Why I Shot a Deer (+ 7 Venison Marinades Recipes)

 

Last weekend my older cousin took me hunting for the first time. After I arrived at his house at 6 a.m and put on 5 layers of insulated hunting gear, I looked like Raphie’s brother in The Christmas Story. We walked through the barely illuminated woods about 75 yards behind his house to the installed deer stand 20 feet up.

Be aware! There are images of a butchered deer below. If you’re anti-hunting, don’t even read this article and move right along, please. There are some recipes below so skip this section if you don’t want to hear the background.

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How beautiful it was to watch the sun rise in complete stillness and silence on a frigid North Carolina morning. Soon after sunrise, the squirrels woke up. Listening for deer was easy before this because it was completely silent. But as the squirrels carefully dug in the piles of leaves looking for breakfast, it was difficult to distinguish their sounds versus the sounds of our prey.

We stayed there all morning and missed several opportunities. One smelled us, one heard us, one saw us. Their senses are infinitely more sensitive than ours. Maybe it smelled my chewing gum or the shampoo in my hair. Oops.

We went again that evening but he let me sit in that stand alone while he went to another area. I sat there in the beautiful silence of the woods for about 2 hours as the sun slowly sank below the horizon. I didn’t see anything and my disappointment began to kick in.

Then, out of nowhere, I heard a noise—almost like a bark or growl. I heard it 2 more times. Without hesitation or anxiety, I slowly pointed my 270 rifle at its heart and pulled the trigger.

It wasn’t till after the shot that my adrenaline started pumping. I stood up in the deer stand, tried to shake it off, and slowly climbed down the ladder with my gun. It ran about 50 yards to the middle of a field just beyond the edge of woods where the stand was located. When I walked up to her, I put my hand on her head and said, “I’m sorry, and thank you.” And as I waited for my cousins to help, I watched the final minutes of the sunset and thanked God for providing.

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You probably don’t want to know any other details after that. Cleaning a deer is not pretty or fun.

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But it was something I needed to do. I love animals very much, so I knew I would have to process it for a while and perhaps battle a little guilt. Most of that guilt is due to the fact that I am part of the Disney generation. We have humanized animals.

If I have no hesitation to eat meat from a factory that raises animals inhumanely, I needed to be able to humanely kill the animal on my own. Not only is it a great skill to have, but I truly felt it brought me closer to what it’s like to be a human. This is what my ancestors did.

I earned these 30 lbs. of meat.

I gutted it, dragged it with a harness out of the woods, helped skin it and dispose of the waste, watched it being butchered, bagged it and put it on ice, made marinades, ground, cased, cut, and stored it. I worked for it. It means something different than if I had just gone to the store and bought it. This meat hasn’t been tainted with GMOs, hormones, or preservatives. It’s good ol’ fashioned natural wild meat from an animal who spent its whole life roaming the lovely woods of central North Carolina, eating acorns, nuts and berries. You can’t get any fresher or more organic than that! I know what I’m eating and I know Who provided it for me. There is something, I dare say, spiritual about that.

Although most of you reading this have never hunted and don’t ever plan on it, hunting and gathering is the ultimate form of what it means to be Broke and Healthy. Deer meet is very healthy and lean, and minus the cost of buying a permit, it’s free. Yes, it takes time and effort to hunt, clean, and butcher, but I believe it is worth it. I believe it’s part of who we are as humans.

Here’s a picture of my cousin’s husband who used to be a butcher showing my other two cousins and I how to break down a deer. 

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Marinade Recipes

I wanted to show you how I prepared some of the cuts. I made about 7 different types of marinades that I’m going to experiment with. Through some research and advice, it seems that each marinade should have some sort of acid to help cut the gamey taste. Venison also has practically zero fat, so I’m putting a bit more oil in than I usually would for beef or chicken. Also, I’m sorry there are not exact recipes below. If you don’t feel comfortable winging it, do an internet search for recipes similar to it and consult on their measurements.

1. Our Family’s Traditional “Speedie” Sauce (Tried and true technique. Best recipe ever!)

Backstrap, very thin steaks and the tenderloin
This sauce came from the city I lived in when I was a child, Binghamton, NY. You really can’t go wrong with making this. Put about 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. I use a mixture of any vinegars I have on hand. Yesterday I used red wine vinegar, balsamic, and white wine vinegar. Then put in a ton of herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley. Really, whatever you have on hand. Throw in a few minced garlic cloves, onion powder, salt and pepper. Marinate steaks for at least 2-3 days for the best result.

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2. Chimichurri (Kind of) Sauce (Experiment)

Backstrap, very thin steaks and other thick steaks from the top sirloin
I basically blend together a ton of cilantro, oil, lime juice, cumin, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. You really can’t go wrong.

