Backwoods Extreme with David Orlowski

DAVID ORLOWSKI

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say they didn’t like deer meat because of the “gamey” taste. But the real question is what caused it to be gamey? You could truthfully say that it’s the way it’s handled, as venison is a lean, healthy source of protein that is equally palatable if the proper steps are taken, beginning immediately after the shot.

No, there’s really no trick to good-tasting deer meat, just simple common sense — and a bit of effort. If you want to get the highest quality meat back from your trophy, you need to do these things.

The most important step on the list is the prompt field dressing, or gutting, of the carcass. This should be done in the field soon after the shot. That’s the removal of the entrails, meaning all insides need to be taken out, even the butt hole, the bladder and any droppings that some hunters tend to forget till later.

If not, you’re just adding another source of contamination to the meat. So when you field dress the deer, take the time to learn to do it right and get everything out.

Next, if the temperature is over 40 degrees you need to get it in a cooler or to the processor as soon as possible, preferably within a few hours. I’m sure many like to ride around and show off their deer, but common sense needs to prevail. That’s even more true if you’ve made a poor shot. The longer it takes a wounded deer to die, the more adrenaline and lactic acid builds up in its system. That can affect the flavor of the meat.

Along that same line, don’t take a shot up deer to the processor and expect to get 100 pounds of meat when in reality you are lucky if 50 pounds are any good. A good processor isn’t about to package up bad meat because he’s not about to get a bad name when even he won’t eat it. So if you take in a deer that’s been shot a couple of times in the shoulders or hindquarters, expect that it’s going to be trimmed heavily.

Also, don’t be the guy that skins the deer and lets it hang a day or two before taking it to a processor. Processors report that it takes way less time for them to skin a deer correctly than it does to clean the hair and debris from a deer that was skinned before being brought to them. Just leave the hide on while hanging in a cooler or keep the cavity spread open and packed with ice until delivered.

The road to perfect tasting venison begins once you pull the trigger, well before the hanging of game at camp or at home. It’s those missteps that many make which lay the groundwork for wrinkled noses, even from the dog who refuses your offerings.

Just remember when you’re planning your hunt that it takes minimal effort to transform that game animal into the purest source of tasty protein. In this day of instant information at our fingertips, there’s no excuse for wasting a game animal.

Now that you know this, don’t be the guy who lets his deer hang for days on end, not properly cleaned, in warm weather and let it spoil. I’m sure you see it happen every year when you drive by a neighbor’s house or a camp and notice a deer that’s been hanging more than a night. A week later, it’s still there and is looking pretty haggard. It just kind of shocks me that someone could waste an animal that way.

David Orlowski is a writer, hunter, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast from Potter County. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.