Food Prices are High, Make Use of Your Harvested Wild Game
In days long ago the expansion west began and with it the need for protein. Wild game harvested was used on a regular basis to fill this need to the point of overharvesting. Today via conservation efforts our game numbers have recovered.
To be clear, it is the gravest of legal and ethical violations to leave meat in the field to rot simply for the trophy of the head itself. But unfortunately, I have seen it happen.
As a part time guide for big game in the southwestern US, it never ceases to amaze me how few hunters really care to utilize their harvest. They may in fact be willing to donate their game, but many times are indifferent to making use of the meat themselves.
My point? With food prices soaring (especially meat), it is well worth the time and effort to personally make use of your game for consumption.
There are in fact varying rules and regulations from state to state on removal of meat from the field and how said meat can be donated. Most state wildlife agencies do not require the removal of internal organs for human consumption, although many hunters do utilize organs such as the liver for table fare.
To get an idea of the amount of useable meat from various big game in the US take a look at the following table, it is general in nature of course:
|ANIMAL||APPROXIMATE FIELD WEIGHT||MEAT YIELD|
|MULE DEER BUCK||200 pounds||65 pounds|
|WHITETAIL DEER BUCK||150 pounds||53 pounds|
|BULL ELK||700 pounds||200 pounds|
|BULL MOOSE||1250 pounds||425 pounds|
|BISON||1150 pounds||600 pounds|
|WHITETAIL DEER DOE||100 pounds||40 pounds|
|MULE DEER DOE||165 pounds||57 pounds|
|COW ELK||500 pounds||155 pounds|
From the table above it becomes obvious that making use of your big game harvest is well worth your time and effort especially if you are able to process the meat yourself.
Small Game, Fowl and Fish
This category would include, rabbits, squirrels, all game birds (quail, pheasant, dove, waterfowl, etc.) and all fish species.
Small mammals such as squirrel and rabbits (especially cottontails) can be excellent table fare. But as with all wild game, precautions should be taken. Rabbits especially can be the carriers of rabbit fever, more commonly known as Tularemia.
This disease is caused by infection with the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which is found in small mammals such as rodents and rabbits, and arthropods, such as ticks.
The bacterium that causes tularemia is most often transmitted to humans by tick or biting fly bite, handling of an infected animal, or inhalation or ingestion of the bacterium. My rule of thumb for cottontail and squirrels, hunt them only in the coldest part of the year and cook thoroughly.
As to game birds, some fit the table fare bill better than others. Quail and pheasant tend to be on the top end of the taste menu more so than duck or dove. The darker meat of these migratory birds, that fly great distances requires more creative recipes to get high marks on the flavor scale, at least for me.
While I love to fish and enjoy a good fish fry once in a while, I am not a huge fish eater. The beauty with fishing is, I can catch the fish and then release that same fish to be caught again another day. Keep in mind that you are certain to occasionally kill a fish that swallows a hook, at which time I will always take that fish home for consumption.
What about Predators and Furbearers ?
Exceptions to all the above comes when we begin discussing predatory species, such as bear or mountain lion and furbearers (fox, beaver, bobcat, etc.). The meat from these species is not required to be removed from the field in many states.
Why? Many do not consider meat from these species as optimal for human consumption, although any of these animals are certainly useable for protein.
Can there be concerns utilizing meat from a predatory animal? The short answer is yes. Wild pigs, bears and cats can be carriers of Trichinella spiralis, the roundworm that causes trichinosis in humans.
In nature, only the flesh of meat-eating animals like bears, mountain lions and pigs is known to sometimes carry trichinella.
The meat of plant-eaters, such as deer and elk, does not. Contamination is easily prevented by cleaning knives and cutting surfaces after processing, and cooking to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most bear meat for consumption is used as sausage, stews and kebabs Additionally overnight brining in saltwater before cooking also adds moisture to the finished meal, a technique often used for all wild game.
Moral to the story … if you are going to utilize meat from species that are considered predators or furbearers, then proper cooking protocols should be followed.
In today’s world of higher prices at the grocery store I make good use of all game harvested. If not for myself, I never have any problem donating meat to those who would like it.
The pioneers depended on wild game to survive. As a hunter today, not only is it ethical, but it is your responsibility to make good use of the animal you harvest. To do otherwise is a dishonor to the time-honored hunting tradition and to the wild animal itself.