3. Indian/Ethiopian Dry Rub (Experiment)

Backstrap, very thin steaks and the tenderloin
I mixed together several different spices that resemble a type of Ethiopian beriberi spice mix including: lots of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and a medium amount of smoked paprika (not included in beriberi traditionally), cinnamon, cardamom, red pepper flakes, and turmeric. I should have added ginger powder, fenugreek and a little bit of cloves but I didn’t have any. If you don’t have any of these things then don’t add it! It’ll be great either way.

4. Asian Style Marinade (Experiment)

Thick steaks
I am really excited to try this one. I used freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh garlic, sesame oil, vegetable oil, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and some very thick teriyaki sauce. I wish I had ginger but I was out. I also sliced up the orange peels and put them in the bag to marinate too. I’m confident that this one will be a great experiment and really cover up that gamey flavor.

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5. Buttermilk, Salt and Pepper (Experiment)

Cubes and scrap meat for grinding or stews and other thick steaks
Often times, buttermilk is used to marinate chicken before it’s fried, as well as other meats. The main job of buttermilk is to act as a tenderizer to meat. The calcium degrades the proteins that holds the muscle fibers together. Now, as you may or may not know, venison is mostly muscle. It has practically no fat on it, so I figured I needed something to help break down the toughness for the chunks that I would be grinding up as well as the stew cubes. I honestly made a big fat guess to use buttermilk but I just learned that many cultures use buttermilk to help with the texture and toughness of goat, venison, and wild turkey! Good guess, eh? It’s also supposed to mellow the gamey flavors. (Update: When I ground the meat that had been soaking in this, it was incredibly tender and took almost all of the gamey taste out of it. Wow!)

6. Tomato Juice (Experiment)

Cubes and scrap meat for grinding or stews
This is definitely an experiment! The acid in the tomato juice should tenderize the meat and help remove the gamey flavor. I have never done this but I’m confident it will help. Most people don’t marinate the meat before grinding anyway, so really, it can’t hurt to try.

7. Coke (Experiment)

Cubes and scrap meat for grinding or stews
I’ve heard from several sources that good ol’ Coke does an excellent job with breaking down the muscle. Some say the citric acid helps break it down while the sugars help caramelize it when you cook it. I have no idea if it will work, but like I said with the tomato juice, it really can’t hurt it because these cubes will be used for grinding. I experimented with the tomato juice and Coke with these tougher cuts to see if they work. If they do, you better believe I’ll use it again for the nicer cuts too! (Update: I tried this and it worked very well! I would say that I think the buttermilk worked slightly better but not a majorly noticeable difference.)

Next time I want to try a baking soda mixture, as I’ve seen that baking soda really helps food break down while cooking.

When I get cooking, I’ll make sure to take pictures and give feedback.

Do you have any tried and true meat marinades?

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This is what the backstraps look like. They’re very tender and perfect for small steaks. 

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About Ande Truman

Ande has made mistakes in the kitchen since she could reach the countertop. From a restaurant head cook, to cooking meals for friends, to her own solo plate, experimenting & learning drives her. She’s also a freelance graphic & web designer, photo/videographer, guitar player and wanderlust-er. In her spare time, she works a full-time 8 to 5 cubicle job. She’s the creator of Broke & Healthy.

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Categories: Basil, Cilantro, Herbs, Meat, Recipes, Recipes by Ingredient, Venison

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3 Comments

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  1. I absolutely loved this post. My family and I bought a mini farm about 5 years ago and made the decision a couple years ago to try our hand at a bit of “homesteading.” We raise our own chickens and ducks for eggs and meat, grow a large garden for freezing and canning and harvest a few deer for meat each year. Hoping to add farm raised pork and turkey to the menu next year. I must say, I really appreciated your honesty and the openness you shared recounting the experience. I couldn’t agree more. Many people never really connect to our roots via hunting and gathering, something we really enjoy, and have lost touch with our own humanity and the gifts God has so abundantly provided. It really does give you a whole new level of appreciation for what you eat when your own hands are what bring it to the table.

  2. Congrats on your doe! I harvested my first one the week of Thanksgiving. My hubby is a big hunter, so it was awesome to have the bragging rights for the day.

    Two of the tried and true marinades we’ve used are as follows:

    FRY MEAT MARINADE:

    Buttermilk, about 3-4 cups, enough to cover meat
    Yellow mustard, about 1/4 cup
    Hot sauce, to taste (I use several good dashes and it doesn’t make it spicy at all.)
    Marinade for at least 4 hours.

    Pat dry meat and batter up with seasoned flour and fry. SOOOO good!

    TENDERLOIN MARINADE
    1 bottle of soy sauce
    2 cups brown sugar
    2 tbs freshly minced garlic
    white pepper
    1 minced shallot (or 1 tbs dried onion flakes)

    Marinade 8 hours. Rinse meat lightly and wrap in bacon. Grill over medium-high heat until desired doneness. Spoon remaining marinade over meat last 15-20 minutes for extra carmelization. Enjoy! (Baking at 375 degrees also works)

  3. I have never harvested a deer but would love the experience. Good for you! You are so blessed to have family to mentor you.