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Care of Wild Game

by James B. “Jim” Kea
Area Extension Forestry Agent – now retired
Thursday, February 9th, 2006

The care of any game begins with planning before the hunt. Game must be cooled as soon as possible to preserve its natural taste. Gamey flavor, associated with venison in particular, is associated with improper care after the kill as well as game being run for long periods.

Depending on the temperature, deer should be dressed, skinned, and cooled within an hour at 60 degrees or higher and within three hours at 30 degrees. Ideally, when a deer is shot, it should be hung by the back feet, skinned, gutted, and placed in a cooler or refrigerator between 32 degrees and 40 degrees for four or five days before freezing or cooking. Skinning before gutting will prevent a lot of hair from being stuck to the inside of the body. Avoid spraying cold water on the carcass before it cools down. Cold water will clot blood and prevent proper drainage from tissue. Aging causes a drying and firming up of muscle tissue. The outside sheath material will also dry, making it easier to remove. Since most of the trash and hair that accidentally get on the deer are on this sheath, it can also be removed with the sheath. When weight or time until dressing are a factor, field dress as soon as possible.

Avoid using a saw when cutting up your deer. Bone dust is not only hard to wash off, it will give the meat an odd flavor. Use a filleting knife to disjoint hams and shoulders. Experts also advise deboning venison before freezing since the bone, although uncut, can also flavor the adjacent meat. This also saves freezer space.

Use several layers of freezer paper (not plastic) for wrapping. Venison’s low fat, high water content make it extremely susceptible to freezer burn. Date packages and use within eight months of freezing.

Don’t let your deer be part of the estimated 50% that never reaches a consumer’s stomach.


In an iron Dutch oven, cook crisp six strips of bacon. Remove bacon leaving grease. Take a 3-6 pound roast, puncture at two inch intervals and insert garlic slivers. Coat roast with Kitchen Bouquet, salt, pepper and flour. Heat bacon grease and sear the roast on all sides until real brown. Set roast aside.

In the Dutch oven add to the grease; one can of cream of mushroom soup, one half to one can of water (depending on how much gravy desired), heat, add one medium diced onion, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, stir and color with more Kitchen Bouquet. Place a trivet type rack in the Dutch oven to keep roast slightly off the bottom. Put roast on rack. Garnish with onion rings, crushed bacon strips, and 16 ounces of canned or fresh mushrooms. Cover and cook on top of stove for about three hours at low heat. Liquid should just bubble now and then.

For more recipes and information on wild game: Wild Game Recipes

Revised 2/16/2006, 10/13/2011.

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