Most hunters participate in the
sport because they enjoy it. But an added benefit is that most game meat is healthier
than domestically raised meat. For instance, venison has more nutrients than beef
and has less fat and cholesterol.
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It is also higher in protein.
Similarly, bison or buffalo is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, but it also
has fewer calories than chicken! Bison is ideal for nutritional content because
it has a high ratio of essential fatty acids and omega acids. Elk is another game
meat that has a flavor similar to beef, but it is again lower in calories, fat,
and cholesterol. It has the added advantage of being higher in protein and iron.
Wild boar has a very intense flavor compared to pork, and is leaner and higher in
protein. Finally, rabbit is the only meat that can be fully broken down by
the body for energy. It is low in calories, cholesterol, and sodium; yet it is nutrient
rich with a high amount of protein and B vitamins. Because game meat is so much
lower in fat than other meats, it is best served rare or medium rare; slow, low
heat cooking methods are best, such as in stews or roasts, while pan searing is
another option. With this method, sear the meat to seal in flavor, then slow cook
to the appropriate level.
How to Debone and Butcher Big Game
Deer, Moose, Elk, Caribou, Antelope
Get the cleanest kill possible; a head or neck shot is preferred, with the heart being second. A gut shot can ruin the meat. Immediately after the kill, bleed the carcass by placing it on a slope with the head facing downhill for best drainage. Keep the carcass as cool as possible before, during, and after dressing and skinning. While in the process of dressing, be careful not to let the contents of the bladder or intestines come into contact with the meat. If you remove the musk gland from the hind quarter, don't let the secretion get on hands, knife, or meat. When skinning, don't let the hairs from the musk gland come into contact with the meat, but be sure to remove all hairs from the carcass before it dries. Once the kill is dressed, wash the inside cavity thoroughly with clean water and wipe dry. When dressed, clean, and dry, store the meat in a well vented game bag or wrapped well in cheese cloth. The carcass should be hung in a cold locker for at least 10 days to acquire the best taste. Skinning the carcass after it has aged results in a moister meat that will not turn dark. To prepare for the freezer, wrap the meat first in saran wrap, then freezer paper; this will prevent some of the freezer burn after long storage.
Remove all possible fat. Never let the bear's hair come in contact with the meat. Keep carcass as cool as possible; bear has a large amount of fat and fat becomes rancid much faster than meat.
Remove the scent gland from the center and toward the rear of the back. Be careful not to rupture it. Clean hands and knife immediately afterward.
As always, start with a clean kill to the head. Raccoon are best when taken in the winter months. Cut the jugular vein and hang by tail immediately after the kill. Keep cool until ready to dress. Remove the glands from under the front legs and fleshy part of the rear legs before dressing. Remove as much fat as possible from the carcass. Gut, remove head, tail, and feet, and rinse well. In a non-metallic container mix 2 gallons water with 5 tablespoons of baking soda and a1/2 cup salt. Completely submerge the raccoon in the brine solution, and refrigerate overnight before preparing. To store the raccoon in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to freeze it in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid.
As always, start with a clean kill to the head. Possum are best when taken in the winter months. Cut the jugular vein and hang by tail immediately after the kill. Keep cool until ready to dress. Scald in boiling water with a 1/2 cup of lime juice until the hair has loosened, about 30 seconds. With a trowel or large, dull knife, scrape the hair from the carcass. Remove musk glands from under front legs; then gut, remove head, tail, and feet, and rinse well. In a non-metallic container, mix 2 gallons of water with 5 tablespoons of baking soda and a 1/2 cup of salt. Completely submerge the possum in brine, and refrigerate overnight. To store it in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to freeze the meat in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid.
Get a clean head shot or use a light load with size 6-7 shot to avoid deep penetration. Cut the jugular vein and bleed immediately after the kill. Keep the squirrel cool until skinned and dressed; field dressing is even better. When dressing, inspect the liver for signs of tularemia. If infected, the liver will have white of yellow spots on it. If any signs exist, discard the carcass. It is acceptable to cook squirrel right after dressing, but to cook it later, place the meat in the refrigerator in a non metallic container with a mixture of 1 gallon of water, 1/4 cup of salt, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. To store it in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to freeze it in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid.
