The author’s traditional after-hunt meal. Hobo Heart Hash is made with onions, potatoes, and venison heart fried in butter. Photo Credit: Ryan Hoover

Why You Should Eat Your Buck’s Testicles (and Heart, Tongue and Liver Too)

  Cassie Gasaway   FeaturedWild Meat   May 18, 2023

The typical American mindset says that eating organs, or offal, is weird and gross — perhaps even something from a Halloween skit. But the truth is that the heart, tongue, liver, kidneys and testicles of game animals like deer and elk have their own unique flavors, and they can be packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals. Our ancestors ate organs, and it’s still a common practice in many cultures across the globe today. Maybe you should try them, too.

Ryan Hoover, director of Handgun Hunters International LLC, has been hunting for two decades and eating game animal organs for just as long. He believes Americans stopped eating organs because they were considered “lesser cuts,” and people wanted to move away from being associated as a lesser class that could only afford the lesser cuts.

“Americans wanted to advance as a culture and there were misconceptions about what that meant as far as gentrifying the type of meat we eat,” Hoover said. “We weren’t intentional about eating organs and it just fell out of favor. Now, it’s a general American perception that eating organs is not something we typically see on our tables.”


The author’s traditional after-hunt meal. Hobo Heart Hash is made with onions, potatoes, and venison heart fried in butter. Photo Credit: Ryan Hoover


Hunting advocates like Hoover, MeatEater, Petersen’s Hunting and American Hunter encourage hunters and others to save, cook and eat organ meat. Well-known resources like WebMD, Cleveland Clinic and Healthline also recommend eating organs because of their benefits and accessibility. A lot of research confirms the health benefits of eating organ meat. Each organ is a concentrated source of nutrients, packed with B vitamins, protein, healthy fats, amino acids and essential minerals including iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.



People with gout shouldn’t eat organ meat, but almost everyone else can and should. Experts recommend eating organs in moderation because a regular diet of organ meat can lead to an overconsumption of certain minerals. As a man of faith, Hoover believes God designed animals with the proper organ-to-muscle meat ratio to benefit humans who take advantage of eating everything the animal offers.


Reasons to Try Eating Organs

  1. Less waste: Stop leaving edible morsels in the gut pile. “It’s good food so why let foxes and coyotes eat it when I can?” Hoover said.
  2. Health benefits: Organs are more nutritious and nutrient-dense than muscle cuts. “They’re a great addition to your diet and can provide you with things you don’t get in your everyday diet,” Hoover said.
  3. They’re readily available: “Every time you harvest an animal, the organs are there for the taking,” Hoover said. “If you’re going to go through the work of gutting an animal, you might as well get everything.”
  4. They taste good: “There are many ways to prepare these meats so they’re very tasty,” Hoover said. “When cooked correctly, nine out of 10 people are surprised by how good they taste.”
  5. It’s the next step: “There’s a short jump from eating muscles to eating organs,” he said. Once you’ve eaten venison, follow up by trying the offal. They don’t taste the same, but they’re the next step to getting the most out of your harvest.


Ways to Ease Offal Onto Your Table

Hoover suggests finding a mentor to help you cook game organs so you have a positive first experience tasting the meats. He also reminds people that the flavor of these organs will be different from that of muscle meat. “It’s not a bad thing,” he said. “Just prepare it right and try it with an open mind.”


Two Methods to Start


Tongue takes the longest to prepare, but it’s worth it! Pickled tongue on crackers with cheese is delicious and a party favorite. Photo Credit: Ryan Hoover


  1. Grind it in. If eating individual organs is off-putting, Hoover suggests grinding them with muscle meat. This way you don’t waste the organ meat, you still get the health benefits, and the flavors and textures blend to become unnoticeable in chili, tacos, sloppy Joes, etc. “If my son will eat it, anyone will,” he said.


  1. Try the heart first. If you’ve never tried organs, Hoover suggests starting with the heart because it has the mildest flavor and a good texture. He refers to it as the gateway organ and eats it as the first meal from each kill. He shared his favorite recipe below.


Hobo Heart Hash: For this recipe, you’ll use an onion, a few potatoes and one venison heart in a liberal amount of butter and bacon fat.
In a large frying pan, cook diced potatoes in butter and bacon fat until they are just about done. You can boil them first to speed up the process. Then, add diced onions and sauté for a few minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the diced deer heart pieces. Cook everything together for about a minute and enjoy. Hoover uses this method to cook liver, kidneys and testicles, as well.


Hoover also likes using the tongue for roasts, and he fries testicles, slices them thin, and serves them with cheese and crackers. “Try different recipes and you’ll find something you like,” he said. If you have questions or need cooking tips and recipes, Hoover welcomes the conversation and is available at







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