I did not grow up a hunter. In my youth we fished, boated, camped, and played in the woods daily but that was the entirety of my outdoors endeavors. But since my wife and I bought our farm five years ago, I started seeing our land as a bounty to be preserved and harvested from. We preserve the natural landscape by leaving most of our land alone, and we harvest the garden that we tend all summer and then some of the wildlife that the natural landscape provides.
The culture and couture in much of northern Minnesota in the autumn is mossy oak camouflage and Vikings purple. The mossy oak, being the preferred camo of the deer hunter, is a kind of badge worn with honor by men and women alike. It tells everyone: I deer hunt and I can’t wait for da opener.
Four years ago, I started hunting for deer on my property. Not gung-ho style, I sort of eased into it, perching in a tree with my father’s old gun and my North Face jacket, donning a blaze orange vest and cap, and assuming nothing would happen . . . and it didn’t. But after years of listening to what sounded like the Fourth of July in November, last year I got a bit more serious. My sous chef, Lucas, and I built a basic deer stand in the back pasture, which worked like a charm, and we harvested our first deer from the property. We have so many deer in Wadena that I could have legally taken five deer!
We turned that first deer into venison roasts and stew meat, since there is relatively little meat that you can just grill or sauté and serve from these animals. The straps, tenderloin, and hearts are great for quick cooking and the rest is pretty much sausage and stew meat. This year we harvested two large bucks and a large doe, which we fabricated reserving the quick-cooking cuts, 40 pounds for jerky making, and a few roasts, then delivered the remaining 93 pounds to Everett’s Meats and Grocery (my neighborhood grocery and butcher for sausage making). As I write, my first batch of jerky is slowly drying in the oven. More on that and the heart next week.