The natural foods movement has recently sparked an interest in bowhunting among non-hunters. Knowing how the food on your plate got there and taking part in the process is a great way to eliminate concerns of whether your meat was ethically sourced. Not to mention, you’ll feel great fulfillment providing your own food for you and your family.
If you’re new to bowhunting or considering trying it for the first time, you may wonder how wild meat tastes. Let’s look at a few common game species and learn about the lean, organic meat they yield.
The white-tailed deer is the most commonly hunted game species in the country and for good reason. Whitetails can be found in almost every state in the continental U.S. with the exception of a few western states. The venison provided from a successful whitetail hunt is an excellent source of lean protein that makes outstanding table fare. That said, a few factors influence the taste of venison. For example, consider where the deer lives and its diet. A deer harvested in a northern cedar swamp will yield meat that tastes different than one taken in the lush midwestern farmland. Also, the time of year, age, sex and field care of the animal affects how the meat tastes.
Pros: Whitetail venison is very lean, making it much healthier than beef. Venison contains roughly half the calories of beef and nearly one-sixth the amount of saturated fat. Large population numbers make whitetail venison a very sustainable resource. You can enjoy venison stew, steaks, burgers, summer sausage, and other favorites.
Cons: While whitetail venison is arguably the most popular wild meat, it typically isn’t regarded as the best tasting. Some cuts produce tender meats, while others are tougher and might require hardy chewing if prepared improperly. Make no mistake – venison is delicious no matter how it’s prepared, but a few close relatives to the whitetail have more tender, appetizing meat.
If old Ben Franklin had his way, this popular game bird would have been named our National Bird. Lucky for hunters and anyone who enjoys delicious food, the Bald Eagle got the nod, leaving the American wild turkey to become a popular target for bowhunters during spring and fall. The wild turkey can be found in all U.S. states except Alaska. They aren’t large, but underneath all those feathers is plenty of meat. In fact, of the animals on this list, turkey provides the most meat per its total body weight.
Turkey can be prepared as you would any domestic poultry, and with peace of mind knowing this bird is definitely free-range and antibiotic-free.
Pros: Just one wild turkey yields a ton of lean, organic meat. Turkey breasts are easy to cook with and can be used in many of your favorite poultry recipes.
Cons: The leg meat from a wild turkey can be more difficult to prepare than breast meat. Wild turkeys are almost always on the move, making these cuts smaller and tougher than a domestic turkey leg. Also, the gamier flavor sometimes associated with wild turkey meat will be most noticeable when the meat is baked or deep-fried. Opt for other options, such as marinades or – my personal favorite – slow-cooker BBQ turkey sliders.
Elk are primarily found in the western U.S. and are atop many bowhunter bucket lists for more than just impressive antlers. Elk is commonly considered among hunters to be one of the best wild-game meats. It’s similar to venison, but is usually leaner and has little-to-no gamey flavor. You can prepare elk meat as you would beef.
Pros: An elk provides a massive amount of lean, organic meat that lacks fat and wild-game taste.
Cons: Elk hunting isn’t as accessible to bowhunters as other species. Also, because of the extremely lean meat, fat must be added during processing when making ground burger.
Other Noteworthy Options
A few other species are often harvested for their tasty meat. If you are an adventurous hunter, consider these options.
Moose: These massive animals live in a few northern states in small populations, as well as Alaska and Canada. Their meat is on par with elk and there’s a lot of it; a full-grown male moose can weigh nearly one ton.
Axis Deer: Native to India but existing in free-ranging herds in Texas and Hawaii, the axis deer is widely considered to yield the best wild meat on the planet.
Wild Pigs: Found from Maryland to Maui, wild hogs can be hunted most places. Their meat is similar to that of a domestic hog but leaner.
If this list has your mouth watering and you’re ready to try bowhunting, visit your local archery pro shop to get started. Also, review online resources to learn what type of bow is right for you and find delicious wild-game recipes. Decide for yourself which wild meat tastes best!