After I posted the first part of Tom’s story about hunting, I received a lot of comments. Thank you so much and here is the second part. I thought going hunting and getting an animal is difficult, but the next part is much more complicated. What should we do right after the shot to keep the meat of the animals from spoiling? Then what are the next steps in processing the meat and keeping them in the freeze? All the questions will be answered in the below story. Please enjoy and don’t hesitate to ask any question down below.
AFTER THE SHOT. After successfully hunting and shooting an animal, the real work begins: taking care of the meat so that it does not spoil.
First, the animal must be gutted, the process of cutting open the animal and removing the organs so that the meat cools as rapidly as possible. If it is a smaller animal, it can be moved by cart or vehicle to camp or home to be hung up to further cool before the hide is removed and the animal is cut into smaller pieces. The picture below shows me starting the process of gutting an antelope shot by my partner. The internal organs – the guts – are left in the field where scavengers eat them.
Large animals, such as the 225 kilogram cow elk my partner shot, shown in the picture above, must be cut into smaller pieces in order to be removed from the field. After the head and hide are removed the meat can be cut up packaged and frozen. In order prevent the freezer from “burning” the meat, a small machine is used to vacuum pack the meat by removing all air before the package is heat-sealed.
The picture above shows me with a piece of the hind quarter of the cow elk (my partner and I shared the meat from both elk). The same piece of meat from a large bull elk would be more than twice as large!
EATING WILD GAME. Depending on the age of the animal and the kinds of food they eat, the flavor of the meat of these animals can be mild or strong, tender or tough. Pronghorn, deer and elk meat is also much healthier than domestic animals such as cattle, sheep or pigs because it is very low in fat and cholesterol.
The pronghorn buck was 4-5 years old, and the meat is flavorful but rather tough. This means that it is best used as ground meat in sausages, hamburgers other dishes in which ground meat is often used, such as chili – a spicy and well-seasoned stew originating in the American Southwest.
My partner shot a younger buck pronghorn and two young females (does), so the meat will be more tender and the more tender parts (the tenderloin and “backstrap” – the lateral muscle at the top of the rib cage) will make excellent steaks.
Both deer were young – about two years old – and the meat is tender and mild. In addition to steaks, large pieces from the front (forequarter) and rear (hindquarter) can be used as roasts or mut into smaller pieces for stir-fry, soups, stews and other dishes.
The same is true for the calf elk and cow elk, but even more so: elk are the most flavorful and tender, as well as the biggest of these game animals.
When cutting up these animals there will be many small scraps, which are sued for making sausages and ground meats. The pictures below shows some finished chorizo sausage (a spicy sausage that is common in Spain, Portugal, Mexico and the US), and our freezer full of processed meat. We will not have to buy any meat for the next year, and will be able to share what we have with family and friends.
In addition to the challenge of hunting and the pleasure of eating wild animals, hunting is also a way to stay connected with those early Americans for whom hunting was an act of survival. This was brought home to my hunting partner and me on the day we shot our two deer. As we walked back onto my partner’s property to get our truck and bring it closer so we could get our deer out of the field, I looked down and saw what I first thought were two very large leaves of a tree nearby, yellowish-brown in color. When I looked closer, I realized they were stones and when I picked them I realized I had found ancient stone tools.
When I researched them, I learned that I had discovered 11,000 year old stone choppers used by prehistoric Native Americans to butcher very large game such as mastodons and mammoths, prehistoric elephants that lived in North America. The very place my partner and I had killed our pronghorn, deer and elk was where the ancestors of American Indians had killed their game 11,000 years ago. It was an absolutely perfect way to end our day!
I hope this article gives you some idea of the hunting tradition in the United States, and what one hunter experienced in his hunting season in the open spaces of the American West. I am fortunate to live in a country rich in wild animals, where hunters, state and federal governments work together to manage them so that I can enjoy hunting. I hope we can continue to wisely manage our open spaces and wild animals so that future generations will have the same opportunity I have had to enjoy our outdoors and the animals that inhabit our beautiful land.
By Tom Mattis