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Friday, July 7, 2017

Simple and Delicious Venison Backstrap

Scouring the internet for backstrap recipes is unnecessarily complicated. Keep things simple with this recipe and treat yourself to the most tender, juicy, delicious backstrap you've ever had. For this recipe I used half of a whitetail backstrap, a smoker and a hot skillet. Now, I've heard people say that smokers are not for tender cuts of meat like backstrap. To that I would say don't listen to those people, you don't need that type of negativity in your life.

  • Coarse ground salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh pressed garlic
  • Butter
Several hours prior to smoking, rub the backstrap with a coating of olive oil and cover with coarse ground salt and pepper to your liking. I purposely chose not to measure anything, but my salt to pepper ratio was probably 2:1. Keep refrigerated until you're ready to smoke.

Different woods add a different flavor to the meat you smoke. I used hickory chips for this recipe mainly because it's considered "The King" of all smoking woods and it was what I had on hand. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees and smoke the backstrap until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees. Depending on the size of the cut you're working with it should take roughly an hour. Use this time to press a fresh clove or two of garlic into a glass bowl with quarter stick of butter. Heat the garlic and butter up in the microwave until it melts and stir them together. Once your backstrap reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees remove the meat from the smoker and head to the kitchen.

Heat a large skillet, add the backstrap and begin searing the outside. While you're searing, spoon the garlic butter over the meat. Do this until your internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Remove the backstrap from the skillet, place it on a plate and cover with foil for ten minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is Wild Game Really Organic?

Organic eating is the fastest growing food phenomena in America. Everywhere you look, certified organic labels are strategically placed on packages attracting consumers to a healthier food choice. Organic produce, cereals and meats found in grocery stores across America have experienced double digit sales growth each year for the past four years, according to the latest Organic Trade Association survey. In the case of some organic food categories, consumer demand is outpacing supply with no signs of weakening.

From little league games to the office lunchroom, conversations are taking place about organic this and organic that, but hunters have been eating organic since before it was cool. At least that's the claim made through a growing number of Instagram and Facebook posts. But can hunters accurately claim the wild game photographed from their kitchen table is really organic? Are hunters eating organic by filling tags and stocking their freezers with free-range, fair chase wild game?

Let's break down what it means to be organic. Merriam-Webster defines organic as

1 a: of, relating to, or arising in a bodily organ. (Hunters are good here. The wild game hunters eat is related to an animal muscle group.)

b: affecting the structure of a living thing <an organic disease> (It's safe to say hunters affected the structure of a living thing because it's on a dinner plate.)

2 a. of, relating to, or obtained from living things <organic matter> (Check the box. The meal hunters are eating was once living until it was caught or shot.)

b. of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds (Hunters are good here too. All living things on planet earth are carbon-based.)

c. of, relating to, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living things and most other carbon compounds. (While hunters are not really referring to chemistry while using this term, a chemical reaction definitely takes place when a backstrap hits a hot grill.)

d. relating to, producing, dealing in, or involving food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer obtained from plants or animals and without the use of laboratory-made fertilizers, growth substances, antibiotics, or pesticides. (This specifically addresses food production and hunters use the term organic referring to meat obtained from animals they kill.)

So far, wild game is organic by definition. Next, let's narrow the field of view to the technical aspects of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) definition. I won't make your eyeballs bleed by reading through all of the USDA regulations, but let's analyze livestock requirements. After all, when hunters use the word organic it's done in relation to meat. The main requirements for livestock are: 

1. Raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors. (100% yes for this criteria. It's called wild game for a reason.)

2. Not administered antibiotics or hormones. (Another 100% A+ here. Free-range, wild game animals are not receiving antibiotics or hormones.)

3. Fed 100% organic feed and forage. (This is the gray area. It is the one criteria that is impossible to verify unless you have become one with the animals and are living as part of their herd.)

All that being said, in the current and historic social context defining organic, wild game absolutely qualifies. Let's speak specifically to whitetail deer because they are the most pursued wild game animal in North America. A free-ranging whitetail deer that is hunted, killed and butchered by a hunter is infinitely more organic than any certified, grass fed, organic beef you buy at the store. Why? Besides everything addressed thus far, consider the complete quality of life a deer experiences compared to the neatly packaged, carefully weighed and labeled cellophane meat product in the grocery store. Moreover, do you know where that meat came from? Do you have a natural connection to the meat aside from swiping your bank card at the register? Did you prepare and practice shopping for that meat for months on end, just waiting for the one opportunity to place it in your grocery cart?

