Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

A Brief History of Venison (And Why You Should Eat It)

Forget apple pie. There is no food more fundamental to this nation than a haunch of venison.

Before there was an America, there was America’s meat. The first European explorers in the New World came face to muzzle with astonishing numbers of “stag” that met them just beyond the Atlantic dunes—and they greeted the game early on with blasts from their muskets. Plymouth pilgrims and Wampanoag natives ate venison at the first Thanksgiving, saying grace over the whitetails that staved off starvation. Pioneers, fur trappers, priests—the quest for New World freedoms, riches, and souls was fueled by the flesh of whitetail deer. And long before these settlers arrived, whitetails formed the very sinew and soul and sustenance of the first Americans—Ojibway and Shawnee, Seminole and Creek, Santee and Tuscarora.

I don’t want to overstate the case, but that would be difficult: From the beginning, venison made America. Back in the day, if you wanted to eat, you ate a highly processed form of acorns and persimmons and chestnuts and greenbrier. You ate the very fabric of the forest. You ate deer.

You no longer have to, of course. Your local grocer stocks the flesh and bones of cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese—some of which, praise be, are raised free of chemicals and confinement and are nearly as free to romp and roam as, well, a whitetail deer. Yet despite all of this, some of us still choose to kill a deer, disassemble its limbs, fuss over freezing methods, and trade recipes with hunting buddies like ladies planning a church bazaar.

Why? Because venison is low in fat. Because it can be obtained relatively cheaply. Because it is free of the pharmacological stew of growth hormones, antibiotics, and antifungals fed or injected into commercial livestock. Because venison resonates with the current slow-food movement, and locavorism, the hip new mantra of community-based consumption that short-circuits the burning of fossil fuels. Eat a deer, save the planet.

But there’s more to venison than a mouthful of healthy protein. There are qualities to deer meat that can only resonate with the person who’s shopped for groceries with a finger on the trigger. Killing a deer is a kind of acceptance of the interconnectedness of life. Dragging a deer from the woods is sweaty work, but work salted with the knowledge that your family will say grace over your efforts for a year or better. And sitting down to a venison supper brings it all back—the shot and the sweat, sure. But also the wet smell of dawn in the woods, the crunch of frost underfoot, the bobcat dozing in the sunlight at the base of your tree. Good seasonings, those.

Some of the best chefs in America understand this innate connection between whitetail deer, the wild places where they live, and the plate. Even nonhunting chefs share the satisfaction gained from gathering one’s own food. And they certainly understand that, for all its positive attributes, venison’s taste just might trump them all. That’s why the five chefs we’ve featured here serve venison from their own kitchens. And that’s why they’ve agreed to share their best venison recipes with us.

So forget apple pie. There is no food more fundamental to this nation than a haunch of deer.

Comments (11)

Top Rated
All Comments
from shotgunlou wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Amen!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rugermike wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Couldn't have said it better myself. Excellent food fair....

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from fng wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

no better food ever passed a man's lips, even if he denied it, than the food he gathered himself.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from GiantWhitetails wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Gotta love the whitetail!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kruznnn wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

I shot a 6pt Thanksgiving morning, 9am. I cooked a bit of the back straps for lunch. Our daughter sparingly eats meat, however after tasting the deer I was cooking she was back for a second plate. Both she and our son took some back to University with them.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from stjohn30 wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

Absolutely perfect post! Nothing reminds us of our place in the world like hunting for our food and giving thanks for a bounty that has been forgotten in too many quarters. May we all be inspired to look to the hills and forests for our next meal.

Steve
yourfoodchoices.wordpress.com

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassgittinart@b... wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Great post!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roost323 wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

i agree.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cas0905 wrote 4 years 9 weeks ago

nothing like venison jerkey and beer and nothing cures a hangover like a nice thick deer burger

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NevadaFoodies wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

I have great satisfaction in cooking the wild game that we harvest from our hunts. We've also devoted our time and energy to sharing the cuisine on our cooking website http://www.nevadafoodies.com.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kent2981 wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I'll eat to that. Every year for as long as I can remember (20+ years), we have eaten venison on Christmas morning, nothing better than scrambled eggs and some pan fried venison. Yum

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from shotgunlou wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Amen!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from fng wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

no better food ever passed a man's lips, even if he denied it, than the food he gathered himself.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rugermike wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Couldn't have said it better myself. Excellent food fair....

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kruznnn wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

I shot a 6pt Thanksgiving morning, 9am. I cooked a bit of the back straps for lunch. Our daughter sparingly eats meat, however after tasting the deer I was cooking she was back for a second plate. Both she and our son took some back to University with them.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from stjohn30 wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

Absolutely perfect post! Nothing reminds us of our place in the world like hunting for our food and giving thanks for a bounty that has been forgotten in too many quarters. May we all be inspired to look to the hills and forests for our next meal.

Steve
yourfoodchoices.wordpress.com

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassgittinart@b... wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Great post!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NevadaFoodies wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

I have great satisfaction in cooking the wild game that we harvest from our hunts. We've also devoted our time and energy to sharing the cuisine on our cooking website http://www.nevadafoodies.com.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from GiantWhitetails wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Gotta love the whitetail!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roost323 wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

i agree.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cas0905 wrote 4 years 9 weeks ago

nothing like venison jerkey and beer and nothing cures a hangover like a nice thick deer burger

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kent2981 wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I'll eat to that. Every year for as long as I can remember (20+ years), we have eaten venison on Christmas morning, nothing better than scrambled eggs and some pan fried venison. Yum

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment