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Cooking wild game

Good-tasting meat depends on how the animal is handled the instant it’s harvested

My son is a deer hunter and we have lots of venison in the freezer. My favorite way to cook deer steak is to marinate it in Italian dressing, and then grill it for just a few minutes on each side.

Chris Hull is an avid sportsman, and a communications specialist with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. He says the key to great tasting game is how the animal is handled immediately after it’s harvested. It’s also one of the biggest mistakes that hunters make.

"Whether it’s a deer or an antelope, or even a goose or a pheasant, there are times when we’re hunting and it can be warm. It’s critical that you get those nasty bits out of them as soon as you can," says Hull. "I know when we’re antelope hunting and it’s warm, if anybody in the camp shoots an antelope, everything stops. We all go to work to make sure that we get that hide off and we get the guts out of there because that’s really what can affect the taste of meat and really spoil it in some cases."

Getting the meat cooled down as soon as possible is also important for quality.

Some wild animals have a “gamey” or strong flavor to them. Most often that comes from improper care after the harvest, but it’s also related to the animal’s diet. The meat of a deer that eats acorns and pine needles will taste different from a deer that eats corn.

There are many ways to prepare wild game. But Hull says the longer you cook it, the more dried out it gets, which can exacerbate the gamey flavor.

"With deer, like with loins and back straps, get it to medium on high, high heat, get that grill good and hot first. There are always some worries about wild game and making sure it’s done enough, but there’s a line there where it’s done way too much," says Hull. "We experiment with certain things on how to cook it, but typically it’s high heat for short amounts of time."

The five most common wild game cooking mistakes

Find recipes for game meats

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