Life is hard sometimes, and nowhere near fair. I write this to you from deer camp, which normally isn't too bad. Not too bad, that is, if you can put up with the deer not cooperating as they should, a diet that may not exactly meet health standards set by the Surgeon General, companions who apparently never learned any social skills, and college football, lots of college football. Let me explain.
The whole thing started innocently enough. Your humble outdoor scribe, purely out of the goodness of his heart, invited a few hunting buddies down to camp for the antlerless deer season. (Remember Case's Outdoor Theorem No. 23: "No good deed ever goes unpunished.")
This is traditionally a time to join with friends and family, procure a fat whitetail or two and get some venison for the freezer. I recently had obtained some meat-processing tools and was pretty keen to use them. A meat tenderizer, a meat grinder, a vacuum sealer to put all the choice cuts of meat and burger in and various other accouterments as needed. You can save a lot of money by getting your own deer and processing the meat. I probably spent no more on all of the meat-processing tools than I did on my first car.
Do you like venison? I do. If it is handled correctly and properly prepared, I think it is delicious. The problem is I have always felt that half of the venison taken every year is not cooked very well and a lot of people have a bad experience with it. Some will say it's too gamey (I never understood exactly what that means), they don't like the texture of venison or they just plain don't like deer meat. Again, a lot of this depends on how you take care of the deer after it is dropped on the ground, and then how it is cooked. It is no secret that venison is much lower in fat than beef, so any cooking technique needs to pay close attention to not dry out the meat.
But I digress. Back to camp and the meat-making mission.
It soon became obvious to me that my buddies were thinking more about football than putting deer meat in the freezer this weekend. Various comments the night before about Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Oklahoma had me wondering if they really had a clear vision of what we were here for: putting meat in my freezer. Bill did produce some very fine chili to have during the game, so that made up for it a little.
Almost as an afterthought they produced a fat young doe, and I was very happy. This was going to be some good eatin', and I quickly supervised breaking out the cutting boards, meat grinder and various sharp knives. A word about those knives: For some time I have been a fan of Outdoor Edge knives (www.outdooredge.com). Outdoor Edge makes a series of knives for hunting, fishing, cooking, the outdoors and general carry. These knives employ replaceable blades — the blade gets dull and you just replace it. When the blade is new it is sharp, and by sharp I mean like a scalpel, like the one they use in surgery. These knives are sharp.
One thing I may not have told you about: Sometimes if I even look at a sharp knife, I am going to get cut. I always keep a supply of Band-aids around.
I noticed during all the equipment set-up and deboning of the venison that I was reduced to a supervisory, hands-off position. When the Outdoor Edge knives came out, I was pretty eager to grab one and get to work, but it seemed I was not to be included. They were perfectly happy to let me carry things into the house or bring them something they needed, but other than that, hands off. Finally one of them laid down a knife, and I grabbed it and started to work fileting some venison off the bone to be taken to the grinder.
I think I might have had possession of the knife for about 45 seconds when I succeeded in fileting the top of my thumb nicely. I only heard a few suppressed giggles as I marched toward the house to find my stash of Band-aids. There was quite a bit of blood, and I don't mean deer blood. (I did say that these knives are sharp, didn't I?)
Well, the whole job went pretty quickly. The deer was reduced to some delicious burger and tenderloin cuts, vacuum sealed and put in the freezer. The grinder and all the other equipment was cleaned up and put away (my buddies did let me do most of the cleaning up), and soon they made a run for the recliners and couch in front of the TV. Everyone was happy and I was, too, when I didn't think about my thumb.
At least I had a better day than Oklahoma.
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.