What originally got me interested in meat processing, sausage making, charcuterie, and the like was hunting. I started hunting squirrels with my father when I was 12 years old, and I shot my first deer when I was 14. As an adult in my late twenties, I found my interest starting to turn into more of a passion. I love putting venison in the freezer.

There is something about hunting, harvesting, and processing wild game that truly speaks to my primal core. But when it came to sharing wild venison with friends, sometimes I would get pushback because the venison tasted “gamey.”

I had personally never had an aversion to venison because I grew up eating it, but I can understand how someone might taste venison, especially venison that wasn’t harvested appropriately, and think it tasted different from beef, which can often taste quite bland. The figure is a picture of me with a white tail deer taken in Illinois several years ago.

hunting for meat Mark LaFay

Me with a nice Midwestern white tail deer.

Venison and other wild game can acquire strong flavors that may be off-putting to others if the critter isn’t harvested correctly. Following are several hunting tips to ensure your meat has the best flavor:

  • Quick and clean kill. Regardless of what you are hunting with, you want to have a one-shot kill through a vital region. This means head, heart, or lungs. The optimal would be a heart or head shot because the animal can expire almost instantly. Quick kills are the most humane, and a quick kill reduces the chances the animal will pump a large amount of adrenaline and hormones into its blood before it dies. These two things can have a dramatic impact on the flavor of their meat.
  • Gender. This topic is considered very subjective by some. To me, however, personal experience has proven that if you are hunting for meat in the freezer, does (females) are a better option than bucks (males). This is because does are more tender and the testosterone in bucks can impart stronger flavors in their meat.
  • Dressing. When any animal is dispatched, the clock starts ticking to get the carcass cold. The sooner you do so, the faster you will slow down the decaying process. Deer and other wild game are no different. Field dress your animal immediately, and get the hide off as soon as you can.

Equally as important to how you handle your animal in the field is how you handle it in the kitchen. Clean your meat, and remove all foreign material like shot, bullet shrapnel, hair, and any undesirable matter that may be present. If you aren’t planning to further process your wild game into sausage or charcuterie, then you also need to package it well and freeze it until you are ready to use it. Vacuum sealing your meat scraps is the best way to ensure maximum quality.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Mark LaFay is a tenured entrepreneur. He started two successful businesses in the music industry and is the founder of Old Major Market, a virtual artisanal butcher shop in Indianapolis. LaFay is a serial entrepreneur, butcher, certified sommelier, the Abe Frohman of Indianapolis, and the 2015 and 2017 Indiana State Fair Backyard BBQ Grand Champion.

This article can be found in the category: