deer in forestPhoto by Korona Lacasse via Flickr

Ask any hunter to show you their trophies and you’ll probably be led to the basement office or back den where you’ll see mounted deer heads, turkey fans, or maybe a stuffed duck or two. The proud hunter will usually brush a little dust of each trophy and begin recounting the tales of past hunts.

However, if you come to my house and ask to see my hunting “trophies,” you’ll be led to the chest freezer. Open the lid and you’ll see wild turkey breasts and legs, venison steaks, duck breasts, venison jerky, and maybe the occasional squirrel. Beside the freezer are about 50 pint jars of canned venison (my personal favorite). Don’t get me wrong; I’m quite proud of my wall of antlers and turkey beards, but you can’t eat those.

Nowadays there is so much attention focused on killing a “trophy” animal that we seem to forget the real reason we humans started hunting. The first caveman didn’t throw a spear at a wooly mammoth so he could hang its tusks over the entrance to his cave. He did it to feed himself and his family. Imagine the feeling of relief and pride he must have felt to provide for his family. Although the stakes aren’t nearly as high today, I think I feel a similar sense of pride and connection to my food when I kill an animal. I feel a certain reverence towards each animal and quietly thank them for giving their life and for the many meals they will provide.

Stop in at any Wisconsin deer camp on the opening weekend of deer hunting and you’ll likely see a sight that would be very familiar to prehistoric cavemen. Hunters gathered, butchering that day’s kill, laughing, storytelling, and probably already cooking the choice cuts for a quick snack. The caveman’s open fire is now replaced by a gas grill, but not much else has changed.

If you come to my house for a dinner party there is a very good chance wild game is on the menu. Grilled venison steaks and turkey breast sandwiches are always a hit. Granted, cooking wild game does take some finesse; with a little extra thought and effort you can create dishes that will please even the pickiest eaters. For those who say wild game is too “gamey” or tough, I hate to say it, but you’re cooking it wrong!

If you want to learn how to better prepare wild game there are three great resources for finding amazing recipes. First is to search the internet. There are literally thousands of great recipes out there. Just find the one you like. The second approach is to call Grandma. She probably has some experience with meat that didn’t come from the market. Lastly, ask an experienced hunter. No doubt they will have a few favorite recipes to share.

I love serving wild game to my guests knowing that no one else’s hands touched the food. I killed it, I butchered it, and I cooked it. We have a saying in my house: “It always tastes better when you’ve killed it yourself.” Sounds odd, but it is true. It’s not just the satisfaction of a well prepared meal; it’s knowing exactly where your food came from and how it was handled before landing on your plate. I think a little bit of that cavemen pride shines through knowing that I’ve provided food for my family.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with nature and your food, there is no better way than getting out there and hunting or gathering it yourself. The adventure, sense of pride, and delicious rewards are hard to duplicate. If you don’t like venison, then give duck a try. If not duck, then try turkey. If you don’t eat meat, the forest holds morels and other wild mushrooms, wild blackberries, nettles, ramps, and many other delicious treats.

We’ve all heard the phrase “farm to table.” Well, at one time there was no farm—only the forest. If you want to enjoy delicious, natural food, I highly recommend bringing the forest to your table. Every wild game entrée comes with a heaping side of caveman pride!