout out to one of your friends for recipes, or even ask any of the wonderful staff on the Shoot Like a Girl Facebook page! So, get out there! Make some memories you can reminisce about over that great first meal!!