I’ll never forget the taste of the deer meat from my first buck back in 1988.
It was horrible.
I knew better than to complain or refuse eating it for fear of not being allowed to ever hunt again. It was my first deer, and it was the first deer my mom had ever tried to cook. She didn’t know what she was doing, nor did she know how quick venison would dry out. The result was a meal that most of my family fed to the dog.
I’ve killed many deer since that time, and over the years have learned to deliver a more suitable venison dinner to the table. But I still hear from others that struggle.
Every once in a while, I’ll hear a new hunter talk about how their deer meat tasted awful. And after a few quick questions, it’s usually pretty easy to narrow down the reason for the poorly prepped meat.
So while in a recent hunting camp with the crew from Realtree, I spent some time with blogger, Michael Pendley, on why some hunters struggle to properly prepare their venison for the table. Pendley is an incredible cook and blogger for Realtree’s Timber2Table food blog. According to Pendley, here’s 5 reasons why your deer meat may taste like trash.
1. Not Taking Care of the Meat
Many hunters underestimate the need to properly take care of the deer after the shot. They’ll drag their deer through the swamp and mud, or drive around town with a buck in the bed of the truck during warm weather. Never once considering the need to get the meat in the cooler as quick as possible.
2. Not Cleaning It
Getting the guts out of your deer is great, but don’t stop there. Be sure you take the time to thoroughly clean your deer after removing the guts from the cavity.
Do your best to remove all blood, urine, or fecal matter from the deer, inside and out. Use a water hose if you have access to one. Otherwise, use the cleanest water you can find from a creek, pond, or lake to rinse the carcass.
You want better deer meat? Commit to taking care of the meat from the moment it hits the ground.
3. Not Having a Good Game Plan for a Processor
Things can go south quickly if you don’t have a solid plan for getting your deer to a meat processor. If you’re relying on someone else to process your meat, you need to make sure you have the plan to get it to them within working hours.
Ask the basic questions. When do they close? Are there any opportunities for after-hours drop off? If the processor is closed, what’s your Plan B? Don’t be the hunter that allows a deer to go to waste because you’re not prepared.
4. You Did a Poor Job at Processing it Yourself
You can always ditch the processor and tackle the butchering chores for yourself. Just make sure you know what you’re doing. It’s not the toughest task, but you do need to know what you’re doing, or at least have someone around that does.
There are countless hunters that attempt to process their own game each year, yet come up disappointed. Why? Because they did a poor job processing their meat. It’s a skill every hunter needs to learn.
Fortunately, there’s a seemingly endless supply of videos and books on the subject. Take the time to do your homework, and learn the skill of butchering your own game to avoid having your deer meat taste like trash.
5. You Overcooked It
The greatest sin you’ll ever commit when it comes to venison prep is to overcook it. It’s not hard to do. And when it happens, you can bet it’ll taste like trash – or at least, chewy leather.
Venison typically needs to come off the grill, or out of the skillet, before you think it’s ready. If you wait until you think it’s ready, 9 times out of 10, it’ll be overcooked.
Cook your venison to around 125 – 130 degrees, and you’re golden. Let it cook until 150 degrees, and it’ll be well done – and tough. Sooner is always better than later when it comes to pulling your venison off the grill.
What about you? What’s your routine for ensuring the best quality deer meat each season? Comment below, and let us know what you think.