We have harvested dove, quail, pheasant, ducks, geese, deer, elk, antelope, buffalo, squirrels, and if you live in Louisiana – maybe a robin or two for flavor and texture in the gumbo. Raccoon and coyote and possibly a possum and rattlesnake make into our coolers. A lot of us take the carcass to the meat processing plant and have perfectly labeled and packaged meat that ages not so gracefully in our freezers. We have big plans for game dinners and just don’t eat as much as we thought we would. Sadly, a significant number of significant others don’t choose to dine on this table fare for whatever reason. We take big trips to catch any variety of wonderful fish and package it all very carefully for the freezer. If we had to put a price tag on what we harvest it would stop us all from hunting and fishing. That is the rub. We love the hunt and the fishing trip and we are morally and ethically required by law and conscious to properly care for the meat. That being said, wild game is about the best meat and the best meat for you from a nutrition standpoint that you can find. I have lived very well on wild game. It is lean, healthy, tasty and when you fix it properly—hard to beat. A lot of families use wild game as their main food source out of necessity or choice. Thank goodness, well-fed successful hunters that don’t eat the meat donate it to food banks and other outlets for the less fortunate. I know several goose hunters that make sausage out of the extra birds they harvest and donate it appropriately. Good for them!!!!
Back to my kitchen. There are wild game recipes that put high-end restaurants on alert! I have had the pleasure of hunting and fishing with a group of guys that use the internet just like it was intended. A couple of them live in Louisana, and one in Wyoming. Almost every night we share pictures and stories of dinner. Yes--- dinner. Dinner with gumbos, picante, chili, and other recipes from different lands that require thought and skill and sometimes diligent searches on the internet for spices, cooking utensils and methods. Have you ever thought of adding mushroom powder to burger meat for a boost in flavor? It is available. Have you tried Jagerschnitzel? It is a thin cutlet served with mushroom gravy and potatoes. It is probably being made somewhere in Kansas tonight. Alligator is delicious! Soft-shelled crabs in any form are off the chart. You are starting to get the drift. Dinner is an event – not a meal! Have you tried sous vide? That is a water bath in which you place your meat or fish with its seasonings in a plastic bag and set the temperature from rare to well done. It cooks the meat to the exact temperature you choose, and holds it there until you take it out. It can’t overcook. Lots of restaurants use it to cook steak to rare to medium and then put a sprinkle of seasonings on it and flash it in their big ovens. Perfect steak every time. These indoor grills are perfect for small pieces of meat, fish and veggies that you can leisurely grill to perfection over a Bird Dog or glass of wine.
I have recipe books from about 30 state game and fish departments. Recipes for things that even I haven’t chosen to try. Ducks Unlimited has amazing waterfowl recipes. Dusty gave me the signature recipe book from Louisiana a few years ago—just reading it makes you humble, and trying those southern delights will make a culinary mark in your time line.
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.