Hunting has always been a big part of our existence. One of the main reasons we decided to leave the city was so my husband could hunt at home. His dream was to be able to sit out in his own field and shoot supper. So, acreage and location decisions were based on affordability and white-tailed deer population.
My husband remembers when his dad started taking him on hunting trips. For many Prairie men those hunting trips are their passage from child to man. The responsibility of feeding their families is passed on from father to son. On those trips the lessons on the responsibility of gun ownership were combined with the responsibility of the decision to take a life for food. Those lessons stay with them forever.
The children remember when they were little and Grandpa would come and stay for a week at deer season. Chores had to be done an hour earlier so the men could get out to hunt in time for sunrise. That was the only time of the year that I didn t have to argue with children to get them out the door before dawn. Then we would wait with anticipation for Daddy and Grandpa to come back home. If we heard a shot we would wonder if it was from them. Our family loves deer liver. It is a once-a-year treat.
I think deer have a sense of humour too. More than once we got calls from neighbours telling us that they had seen a big buck in our front yard in the middle of the afternoon while the men were eating and warming up. We never saw it though, but the hoofprints were there. I could imagine them looking in the windows laughing as they passed by.
Then after days of waiting patiently, Grandpa or Daddy would come back early for a mealtime and the children knew that meant they had bagged an animal. For families that don t hunt, I can assure you it is a bittersweet moment. There is an adrenalin rush and huge excitement, but there is also the sombre reality that another of God s creatures has given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can survive.
So, when our children decided to take their hunter s safety certificate it was my husband s turn to pass on what his father had taught him, and his father before him, about the messy parts of hunting. They always said, after the shot is fired that is when the work starts. I have watched the two of them trudge through snow and bush for a whole day following blood trails because they didn t get the quick kill. But it is the responsible hunter who finishes the job. It is also the responsible hunter who hunts to eat and help to control the numbers of geese, etc. in the process. Hunting is a very necessary part of our ecosystem that is unfortunately losing public support. This is another reason why when our children showed an interest in hunting we supported their decision.
By and large, wild meat is lower in fat and depending on what crops they have been grazing on, fairly chemical free. Whitetailed deer is a source of red meat that isn t injected with hormone
implants either. But, for the inexperienced palate wild meat can take some getting used to. There are a few tricks though.
When we were first married, my mother-in-law told me to soak the meat in a salt, vinegar, water brine overnight before cooking it. I use enough water to cover the meat, 1/2 cup pickling salt and about 1/2 cup vinegar. If the meat floats, turn it over so it doesn t get dry. This will successfully pull out extra blood that is in the meat, which is one reason it can have a game flavour. Another complaint is that wild meat can be dry, due to its lack of fat, so wrapping it with bacon or any pork fat is helpful.
My daughter isn t crazy about Canada goose cooked whole but will eat it ground. I then use it for the same recipes I would use ground beef for. My son s personal favourite is Goose Jerky. We use the same recipe for making Deer Jerky.
MARINADE FOR JERKY
1/2 c. soy sauce
2 tbsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. water
4 tbsp. sugar
Slice meat in thin strips and make enough marinade to just cover it. Then let meat soak in the marinade for at least two hours; overnight in the fridge works well. Drain. Place strips in a single layer in dehydrator or on a cookie sheet and dehydrate at 150 F till crispy. Store in the fridge.
We are all looking forward to deer in our freezer this winter. All the water in our area has been keeping our men from hunting and putting a lot of extra stress on the deer population for the last three years, but it is drier here. My son is starting to talk about good spots and my husband has been talking about getting the guns ready. It s been awhile since we had a good feed of deer liver so I hope they are lucky.
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For families that don t hunt, I can assure you it is a bittersweet moment