Outdoor Life - - THE LIFE -


Hunters can agree on many things when it comes to the con­sump­tion of wild game: the sea­son­ing that only hard work can bring, the nutri­tion of lean pro­tein, and the value earned by re­plac­ing store­bought cuts with free-range meat. What the sin­gle best-tast­ing game meat is, how­ever, is not one of them. We also can’t de­cide on which an­i­mals are ed­i­ble or more akin to boot leather. Here’s a look at some of the stronger opin­ions and stranger recipes served up in our kitchens over the years.


Jack O’con­nor’s far-flung hunts in­tro­duced his tastebuds to a va­ri­ety of game, and in the Novem­ber 1957 is­sue he de­tailed some of the species that had made their way onto his plate. Un­sur­pris­ingly, he de­clares “moun­tain sheep merely the best meat, wild or tame, in all the world”—al­beit with the caveat that such praise ap­plies only to fat rams shot be­fore the rut. The same goes for bull moose (“good”) and elk (“superb”) be­fore mat­ing sea­son ren­ders them rank. He de­bunks the pronghorn-is-ined­i­ble myth, how­ever, say­ing he “never shot one that wasn’t good eat­ing.” Poor carcass man­age­ment, he writes, is to blame for any bad ex­pe­ri­ence with it. Blue grouse earns first prize as tasti­est of all game birds, and moun­tain lion gets an hon­or­able men­tion as an off­beat del­i­cacy rem­i­nis­cent of veal. So what an­i­mals did JOC de­cline to eat? Javeli­nas, griz­zlies, black bears feed­ing on fish or car­rion, and the greater kudu bull, which, in his ex­pe­ri­ence, re­quires “the den­tal and di­ges­tive equip­ment of a hyena.”


The long-run­ning Camp Chef col­umn usu­ally con­tained a va­ri­ety of recipes and re­peated en­cour­age­ment for turn­ing game into ta­ble fare. Often this depart­ment would in­clude non-game recipes suitable for camp cook­ing that ranged from es­sen­tial (hot co­coa) and help­ful (split-pea soup) to the ob­vi­ous (boiled mac­a­roni) and sus­pect (a con­coc­tion called canned meat dixie). The gems, how­ever, are the scat­tered recipe cards, which were de­signed to be clipped and added to the fam­ily recipe box. A fa­vorite is the “broiled opos­sum” en­try that ran in Septem­ber 1966, which can only be de­scribed as the worst piece of reader ser­vice we ever pub­lished.* It calls for four in­gre­di­ents (one dis­jointed and cleaned opos­sum, sage, melted but­ter, and lemon juice), es­chews a fla­vor-tam­ing brine, and re­quires only rub­bing the opos­sum with sage, then broil­ing it from 1 to 1 hours while bast­ing with lemon and but­ter.


There are nu­mer­ous in­stances in which our writ­ers blame ined­i­ble game on the cook. In some cases, this is cer­tainly true—cook­ing is a learned skill, just like hunt­ing. But what is per­haps the worst ex­am­ple of chef chid­ing ap­pears in the Jan­uary 1942 is­sue, which in­structs wives on the ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior for re­act­ing to and pre­par­ing freshly killed game. “The game comes home, and then, Mrs. House­wife—it pains me to say this—you ruin it. Two-dol­lar-a-pound meat goes to the ta­ble tast­ing like some­thing the butcher saved for Towser.” *An April 1976 col­umn might give it a run for its money: It de­tails how por­cu­pine (which should be killed by hit­ting it on the nose with a stick) “can be eaten raw with­out much dan­ger of sick­ness.”

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