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UPDATED JUNE, 2022 / BY TRACKER OFF ROAD
Sweaty days of planting food plots in late summer, followed by hanging climbing stands before opening day, glassing in a prime buck during pre-rut. And finally, the moment of truth when it came time to squeeze the trigger. All the hard work eventually paid off with success. Now, it’s time to celebrate.
Our ancestors celebrated successful hunts by preparing a banquet feast to share with family and friends on a cold winter’s night. Nowadays, you don’t need to risk social distancing. Instead, you can spread the celebrations out over time with venison processed by a professional meat processor.
Knowing about cuts of venison and what cooking techniques are ideal for each are essential to creating palate-pleasing meals.
The loin, shoulder and round are the most popular cuts of venison. Yet there is more to venison than backstrap, roast and hamburger. Venison is versatile and each cut is special in its own right when properly prepared. Some are best on the grill, while others are perfect for the palate when seared in a skillet or slow cooked. Get the most out of your deer by knowing what you can get out of each cut, and how best to cook it.
It might be worth asking the butcher to save the ribs if the deer is larger than average. Venison dries easily, so don’t just grill the ribs as you would pork or beef. Slow cook ribs first until tender, and then finish on the smoker or grill for color and flavor.
The shoulder is full of meat for stews, soups, chilis and sausage. Larger muscles are ideal for fajitas. When thinly shaved, you can make jerky and even tastier cheesesteak sandwiches.
Think slow cooker pot roast for this smaller cut of muscle that can also be ground for sausage, chili or burger.
The round is sometimes forgotten as a prime piece of meat. When properly cut, you can get steak, kebobs, stew and meat for grinding. Main muscles are the top round, bottom round, eye of round and sirloin. The bottom round is the most tender, and marinating it improves tenderness even more. The eye of round resembles a piece of tenderloin and can be very tender on a younger deer. This is also an ideal cut for jerky.
This cut needs no introduction. Just avoid overcooking. Careful preparation is key to creating delectable medallions. Remove as much of the silver skin as possible. Then tuck the tapered ends, and tie the entire piece with kitchen twine for even cooking and retention of the desired round shape. Medium rare is best with an ideal serving temperature for the meat at 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow meat to rest before slicing.
The next best thing to the loin is the tenderloin, which is so tender it should be simply prepped with salt and pepper. A quick hot sear with butter in a cast iron skillet on a stove top is the ideal way to go.
If you are an ATV owner, chances are one of the reasons you bought it was to haul your prized deer out of the woods. Before you do that, consider these safety and performance factors.
Knowing the towing capacity of your vehicle is a must. Remember, towing capacity also includes your body weight. You and the deer may exceed the manufacturer’s maximum weight if the vehicle is too small. The front end could lift dangerously off the ground when loading the heavy deer on the rear rack. And, the vehicle will be difficult to safely steer if the suspension is bottomed out. If you and the deer meet the weight requirements, adjust rear shocks to their firmest position.
Shedding weight is a good idea. You can do that by field dressing the deer, which can shave off 30 pounds of weight. Position the deer by balancing the body on the mid-section of the rear rack. Use enough rope to initially secure it, and then use a couple of ratchet straps for a nice and tight four-point tie-down. Tightly secure the first strap across the mid-section, and then do the same across the length of the body. Secure the head to prevent it from interfering with maneuverability of the ATV. Ideally, the deer should ride like it’s welded to the frame.
Even better yet, you can add an accessory that makes loading the deer quick, easy and safe. The Power Loader available through Cabela’s can handle the job with ease. A heavy-duty lifting mechanism extends and lays flat on the ground and slides the deer into place. It operates with the use of a factory or after-market winch, the likes of which you can find at trackeroffroad.com. The loader places the deer over the front wheels, maintaining stability and balance while the vehicle is in motion. Load capacity is 250 pounds. $369.99. Buy it now at cabelas.com.
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