Chris Eberhart (Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way and Bowhunting Wild Food) has a excellent post on Wired to Hunt about celebrating the Whitetail deer and appreciating the venison. This is a subject that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately.
Whitetails are cunning, wild, and available. They helped to form us as a nation. And they still are a defining portion of many people’s lives, including my own. Whitetails allow us to be the hunters we were meant to be, even in the technocratic virtual world that now surrounds us, and even at the edge of our mega-cities. Hunting is a bastion of reality that we should cherish. Respecting the whitetail and its many gifts is a good way to start. -Chris Eberhart
Hunters dedicate quite a bit of time, money and energy to our craft. We think about hunting, we talk about hunting, we dream about hunting (recently on a trip to Mexico, I was deep in a deep state of REM bliss, seeing a large buck standing broadside in a Tennessee oak flat on a chilly morning when a Mexican firecracker awoke me abruptly from my dream. For just a disoriented moment, I was certain that the firecracker was the unmistakeable boom of a deer rifle and that I had killed the big one), we daydream at work about hunting, we scout for deer sign after hunting season closes, we drool over trail cam photos, and stories and photos of big antlers make the rounds via text messages and social media like a firestorm. However, when it comes to any subject mater related to the butchering, preparing, cooking and eating venison, the conversation, in many cases, seems to be less than passionate. How do we as hunters address this? Why is a conversation about butchering, cooking or eating any less important than wind direction, food plots or stand arrival time? Why is a good boning knife any less important than a set of optics? Why do some hunters dedicate hours, even years to hunting a specific buck only to yield 30% of the meat? Why are hunters willing to learn and adapt new tactics for pursuing their quarry, yet so unwilling to try unfamiliar cooking techniques with wild game?
These are good questions and serious questions that we as hunters as well as the hunting industry at large, should ask ourselves. There does not have to be this “line in the sand” between trophy hunting and meat hunting. After all, one can practice Quality Deer Management and Quality Deer Eating. One can be a trophy hunter and a trophy eater.
Just yesterday, I awoke early on a cold morning. Mind you, this is late season, post rut hunting in Tennessee and, with the freezers full, motivation is lukewarm at best, especially on a frigid morning.
Though I seldom hunt field edges, I have seen zero deer movement in the woods this week so I pitched in the towel and decided to hunt a ground blind over a Winter Wheat crop. Within minutes of sunrise, I had 3 does to my right. I focused on the largest one and awaited my opportunity. 20 mintes later, a warm deer heart hit the skillet and two hunters enjoyed a hearty breakfast of venison heart sautéed in garlic and butter.
After breakfast, I took my time, butchered the deer out and even enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee and a few moments of reflection about this very subject matter.
Later that night, at a birthday party, I cooked a whole backstrap from the same deer. As bloody goodness from a venison backstrap cooked medium rare dripped down chins and dotted the floor, fingers licked, and tummies rubbed, I couldn’t help but wonder what the greatest aspect of deer hunting, or hunting in general, really is.
As American hunting culture continues to evolve and seeks to make itself relevant within the context of contemporary culture at large, you might consider eating and hunting, regardless of your specific hunting pursuits, to have an inseparable relationship.