A good wild game meal starts long before the chef tosses a steak on the grill. Skillful hunting can add to the quality of a meal, said local hunter Karl Hoffman. If the goal is to eat the meat, preparation for the hunt is the key, Hoffman said.
Having the right equipment to kill and process the meat is the first step. In addition to equipment necessary for survival in the wilderness, two sharp knives -- one for field dressing and another for skinning -- a bone saw and a game bag will help ensure high quality meat following the hunt.
The next consideration is an animal's behavior.
"I always make sure (the animal) is grazing," Hoffman said. "When antelope run they have so much adrenaline ... that adrenaline gets into the meat and it makes it stinky and tough." He said watching the animal's activity is not as critical for elk, because they are not spooked as easily.
The next step is placing the shot.
"A good clean shot is paramount," Koffman said explaining that the less blood that seeps into the muscle, the better the meat will taste.
Once the animal is down, field dress it immediately by removing all vital organs. The following advice comes from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:
Bacteria begin to grow immediately, especially if the stomach or intestines have been punctured, so keeping the carcass cool is important. Skinning the carcass is also recommended especially on hot days to help cool the meat. Take care to avoid touching scent glands on the lower hind legs, as meat may be tainted by the musk. Cover the animal to keep flies away and to keep it out of site of other animals.
"The animal needs to hang and cool and firm up," Koffman said. "It starts to get tender on its own," he said adding that aged meat is better than processing it immediately after the kill.
Hoffman shared one secret he and his wife have developed. They save all the cuttings and trimmings from antelope, elk and deer and grind it up together for hamburger. Instead of adding commercial fat to hold the burgers together, as many people do, they purchase three- pound bags of bacon ends from the butcher to add to the mix.
"It adds great flavor and is just enough fat to bind it all together," Hoffman said, adding that the burger makes good jerky as well.
Other tips are to never cover the meat while cooking it, because air helps keep the meat tender, and always cook it until it's medium rare, no more, no less, Hoffman said.
Muscle will pack the freezer for many months, but some hunters look forward to something else altogether
"The best part of elk and deer is the liver," said Nick Kamzalow who works at Outdoor Connec-tions.
"Oh man. Let's put it this way ... we had T-bone steaks (at the campfire after the hunt) and I passed on the steak."
It's a treat he only gets to savor once or twice a year, but one whose memory made him smile in anticipation. n