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Venison, the Hunter’s Healthy Choice

Jim Hamrick with his deer kill from the northeast side of the state where he has a hunting cabin.
Jim Hamrick with his deer kill from the northeast side of the state where he has a hunting cabin.

By Jim Hamrick

Hunting season is over, the guns and hunting clothes are cleaned and in storage. If you were successful you have forty to seventy-five pounds of processed venison in the freezer.

Right about now the New Year’s resolution you made to eat healthier is wearing thin. Salads, chicken, and fish are not providing the satisfaction that a big juicy steak or hamburger would provide. If high cholesterol is your worry head to the freezer and let your hard won venison help you keep your New Year’s resolution. Venison is lower in calories (only 134) in three ounces of venison compared to (247) in three ounces of beef. Venison is lower in fat grams (only 3) compared to (15) in beef. On the good side venison is higher in protein, vitamin B6, niacin and riboflavin. A nice big venison round steak or big juicy hamburger should satisfy your craving.

I have been hunting Michigan Deer since 1976. My wife and I mostly live on fish, venison, and chicken. We both maintain cholesterol and blood pressure in normal ranges. I try to shoot two deer a year for our diet. One buck for ego and a doe for my part in population control.

Most of my deer hunting takes place in Ogemaw County east of West Branch, Michigan.

The county has a dense deer population. Most local hunters are meat hunters and there is a good deal of poaching. Ogemaw County has one of the lowest success rates for trophy deer in the state. I have had the good fortune to be part of a deer camp owned by retired Lt. Col. Bob Rajewski (USAF) for the past thirty-four years.

Venison is a large part of our diet. Our favorite meal is venison tenderloin, known as the back straps, by most hunters. We cook the back straps several ways but most often I season them with a seasoning called Patti’s (available only at D and R Sports Center), and wrap them in bacon and cook on a low grill until the bacon is crispy. Bacon holds in the moisture and tenderloins live up to their name, and are as tender as any beef steak.

Let’s talk about steak. Venison round steak is the largest cut of the deer other than roast but we all desire a good steak. This year I learned a whole new process for preparing venison steak. Over the years I have tried numbers of marinades, rubs and seasonings to tenderize, remove gamey flavor, (which I have never experienced in properly dressed venison), and make appealing to non-hunters. I ran across an article by Hank Shaw for brining venison. His article has totally changed our venison preparation and increased our enjoyment of venison steaks.

Two table spoons of salt added to two quarts of water. Soak your venison for one to two hours. Two hours removes any “gamey taste” and totally tenderizes your steaks. There are several herbs you can add to your brine to change the flavor to whatever taste you enjoy. Brining longer than two hours will not do any harm, however it can add a salty taste. Once brining is complete pat your meat dry and cook as you desire. Do not overcook venison, we always eat our steaks medium rare to medium. We always want a pink middle. Over cooked venison will be dry and tasteless.

Ground venison is the most consumed portion of the deer. Most hunters enjoy venison Chili and everyone has their favorite recipe. A pound of venison burger, two cans of chili or red beans, a can of tomatoes, a can of tomato soup, some onions, peppers and salt and pepper make a great winter meal. We use venison burger in all of our dishes calling for ground meat. I have roast and smaller steaks ground into burger so we maximize the use of our deer.

If you were a successful Michigan deer hunter, now is the time to head for the freezer and really enjoy the fruits of all that hard work in the woods.

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