Making the Most of Our Take

Success has expanded in some of my hunting during the past fifteen years. With regard to big game, the process of becoming a rifle hunter has been a big factor. With regard to waterfowl, the expansion of goose species has been a factor. A third factor has been some change in the places I hunt.

Although I still hunt with a bow, for several reasons that are not important to this post, I’m more inclined to wait for rifle season and the rifle is a much more effective method of take. On the other hand, the method of take has not changed related to duck hunting, but other factors have.

Regarding waterfowl, natural changes in California habitat and game populations has been a factor. Another factor is a change in where I hunt, meaning that different species are dominant in my take.

When our primary delta duck was converted to a permanent marsh, I transitioned my primary duck hunting to the Kerry Duck Club in the North Grasslands District. Although the number of ducks I take has risen, the species has shifted from mallard to teal and some sprig.

Age and personal life style are other factors influencing freezer burn. Thowing away game after three years in my freezer is worse than leaving it dead in the marsh.

In an effort to make the most of my take and not waste game, my eating habits are evolving. My goal is to eat healthier and also reduce freezer burn, which is a form of spoilage that I hate, but I must admit that it still happens.

Game meat is very healthy in its natural state. Eating meat is a great way to reduce sugar and fat intake, but while processing, one can add back some of the stuff you’re trying to avoid.

Traditionally, most of my game meat meals have taken place at dinner. When we have guests who enjoy game meat, my stockpile of ducks, geese and venison is appropriately recycled. But my wife doesn’t eat game and our propensity for having large parties has declined during that past few years. This is a factor adding to a need for alternatives in  processing and cooking game.

Smoking game is an alternative that works to an extent, but if I smoke more than I can eat, I may be only succeeded in modifying the nature of the game meat in my freezer from unprocessed and frozen to smoked and frozen. And, high salt food is tougher on our bodies as we age. There is still room for growth in this area, if I increase the amount of times I hot-smoke game with less brine and more smoke,and if the resulting meat is eaten on the spot, the problem is reduced.

Making sausage is an area that I am expanding. To date, most of my best success has been with summer sausage. Once again the amount of salt is a factor. I can only eat so much salty food.

Another idea on my list is to use a small sausage making grinder to make fresh sausage on a small-scale. The idea is to convert a two goose breasts and a hunk of pork shoulder into sausage that can be eaten in a couple of meals and never have to be frozen. The less meat I freeze, the smaller the chance of losing out to my primary enemy..

Making chili is another way to convert meat into an edible product. I enjoy chili, but I must also learn to make it in proportions that result in consumption, not just convert meat into another form of freezer waste. Right now I have several bags of frozen chili in my freezer that I need to eat. The good thing about chili is that I have no trouble when I want to give it away, which limits waste.

Eating meat for breakfast is another solution that is working well. Here are some photos of a breakfast I prepared this week. It was easy and tasty. I call it the Two-teal breakfast.

First comes procurement.

IMG_0022 Lola teal by Joe

Lola and a drake green-wing teal. Photo by Joe DiDonato

Second comes preparation. Here is a series of photos from this week.

My preferred seasoning, sea salt, Lowery seasoning salt and ground peppercorn.

An entire sliced yellow onion. Water and oil. A little flour to sprinkle on the teal when browning.

Cover the bottom of the pan in oil and about a quarter-inch of water. Heat and cover for ten minutes. After ten minutes remove the cover and cook off the water. Once the water is gone cook until brown. The entire process takes about 20-25 minutes.

The yellow onion definitely complements the teal. Mushrooms and toast would be good additions.

Make the most of your take and you’ll enjoy hunting to its fullest.

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