Get a clean head shot or use a light load with size 6-7 shot to avoid deep penetration. Only hunt rabbit if the weather has been cool for a month or so. Cut the jugular vein and bleed immediately after the kill. Keep the rabbit cool until skinned and dressed; field dressing is even better. When dressing, inspect the liver for signs of tularemia, "rabbit fever". If infected, the liver will have white of yellow spots on it. If any signs exist, discard the carcass. You can cook rabbit right after dressing, but if you intend on cooking it later, place the meat in the refrigerator in a non metallic container with a mixture of 1 gallon of water, a 1/4 cup of salt, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Larger, older rabbits should be parboiled to tenderize. Place meat in a large pot of boiling water with 1 tablespoon of salt, cover and boil until tender; be careful not to overcook. To store in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to freeze in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid.
Remove musk glands from the lower belly. Soak in 1 gallon of water with 1/8 cup of salt for 8 hours. To store in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to freeze in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid.
Duck, Goose, Turkey, Pheasant
Shoot birds from a distance that will not tear up the meat, but will obtain a clean kill. Clean and dress the birds as soon as possible after the kill. Some people like to take the easy way out by skinning instead of plucking, but the bird will be much juicier and more flavorful if the skin is left on. Pull the feathers out in the direction they grow to prevent the skin from tearing. The smaller pinfeathers can be removed by singeing them off with a torch or holding over the flame of the stove. When dressing, be careful not to break the gall bag attached to the liver. Save the liver, heart, gizzard, and neck for broth or an extra treat. Soak birds overnight in a non metallic container with a mixture of 1 gallon of water, a 1/4 cup of salt, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Larger, older birds can be parboiled to tenderize. To parboil, place in a large pot of boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt, cover and boil until tender; be careful not to overcook. To store in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to piece the bird out and freeze in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid.
Chukar, Grouse, Quail, Dove, Partridge, Pigeon
Shoot birds from a distance that will not tear up the meat, but will obtain a clean kill. Clean and dress the birds as soon as possible after the kill. Some people like to take the easy way out by skinning instead of plucking, the bird will be much juicier and more flavorful if the skin is left on. To store in the freezer for any length of time, it is best to freeze in a plastic container filled with water with a tightly sealed lid. Close >>
Field dressing is an important part
of a proper kill. Big game needs to be field dressed immediately in most situations
to prevent spoiling. Field dressing removes a good deal of the fat, which spoils
quickest, and it allows bodily fluids and body heat, both of which accelerate decomposition,
to escape from the carcass.
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Additionally, proper field
dressing can be required by law - some localities have laws that require the removal
of all edible meat from a carcass. It is also helpful in lightening the load carried
back to camp by dividing it into smaller sections.
Correct field dressing actually begins with the killing shot - make sure it is a clean kill, to the head or to the heart, to prevent contamination of the meat by fluids from the internal organs. A clean kill also prevents the animal from running prior to death; exertion can cause the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle, which causes it to spoil faster and gives it a stronger gamey taste. Do not take meat from an animal that is behaving strangely, no matter the reason. Be sure to use only sanitized equipment, and clean it frequently during the field dressing process. Wear rubber or latex gloves to prevent contamination from your hands; ones that are elbow length also protect clothing from soiling.
When approaching a downed animal, ensure that it is dead. There are numerous occasions of a hunter being injured by an animal presumed dead when it was really just stunned. Once the game is definitively determined to be dead, prop the carcass on its back in an area with a slope or angle, and work on the downhill side for best drainage. Begin by cutting around the anus to loosen the internal organs there. Use the Granton Edge Curved Boning Knife or the Breaking Knife. Clean the knife, and using the same Granton Edge Curved Boning Knife or the Breaking Knife, make the first incision just below the breastbone at the upper abdomen. Lift the skin and insert two fingers palm up below the skin to separate it from the muscle. Insert the Granton Edge Curved Knife or the Breaking Knife between the fingers, edged side up, and cut from the breastbone to the anus. This prevents contamination by providing a guide so the internal organs are not cut; it also prevents any fluids from being dragged to the clean meat at the breast. Cut around the testicles and discard them if the kill is male. Many hunters cut around the anus and tie it off, which allows it to be drawn out through the body cavity. However, it is also possible to cut the pelvic bone with a Cleaver or Professional Butcher Meat Saw and expose the intestinal canal and remove the intestine out in the field. If the internal organs smell offensive or give off a green discharge or black blood, discard the carcass in the appropriate manner and do not take any meat from the kill.
