A Cure for Our Unexpected Down Time: Wild Game Cooking
As I watch the news and scroll through conversations on my social media feeds, I find it surreal. The coronavirus has really done a number on us. It took me a couple of days for the true seriousness of the situation, and lots of cabin fever, to set in.
Being an outdoorsman, the easy answer would be “pack up your gear and go hunting.” I plan to do just that – a little spring turkey hunting, shooting my bow, and fishing. The fact of the matter is, I can’t do that right now with family and work obligations. Now, I’m going stir-crazy. I work from home and usually have the freedom to run errands and work in coffee shops to mix things up. Until now.
It finally hit me a couple of days ago: one of my favorite things to do is cook wild game. If I have to social-distance from the bass boat, I can embrace the cast-iron skillet by cooking wild game for me and my family. It’s officially the second-best thing a sportsman can do during these strange times.
Like most people, I’m trying to stay out of the store. But even if I didn’t, they’re completely picked over. Curbside pickup? Yeah, it works, but where I live, there’s quite a backlog. During a time when people are fighting over toilet paper and hand wipes, those of us lucky to have harvested a deer, hog, or other edible animal have a solution. Our successes from this past fall and winter mean we can access our own healthy and organic game meat easily. It’s only a small trek to our deep freeze. Though I don’t need any validation for the hunting I do, I feel extra blessed now.
During these times when store-bought meat can be elusive, the likes of venison, duck, quail, and fish are not only at-the-ready for sportsmen, but they are also extremely healthy during a time when the need for healthy options is at an all-time high. This food is special. In many cases, I not only shot the game, but scouted and tracked it, too. I feel good about that and you should, too. Celebrate by converting that meat into delicious table fare.
I like to cook. In fact, I find that to be the case with most hunters and outdoorsmen. I love to try new and creative ways to prepare wild game. Whether grilled, smoked, baked, or fried, it’s not only gratifying, it helps to define us as outdoorsmen. Though I’ve had the interest for decades, wild game cooking goes hand-in-hand with the recent Field to Fork effort. Whether simple venison chili or a concoction worthy of a five-star restaurant, it’s great fun to pull off a culinary triumph from meat that you took via rifle or bow.
Concern over anticipated food shortages amid the pandemic has driven people to grocery stores in droves. Within 24 hours, shelves were picked to the bone at Walmart and other big box stores. While the hoarding of a few (relatively speaking) has caused a lot of the anxiety, many people are actually running out of staple foods. Grocery industry officials insist that supplies are available and that a new level of patience is in order.
Enter wild game. There is something positive that the hunting community can do for those around them. If ever there was a place for “venison diplomacy” it’s now. While social distancing may require that you don’t handle other people’s food, we nonetheless have a perfect opportunity to serve others at this time. Take few chubs of venison burger out of the freezer and leave them on a neighbor’s doorstep. For those unfamiliar with preparing it, share some tips with them. A few pounds of healthy free-range meat will go a long way for those waiting for shelves to be re-stocked. You never know, you may change the mind of someone on the fence about the merits of hunting – all while supporting them in a time of need.
This global situation is new territory for most folks and it isn’t expected to subside anytime soon. School districts have closed, many workers have been sent home. You’ve likely been imposed with unexpected downtime, but you have to eat. If you’re looking for ways to keep busy during these unsettling times your community, pull your blessings of the hunt from the freezer and prepare some wild game. While you’re at it, thank God for His creation as well as your bounty. As for me, venison meatballs are next on the schedule.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.