Review: Cabela's New Game Processing Book "Hunter's Harvest"

The other day I received a cool catalog in the mail from Cabela's that I think Wild Chef readers should know about. I say it's a "catalog," but Hunter's Harvest is not really a catalog--not in the strictest since anyway. Sure there are some butchering and food processing products listed here and there throughout the pages, but all that takes a backstage to comprehensive coverage of the steps necessary to take deer and other game from field to table. I guess you would call it a magalog--part magazine, part catalog.

Hunter's Harvest is a pretty big departure from what hunters are used to getting in the mail from Cabela's (think giant tomes dedicated to every type of clothing and gear a sportsman needs, and a lot of what he doesn't but ends up buying anyway). I used to work at Cabela's and know those catalog aren't cheap to produce or mail, so the company has always put a big emphasis on cost of space and making sure every page of every catalog at least pays for itself. So producing a book that features at least a few pages without any products is a big leap for the company, and I'm sure the decision was not taken lightly. To find out a little bit about the thoughts behind Hunter's Harvest, I touched base with Eric Weiser, director of the food processing category at Cabela's. (Full disclosure: Eric and I are childhood friends and I was a groomsman in his wedding, something I'm pretty sure his wife, and a few bridesmaids, still regret.)

David Draper: This type of instructional manual is a new approach for Cabela's. What was the reasoning behind it?
Eric Weiser: We realize that there are a lot of hunters who do not understand how easy it is to process their own game and make truly high-quality products. We also felt we could help these hunters extend their hunt to include the entire family by showing the proper way of breaking down an animal in their garage or kitchen table.
DD: What is the value of Hunter's Harvest, both to the customer and to Cabela's?
EW: The value to our customers is that it is a very good reference on game processing. We feel that our customers deserve the best, so why shouldn't they deserve the best on their kitchen table? If they learn to process their own game, they know that it was properly handled from field to finished product, can save a bunch of money on processing fees, and can make things to suit their own tastes.
DD: Do you have a good feel yet about how customers have responded to it? Any feedback?
EW: The response has been tremendous. We felt we had put something special and different together with this, but you never know what the response will be, and it has been great. We have had a lot of customers calling in requesting this book.
DD: How have the recent trends of people placing an importance on sourcing their own food and the increase in new hunters affected your category?
EW: We feel that there are many people that would like to learn how to process their own game, who just do not know where to begin. We are always trying to come up with ways to show the ease of processing and the satisfaction you get from producing high-quality products from an animal you harvested yourself. We have had many demonstrations at our stores that have been very well attended, but we know we do not have stores near every customer who wants to learn about this. Hunter's Harvest allows us to reach these customers and it provides a quick reference if you run into questions during processing.

Weiser told me Hunter's Harvest was primarily written by a Cabela's employee who grew up in her family's butcher shop and that kind of inherent knowledge about butchering and processing really shows. Whoever wrote it knows the detailed steps to breaking down a deer and does a good job passing that info along to readers, which is not always an easy task. You can find a lot of the information on-line here, but I'd suggest calling Cabela's (800-237-4444) and having a copy of Hunter's Harvest sent to you. (It's free, by the way.) The magalog serves as a great reference tool and my copy will be stored with my other books on butchering next to the meat-processing equipment.