The deer's entire existence defines complete freedom. They live in the wild, adapt to a wide variety of habitats, eat natural forage, constantly avoid predators, exist as an integral part of the food chain yet live in complete survival mode. This begins the moment they're born and ends only at the time they die. Deer have roamed the land this way for thousands of years and mankind has hunted them for just as long. To be a hunter involved in that process is organic as hell. Nobody needs a government certification stamped on a package to tell them that.

Besides truly being more organic than any meat consumers put in their grocery cart, venison is also a healthier choice than store bought beef. According to the USDA, venison beats beef in several categories. It is lower in calories and fat while delivering higher amounts of protein, vitamin B-12, B-6, iron and magnesium. Not to mention the ancillary health benefits the act of hunting provides. While I haven't found any scientific studies comparing calories burned grocery shopping versus hunting whitetails, I'll place my money on hunting as the healthier activity. So next time you prepare the perfect venison steak, get your phone out, snap a picture of those grill marks and post up your organic, free-range masterpiece! As a hunter, you put the OG in organic.

Nutritional ValueVenison Roast%DVBeef Tenderloin Roast%DV
Amount Per 3 oz.85 g85 g
Total Fat 2.7 g4%21 g32%
Saturated fat 1.1 g5%8 g40%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.5 g0.9 g
Monounsaturated fat 0.7 g9g
Cholesterol 95 mg31%72 mg24%
Sodium 46 mg1%48 mg2%
Potassium 285 mg8%281 mg8%
Protein26g52%20 g 40%
Vitamin B-1260%35%
Vitamin B-623%10%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Somebody Needs to do Something

Words have a way of staying with us. Especially those words received in a way that make an impact. At times the impact is immediate. The words spark a fire and create action. Other times the words are absorbed, reflected upon and remain idle until one day they begin to percolate. Nonetheless the words remain until the exact moment they are needed most.

Several years ago at a national sales meeting the opening speaker addressed the group with a presentation centered around the mantra, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” Those words excited the crowd, not because of a clever rhyme but because of the speaker’s empowering delivery. He energized the crowd, the words chosen created action resulting in year over year sales growth and market share gains for the company. Those long-forgotten words now percolate once again.

It serves no purpose to keep positive, meaningful words to yourself. Those words can accomplish so much more when they’re shared because the words might be the catalyst someone is seeking in their life. There is a drive inside us to take action, to expand our thoughts, to write these words, to share them with others in hope they inspire action.

Sportsmen have had it so good for so long that we have largely become complacent. We take for granted all of the amazing resources at our fingertips. We live in a time of abundance compared to the time of scarcity sportsmen experienced just one century ago. Yet decades upon decades of conservation advancements will change drastically if today’s sportsmen do not engage in the growing number of issues affecting our wildlife and wild places. It is our responsibility to protect our passion.

How many times have you thought, somebody needs to do something? How many times has that thought resulted in you taking action, beyond posting a rant on social media? How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought, is that somebody me? What can I do? I'm just one person. With those four little words creeping into your mind you've just let yourself off the hook. You've given yourself a way out. And yet, you've done absolutely nothing.

Whatever the topic is that grabs your attention and raises your blood pressure, you need to know that you can have an impact and there are many ways to use your time, talents and treasures to do so. The easiest way to start engaging in the process of protecting our outdoor heritage is to stay educated on the issues of today. Seek out and join organizations that have a proven record of results coupled with a vision for the future.

At the very minimum sportsmen should belong to three organizations. Which organizations to support is the choice of each individual, but you should protect your method, protect your pursuit and protect your passion. If your method is bowhunting then belong to an organization experienced with that discipline. If your pursuit is rabbits then align with the group working in that arena. If your passion is hunting, fishing or trapping then you need to join the Sportsmen’s Alliance, the only organization whose mission is 100% dedicated to protecting and advancing those outdoor traditions.  
Conservation carries a cost. One that won’t be covered by simply buying a hunting, fishing or trapping license. If deer tags, duck stamps and trapping permits were adjusted for inflation half of our aging demographic would have a heart attack and die! The bottom line is sportsmen need to step up and get in the game. The good old days we have all been able to experience must remain available for the next generation. That simply will not happen if we sit on the sidelines mumbling, “somebody needs to do something.” Get engaged, get involved and protect your passion. If it is to be, it’s up to me. No, if it is to be, it’s up to all of us.

Need a few more sources? Here's what leading outdoor writers have to say....