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Just as hunters know they need a plan to bag their elk, deer, or ducks, throwing the ultimate wild game barbecue requires preparation. It doesn’t have to be difficult, either. All you need is great food, great beer, a great setup, and most importantly, great friends. So, get the Keystone Light on ice, and let’s start planning.

Getting the grill ready!
Getting the grill ready! Vincent Keiman

Let’s look at location first. Most likely this will be in your backyard. Depending on how many people you intend to invite, you’ll need to make sure there are enough chairs for all your guests when they’re ready to eat. No one with a full plate in hand will want to play musical chairs. Can your picnic table handle the load? If not, you’ll need to borrow or rent tables. Next, make sure you’ve got enough heavy-duty paper plates, plastic utensils, and disposable cups to go around.

On a hot day, nothing beats an ice-cold beer, and Keystone LT is made to order. It’s a light-bodied, crisp, and refreshing beer that pairs perfectly with the wild game you will be serving. For an old-fashioned touch, fill a galvanized tin wash tub (or two) with ice and beer. The tubs are the perfect spots to place a rack of beer. Let your guests refresh themselves by sticking a hot hand into that ice-cold water.

A great party needs great vibes, and it can be done on a budget. Decorations like lights strung across a yard, a portable fire pit, and Bluetooth speakers positioned near a cooler full of cold beer can make a party pop. Stream your favorite playlist to get everyone in a festive mood.

Cornhole is a great game to set up for a backyard BBQ.
Cornhole is a great game to set up for a backyard BBQ. iStock

If your party will include children, you’ll need to keep them occupied while the meal is assembled.  One great way to do this is to have them play cornhole. Make it a competition with a prize for first, second, and third. That will keep them busy while the adults socialize and you cook.

It’s important that you plan your menu and the cooking times of each item you intend to serve. There’s nothing worse than a hungry crowd hanging around while you run late with the food. Don’t forget the side dishes, either. Fresh corn on the cob, cole slaw, and potato salad are always crowd pleasers

The exact food you serve will vary depending upon the part of the country you live in. For example, in the South, dove season, the traditional start of the fall hunting season, is a cause for celebration. Grilled dove breasts make for great appetizers. Simply breast out the bird, wrap bacon and jalapeno peppers around each breast, and put on the grill. In no time at all, you’ll have a delicious appetizer that gets everyone in a party mood.

As for cooking the main event, you have several options.  Gas or charcoal? Many purists insist on charcoal, but if you are hosting a lot of people a couple of gas grills is the way to go. Another option is a pellet grill that can add a deep, smoky flavor to the meat. Your call. Just make sure you have enough fuel on hand (propane, charcoal, or wood pellets) to keep those fires stoked.

Cooking time will vary depending on the cut of meat and how you wish to prepare it. Let’s look at a one- to two-pound venison backstrap. Coat the meat with olive oil and salt and let it sit for 30 minutes in order to bring it up to room temperature. When the grill is nice and hot, place the venison on it and coat with your favorite BBQ sauce. Don’t close the grill cover. Keeping it open allows for a good sear and also lets you tamp down any flareups.

Let the meat sit undisturbed for 5 to 8 minutes, then turn the meat over and grill for another 3 minutes or so. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the cut. Thicker cuts will obviously take longer, in some cases as long as 20 minutes. When to take the meat off the grill? When a meat thermometer registers 135 degrees F. This should give you a nice medium-rare cut. Because venison has far less fat than beef, you don’t want to overcook it, so watch that cooking time. Once off the grill, let the meat sit undisturbed for 10 to 15 minutes so the juices released by cooking can be reabsorbed. This helps ensure that the servings you provide your guests will be tender and juicy.

Friends roasting marshmallows on fire pit.
Friends roasting marshmallows on fire pit. iStock

Cooking wild game meat over a fire takes practice. Experience is a great teacher. Now, here’s a pro BBQ tip: If you have a friend who is a BBQ Master, make him King of the Grill. He’ll take pride in a job well done, and you can help him by bringing him a cold beer every now and then.

After the main meal, you need a killer dessert to top it all off. Nothing beats fresh fruit pies and ice cream. And don’t forget an ice-cold watermelon or two. The kids will have fun spitting seeds at each other.

As the sun sets, and everyone has eaten their fill, you and your friends can gather around a portable fire pit while enjoying a Keystone Light. That’s when the real stories begin, a great way to top off your ultimate—and now successful—wild game BBQ.