A ton of preparation goes into the front-end of a hunt—between gear, species, maps, draw-odds, and calendars. Executing a successful hunt is a puzzle that often takes years to perfect.
There is so much excitement over harvesting a game animal, whether it be a mourning dove or a bull elk—then the real work begins. From field dressing to safely transporting, from breaking it down into manageable parts, to finally cooking a meal.
A game animal, particularly a big-game animal, will provide many months worth of meat, and generally a bunch of cuts of meat that are unfamiliar to city-dwelling grocery store shoppers. Not everything that comes off a cow, elk, deer, or wild pig is a steak.
The ability to properly utilize and entire wild-harvested big game animal requires using up roasts, ribs, shanks, and various cuts that many of us don't typically select from the meat aisle. Trying new recipes is an exciting way of continuing the sense of adventure that hunting brings, but I also remember an overwhelming sense of "don't mess this up, because this meat is precious" after my last hunt. I had worked so hard to harvest a game animal, that the last thing I wanted to do was blow it in the kitchen and spoil the fruits of the labor.
It is well documented—and well understood—that game animals tend to be leaner and more delicate to cook with than farm-raised animals. So having a familiarity with working with various species and cuts can give you the extra confidence in the kitchen to know you can tackle whatever you pull out of the freezer — this is why I am advocating for something unexpected, to buy farm-raised wild game meats from the grocery store.
Store-bought Frozen Quail
I know, I know... the whole point of hunting for wild meat is so you don't have to buy it wrapped in plastic, but if you can gain experience and familiarity cooking elk burgers, bison roasts, whole quail, and whole fish from the butcher, you will be that much more prepared when your time comes and it's your moment to shine in the field and in the kitchen.
Granted this is a very city-dweller approach, because if you live in Homer, Alaska it's likely you have a friend who would be kind enough to gift you a couple pounds of frozen moose meat, but for those of us who are still trying to make those kinds of friends, we gotta work with what we can get our hands on.
Before going afield this Fall, get comfortable in the kitchen and try cooking some things that are outside your comfort zone. Whether it's hand-shot or store-bought, it's nice to know you are ready to make the most of the piece of meat on the cutting board in front of you.
Pronghorn tenderloin hand-shot by the Author