Using the Granton Edge Curved Boning Knife or the Breaking Knife, cut and remove the diaphragm, then cut and remove the windpipe and gullet, and remove the lungs heart and entrails. Use the Straight Boning Knife, the Straight Super Narrow Boning Knife, or the Poultry Knife for the most detailed work. Once the cavity is cleaned, pat it dry with clean paper towels and wipe it down to remove hair and other debris or bodily fluids. If there is potable water available, it is acceptable to rinse out the cavity, but be sure to pat it dry immediately. Do not use water from an unfiltered source like a natural spring, as it can contain high amounts of bacteria. Because the kill spot is often too dirty for butchering, or the supplies are not available, it is usually necessary to transport the carcass back to camp at this point. If this is the case, fill the carcass with bags of ice or snow and tie the body cavity shut. This will keep the meat from spoiling. Cover the meat with a cheese cloth or game bag; do not use plastic bags since they will keep in heat and moisture. To keep flies off the meat, dust it heavily with ground black pepper if there are no bags available.
During transportation, it is essential to follow state and municipal regulations. While moving the carcass by foot, drag it by the antlers or neck. Do not carry the carcass high on your back, as it can lead to serious strain and injury, and tie orange flags to the antlers to ensure other hunters recognize it as a dead animal, not a living one (since it is moving). For transportation by vehicle, secure it in an appropriate location; do not tie it to the roof or hood, and don't put it in the trunk. All of these locations will heat the meat to unacceptable levels, and some may result in limited visibility. Wherever the deer is located on a vehicle, be sure to cover it as a courtesy to other drivers. While they may not have any objection to hunting, many do not want to see a dead animal, or worse, have their children see one. Moreover, most local laws and regulations require covering game being transported by vehicle. Be aware also of the local regulations concerning which parts of the kill must be left attached to the carcass. For waterfowl, regulations often require one full, feathered wing remain attached to the carcass for identification purposes.
Once the carcass is field dressed and transported, it should be butchered immediately, or hanged to age. It is easiest to do this by hanging the deer for proper drainage. Hang it by the neck or antlers, or set a stick between the rear legs (insert it between the tendon and the bone) and tie a rope to it; put a notch in the center of the stick so the rope does not slide, causing the stick to tilt. Set a clean stick in the body cavity to hold it open and allow good air circulation. This is imperative for preventing spoilage. If the meat is going to be aged, leave the hide on and let it hang for up to 3 days at 40 F. Leaving the hide on prevents excessive drying of the meat and allows it to age for a more tender meat. When it is ready for butchering, skin the carcass using the Granton Edge Curved Boning Knife, Straight Boning Knife, Straight Super Narrow Boning Knife, Breaking Knife, and/or Poultry Knife. Use the Cleaver and Professional Butcher Meat Saw to butcher the animal into the following cuts: neck, front upper leg , front shank (lower leg), brisket (chest), ribs, flank, hind upper leg (and hip), hind shank (lower leg), rump, loin (back), and shoulder.
Now that the carcass is butchered, the meat can be frozen or prepared for immediate consumption. Freeze meat with plenty of space for air to circulate; the pieces of meat can be stacked tightly after they are frozen. Ensure that meat to be frozen is wrapped well in multiple layers of wrap, such as wax paper and a tightly sealed freezer bag. Frozen game meat should be consumed within 6 months, and it should always be thawed in the refrigerator. Close >>
Baiting, Beagling, Blind/Stand Hunting,
Calling, Camouflage, Dogs, Stalking/Still Hunting, Tracking, Trapping Read More >>
Baiting - using decoys, lures, or scent to attract game. Baiting is often used in bear hunting. Often, the bait in this case is a mixture of something sweet, like honey or frosting, and something with a strong scent, like rotten meat.
Beagling - using a pack of beagles to hunt rabbits or hares, and occasionally fox. Typically, the hunters follow on foot, though there are rare instances of hunters following on horseback. Beagling has been banned in the UK since 2004.
Blind/Stand Hunting - using a hunting blind to conceal the hunter's presence during a hunt. These are used most often in duck hunting and deer hunting, but may be illegal in certain areas.
Calling - using a game call to mimic animal noises to attract game to a hunter. This method is used most successfully for deer, turkey, duck, geese, moose, elk, raccoons, wild pigs, and coyote. Calling require knowledge of specific techniques and timing, so the hunter should become familiar with the information pertinent to his/her quarry.
Camouflage - using clothing, etc. to conceal appearance or scent of the hunter. Bright orange is a safety color for deer hunting because humans see it as a bright color, but it acts as a camouflage because deer see it as a dull color. Camouflage is used for hunting most game animals.
