Processing and Preparing Wild Game: Leading the Way for Youth

 

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By: David Holder Raised Hunting
By: David Holder Raised Hunting

There is truly something special and spiritual about the fall, cooler air, the changing of the leaves giving way to the first snow of the year. Fall is truly a magical time to put on the Realtree and hit the woods. Fall is also the season of the harvest. Not only harvesting game, and processing game, but also for farmers. The hard working and dedicated agricultural producers of our Country begin to literally and figuratively reap what they have sown, providing a means to take care of us here in the United States as well as many countries overseas.

Of course, you cannot think about fall, and especially the month of November without thinking about the tradition of thanksgiving. Giving thanks for all we have, that too is a very magical and spiritual thing itself.  Giving that fall is the season of harvest and a time reflect and give thanks on the bounties that God has provided, perhaps it’s only fitting that hunting season occurs during this time of year.  Having the ability to head out into the woods, and enjoy the cool fall atmosphere with friends and family, enjoying the bounty that nature has provided is something that all of us should be thankful for.

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One of the most popular characterizations of hunters by non-hunters is that we do not appreciate nor respect true animals we are pursuing.To them, all we care about is all letting the GoldTip fly, and nothing more past that. If you are a hunter, you know that this premise could not be any further from the truth.  Sportsmen and women do more to conserve and protect our natural resources and the wildlife that we pursue than anyone.This goes along with many other non-game species as well. We give billions of dollars annually to help manage our wild landscapes and the animals that live within, and we self-impose limits and restrictions to ensure that others can enjoy these resources for generations to come. Hunting and the hunting lifestyle instills ethics and  an appreciation for our environment and our natural resources. It teaches hard work, discipline, compassion, and unity. You see it’s not all about the kill, it’s about enjoying nature and harvesting a hearty and healthy food source to help feed our families. We are thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy nature in such a way!

The Other Side of Hunting

When we talk about the sport of hunting having the ability to instill a work ethic, many would have you believe that it is all about the work that goes into making the hunt happen. While that is certainly the case, the work doesn’t end once the animal is one the ground.  One of the best ways to get youth involved in the sport of hunting in a way that will help to teach them what it means to truly “harvest” an animal is to get them involved in the “dirty work”.   Harvesting, processing game, and cooking your own harvested meat usually requires a lot of work, especially if you are planning to process the game yourself. While the small game doesn’t require much effort (other than packing the Gamo) as say a white-tailed deer or elk. Cleaning and processing wild game is a skill and requires attention to detail and there is not a better way to learn than “hands-on”.

If you are introducing a youngster to the art of self-processing your game, sometimes it’s almost better to start out with a larger animal like a white-tailed deer. Reason being is it’s easier for them to see what you are doing, and there are opportunities to get them involved right away. Regardless if they are holding a leg, or holding a light getting them involved early helps to ensure that the lessons you are instilling take hold. It’s can be very easy for a young mind to wander, getting them engaged is critical.

Talking them through the process is good, showing them the process is better, letting them help while explaining the “why” and the “how” is best.   It is important for them to learn and understand that if you plan to harvest an animal, you had better be prepared to put in the time after the trigger is pulled.

Though big game animals are great for illustrating the principals behind cleaning and processing wild game, for their first solo attempt, nothing beats working on a smaller animal like a squirrel or a rabbit. Although the process is a little different, game bird species like quail and waterfowl are also excellent starter animals. Though the process may be different, the concept is still the same!  You might just surprise at just how many do not take the time to properly educate young hunters on the process of “field to freezer”. Will the pickup bits and pieces along the way? Sure, and is there something to be said about learning by doing?  You bet, but by taking the time to step them through the process and teaching them how to use a knife effectively you can certainly save them a lot of time and frustration.

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Never Too Late to Brush Up

Now, you might be thinking “yeah this is all great, and I can see teaching my child how to field dress a deer but we take our game to a processor”. If you are one of the many who elects to have their game professionally processed, that is fantastic as well. There is not a thing wrong with having your harvest processed by a professional.  That is your choice!  At the end of the day, it is all about the lesson that comes from the harvest, and that is simply “respect the animal”.

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As we have made mention several times up to this point, processing wild game is certainly a skill. The skill necessary to effectively process wild game can certainly he honed over time. However, there are many of us out there who have probably never really be taught the “proper” way to process wild game. Whether you are taking the animal to your home for processing, or you a the type who prefers to debone the animal in the field there is certainly a right and wrong way to complete the process.

If you fall into this category, don’t be ashamed. There are many just like you!  Regardless if you have never been officially taught yourself, or you just want to brush up on your techniques there are opportunities out there to do just that.   For starters, pay a visit to your local butcher. Generally, they are more than willing to discuss proper cutting techniques, types of cuts and can generally provide you with a few helpful storage tips as well. If you are looking for a something that is a little more hands on, many states offer “field to freezer” courses through their fish and game departments.  These courses provide hands-on learning opportunities that can teach everything that you need to know to clean and process both large and small game.

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Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor

Teaching a youngster that the work isn’t over once the trigger is pulled is a very valuable lesson that will help them develop into excellent outdoor men and women.  Giving the tools and information they need to be able to properly clean and process the game the harvest is a really important piece of the whole hunting experience.  The final piece of the puzzle that helps paint the whole picture is enjoying the fruits of your labor, and preparing a meal that consists of the game you have harvested.

There is no doubt that cooking is a very technical skill that can often require many hours in the kitchen to perfect and hone the craft.  Luckily, when it comes to a wild game there is a plethora of menu options and recipes that are available either on-line or in a wild game cookbook that anyone can complete and enjoy.

Click Here For Raised Hunting Wild Game Recipes!

From grilling, jerky and baking to crockpot meals, there is an abundance of options that even a youngster can master in just a few tries.  The wild game lends itself to be very easily incorporated into a wide range of ingredients, herbs, and spices and with a little research and practice; you can be eating well all winter long.

Having a youth hunter involved with not only the harvest, but everything that comes after (cleaning, processing, and cooking) really helps to them to understand the entire process that is involved in harvesting an animal.  It helps them to understand that you if you don’t plant to consume the animal, or provide the animal for consumption by someone else, then it are simply not worth harvesting the animal.  It helps so them not only the importance of ensuring they utilize the animals that they harvest, but that wild game is also excellent table fare and can be easily prepared in a short amount of time.

As mentors in the outdoors, you have the ability to set the example when it comes to youth hunters and the experiences that they have in the great outdoors.  In order to ensure that they are as active, passionate and share the conservation values that was passed down to you from your mentor.  As you find yourself in the outdoors this fall, especially if you are fortunate enough to find yourself sharing a tree stand or turkey blind with a new or young hunter, just remember the responsibility that you have to set the example and not only teach them how to hunt but to ensure that they are equally prepared to do the dirty work that comes with harvesting wild game.  If you take the time to do that, then the hunting heritage that we love so much will be in good hands for many generations to come, and we can rest easy knowing that our fish and wildlife species will continue to be a priority and be managed for, for generations and you will have done your job in passing the traditions along!

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