3 Wild Game Feasts for Your Family This Holiday Season

If you want to make your family a treat for the holidays, why not prepare a wild game feast? More Americans are dining on natural food resources, with the popularity of hunting reaching a 20-year high, according to the Census Bureau's latest National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Deer is the most popular big game food, attracting 10.9 million hunters in 2011, followed by wild turkey, elk and moose. Changing up your traditional meal to serve fresh food can be sentimental, environmentally friendly and simply delicious. Here are a few wild game recipes you can try with your family over the holidays this year.

Wild Turkey

Get in the spirit of Thanksgiving by celebrating with wild turkey. You can shoot your own or buy one online or from a local supplier. If you shoot your own, you'll need to clean it before cooking. First, cut off the tail fan. Next, cut off the wings at the second joint. Then pull the feathers and skin off by grabbing the skin near the tail and pulling feathered skin up the turkey's body toward the neck. If you wish to remove the breasts, which cook faster, you can remove them along the breastbone. Next, open the body cavity and remove the entrails. Finally, cut off the head and feet at the second joints. Outdoor writer Hovey Smith provides a YouTube video illustrating these steps.

To avoid gamey flavor, cook the bird as soon as possible. Because wild turkey has little fat, most recipes use extra butter or oil. If you decide to cook the breasts separately, you can remove the outer muscle layer to make the meat more tender, and marinate the bird overnight before pan frying it in olive oil or butter and baking it. If you cook the whole turkey with the breasts, you can cook it like a regular turkey but baste it several times during cooking. Using a cooking bag can help speed up your cooking time.

Deer

If you want to butcher your own deer, here are detailed directions — but most people will get better results by going to a professional deer butcher. For best taste, get your deer cleaned as soon as possible.

There are as many ways to cook deer as there are beef. One of the simplest is venison chili. To make this, you will need half a pound of venison cut into small chunks. To help you cut your venison into chunks, you might pick up a meat grinder on holiday sale at Cabela's.

To enhance the flavor of your venison, soak and cook 8 ounces of kidney beans and 4 ounces of black beans. Coat a pan lightly with 1/4 tablespoon of safflower oil and lightly brown your venison. Add a chopped onion, 115 ounces of tomato sauce, 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, a dash of salt, a dash of ground cumin, and if you want it spicy, include chili pepper, hot peppers or Tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Elk

Try a delicious grilled elk steak. For this recipe, you'll need 2 pounds of elk tenderloin, trimmed and warmed to room temperature. Elk is more challenging to hunt than turkey or deer, so you'll most likely be getting your elk from a supplier.

To begin, prepare a grill over medium heat. Combine 1/2 cup of virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Pour it over the tenderloin and marinate for 15 minutes. When the grill is ready, shake off any excess marinade and add the tenderloin to the grill over direct heat. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on all four sides. Remove from heat when the internal temperature reaches 120 to 130 degrees, depending on how well-done you want it. Place your tenderloin under a tent foil for 5 minutes. To cut, slice across the grain every half inch.

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