Dogs - using hunting dogs to assist in hunting. The type of dog used may depend on the quarry being pursued. Sighthounds (best for open territory) hunt by sight and speed to pursue and kill game, while scenthounds hunt by scent to trail game and tree it. Gun dogs are used primarily with birds or other small game killed with a shotgun. Retrievers are dogs that retrieve the shot game, while setters, pointers and spaniels are all used to locate and flush game for the hunter.
Stalking/Still Hunting - pursuing an animal on foot. This method is used often with deer hunting.
Tracking - using signs of an animal's presence to pursue the animal. This method is used with many types of game hunting.
Trapping - using a trap or snare to catch an animal for food, fur, or pest control. Trapping is used for beaver, coyote, raccoon, wolverine, mink, ermine, American pine marten, bobcat, lynx, muskrat and fox. This method is highly regulated in most areas to prevent excessive suffering to the animals caught, and to reduce the catching of non-target animals like domestic pets or protected animals. Close >>
Deer: In the US, one of the most
commonly hunted game animals is the deer. To the east of the Rocky Mountains, the
white-tailed deer is most common species, while to the west, the mule deer is more
common. Read More >>
Deer are usually hunted by stalking, stand hunting,
still hunting, line drives, or spot and stalk hunting. Spot and stalk hunting is
usually used in mountains or other areas where the hunter can see large tracks of
land at one time. Most methods require tracking of some sort and recognizing deer
rubs, scrapes and tracks are essential.
Understanding deer movement is key to a successful hunt, because hunters are more likely to find deer on the move. They are most active just before sunset and just after sunset, or after a storm. They are also more active during rutting season, and are more likely to take risks at this time they normally wouldn't. Deer likewise seem to be influenced by lunar phases and are active when the moon is directly overhead.
The equipment used for hunting often depends on the skill of the hunter, the season, and local regulations. Bow hunting often has a longer season, and consists of compound, recurve, and traditional bows, as well as crossbows. Crossbows are most often permitted for only disabled hunters who cannot draw a bow on their own. Rifles, shotguns, and other firearms are all common hunting tools, although rifle hunting is more strictly limited than shotgun hunting. Muzzleloaders are also common. In rare instances, spears and bladed weapons are used. Most often this occurs during a horseback hunt.
Other equipment includes camouflage, deer stands/blinds, knives, deer calls, and GPS units. Deer stands/blinds can be used at ground level or in trees, depending on the design. Which one is chosen depends on the hunter's preference, the terrain, and local regulations. Knives are used for skinning and field dressing the deer, not usually for making the kill.
Turkey: Another commonly hunted animal is wild turkey. Turkeys tend to be found in hardwood and evergreen forests that contain areas of open land like fields, orchards, and marshes. Finding turkeys depends upon finding good food sources, which include nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, and salamanders. Hunting may be easiest in the spring, during mating season, because male and female turkeys respond to calls and decoys best during this time.
Because turkeys have exceptional sight, camouflage is important for any hunt, including gun camouflage. Often a blind of some sort is recommended. Turkey calls, which can be either friction or mouth calls, are useful in drawing in a turkey, while decoys can keep the focus off the hunter so the turkey will not scare as easily before the hunter can take a shot.
Duck: Duck hunting is another popular sport in the US, with many waterfowl sharing the same habitat and season; this means hunters can bag a variety of bird species in one hunt. Shotguns are the most popular weapons for hunting, while rifles are illegal. Shot provides a better chance at killing a bird, anyway, because it is a small, fast-moving target. Lead shot has been illegalized in the US because it has resulted in lead poisoning of a variety of species. Steel shot is not as effective as lead shot; however, dense metals have been developed that have properties closer to lead. These shells are more expensive, though.
Duck calls are frequently employed by hunters to attract ducks by enticing them with potential "mates" or food, or by assuring the target animal that it is a safe location. Many duck calls can produce a variety of calls, although the most common is designed for the mallard, as it is the most common species in the US. Camouflage is important for the hunter, and clothing should reflect this. Since duck hunting is usually in the fall and winter around bodies of water, warm, waterproof clothing is essential. Hunters often use natural blinds as camouflage, or build temporary structures that operate as blinds. Blinds can even be set up on a boat.
Dogs are frequently used in duck hunting because they are able to track down injured or killed birds in the water without the difficulties a hunter faces. Not only are dogs more able to locate the duck, they are also less affected by cold, wet conditions. Because it is considered bad sportsmanship to leave an injured or killed duck, dogs can serve an especially important function in duck hunting. Close >>