With all this hot, dry weather, it doesn’t really feel like hunting season, but that didn’t stop me from getting out last week in northeast New Mexico. I was hunting the unlikely combo of antelope and bear with Steve Jones of Backcountry Hunts, and I managed to tag one of each species using a [Mossberg ATR in .308](http://www.mossberg.com/product/rifles-bolt/- action-centerfire-100-atr-centerfire-short-action/27020). The hunt was a great way to cap off an amazing summer and kick-start the fall. Of course, it also meant I would spend my Labor Day weekend laboring over a couple tubs of meat on my kitchen counter.
I’m excited about a couple different cuts: One is a whole bear ham that’s getting brined and smoked in the coming weeks, and the other is an antelope neck. I know a lot of guys don’t bother with the neck meat–or they make a half-hearted effort to cut off what they can for the grinder. I’ve even fallen into this camp before, but with my New Mexico antelope the neck got sawed off whole and deboned to make a rolled roast. (The bone was then roasted and simmered to make a big pot of antelope stock for some antelope green chile I plan on making.)
Before filleting the meat from the neck bone, you’ll need to remove the windpipe. This is a pretty simple process that just requires a long cut down the underside of the neck. The esophagus should then pull out fairly easily with just a few cuts.
Getting the meat off the bone takes a little work because of the nodes on the vertebrae, but take your time and follow the contours of the bone to get as much meat off as possible. Roll the bone away from you as cut around the diameter of the neck bone. In the first photo, you can see the meat laid open like a book with the bone on top of it. There’s still some meat on the bone, but that’s okay as I’ll pick it off after the stock-making process and use it in the green chile.
Once you’ve got the roast flayed from the bone, you can roll it and tie it for a classic rolled-roast presentation, like you can see in the second photo. Mine is going in the freezer like this, but you can also wait and roll it just before cooking if you plan to stuff it. Just roll it up like a jellyroll, then secure it with a long piece of butcher’s twine using a series of half-hitches. There’s a pretty good video of how to do it over at [Epicurious](http://www.epicurious.com/ video/technique-videos/technique-videos-meat/2745264001/meat-how-to-classictie-a-roast/ 1915433334).
Because there are lots of sinew and tendons in the neck, the roast requires a long cooking time to break down all those connective tissues. Low, slow, and moist is the key here. If you’re a Crock-Pot person, start the roast in the morning before work and you’ll have dinner waiting for you when you get home. I’m more of a Dutch oven guy, so I’ll brown the roast first to add some depth to the flavor, then saute diced celery, onion, and garlic in the drippings, add the roast back into the pot along with about a cup of antelope stock, cover, and the let the thing simmer all day on the stovetop. Just thinking about this oft-underused piece of meat has my mouth watering.