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How to Cook a Wild Game Dinner During the Holidays

Do you love wild game meat? Okay, that's a silly question. You wouldn't be here if you didn't. One of the most prominent challenges hunters often face with their harvests is prepping a wild game dinner for their family and friends. We know what we like, but cooking for others is always a crapshoot. Some people don't enjoy eating venison or other popular game animals like wild boar or bear.

So, how do you get past that? How do you serve a wild game feast for your family this holiday season? We have some thoughts and tips to help you out.

How to Introduce Wild Game Meat to Family

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People tend to freak out if they find their meal is a wild turkey, venison, or rabbit. Maybe it's because people can't get anthropomorphic Disney animals out of their heads. Whatever the case may be, many people have found it a challenge.

Many hunters have decided to go the deceptive route and not tell their families that pheasant or goose isn't the store-bought variety. We're not going to tell you what's wrong. You should think long and hard about how your family will take it.

For wary friends and family, a traditional roasted turkey or duck dinner may be just the ticket. Most people have a bigger deal with venison or other big game meats. But birds seem to go over well with everyone, even though you may have to repeatedly ensure that you thoroughly cleaned all the shot out of the animal!

Wild Bird Dinners

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As we mentioned earlier, one of the easiest ways to introduce a wild game meal is a traditional meal that uses a wild bird instead of a store-bought one. Your family and friends may never know the difference if you're a real wiz in the kitchen.

Turkeys in the wild and captivity have different diets, and it will change how the meat tastes. Wild birds are leaner than store-bought ones. This means you must avoid the risk of overcooking.

Meat from wild turkeys can be a bit on the dry side, but there are ways to combat this. You could try the "beer can turkey" method, you could try turkey broth, or you can try to brine it. If you have an especially tough old bird, you can even try deep frying it if all else has failed or if you're looking for something different.

Whatever kind of bird you're preparing, we've found people are less apt to get freaked out over a goose, duck, or turkey than other kinds of wild game. And they're traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving table fare. That makes any of these dishes a good starting point for introducing a somewhat reluctant group of friends and family at your upcoming events for the holidays.

If you still have a hesitant family member, remind them the birds in the wild are eating an all-natural diet, and they haven't been pumped full of drugs or growth hormones. This makes them much healthier than the store-bought bird you ate last year!

Serving Venison and Wild Big Game

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This is where things can get a bit trickier. Over the years, I've seen so many people immediately recoil at the idea of eating venison. That's why we don't recommend starting an annual wild game dinner with a significant emphasis on deer, elk, or moose meat.

Instead of starting things off with a large venison roast main course, try a smaller optional side dish instead. For instance, my mom makes some killer BBQ meatballs that accompany just about any dinner. We've brought them to holiday family gatherings for years, and they're always popular. They're good with just plain beef. But venison adds a little something extra.

Remember that venison is relatively lean, and most side dishes will work better if you mix in some meat. Mixing beef or other meat is an excellent way to introduce people who are hesitant about big game meat into giving it a try. For a casual office Christmas party, you could try venison tacos. Some other side dish options include venison lasagna, stew, or chili.

Don't forget venison backstraps if you still have some from this year's harvest. You can cut these into small steaks that are sure to be popular. Another option is to do something few people can resist. Add bacon because bacon goes with everything, even venison! Try a stuffed and bacon-wrapped backstrap or tenderloin. Another option with bacon is to make jalapeno venison/bacon poppers. These will surely be a hit with the family before the main meal.

Play your cards right, and your small wild game introduction may open doors. You could make deer or hog a significant part of next year's meal. Whatever you do, work ahead to work on that gamey taste. Try soaking the meat in milk, yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, or saltwater. The more you eliminate the taste, the better meals will be well-received.

 Combine Creativity with Traditional

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Our ancestors very likely all hunted for their holiday meals. Serving up wild game meat for your holiday dinners gives you a chance to return to your family's roots. Because as we all know, meals taste better when you know exactly where that meat came from.

You don't need to pretend you're a pilgrim at the first Thanksgiving. We have resources at our disposal to make game meals more delicious. Don't be afraid to embrace modern technology, cooking methods, and ingredients.

For gatherings of family and friends, especially if they've been picky about wild game. Sometimes you must start small for the first time. Even a platter of cheeses, venison salami, and crackers can be a hit at any holiday gathering. Be creative! Combine tradition with the new, and you're sure to have a successful wild game dinner with your family.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2019.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis Youtube channels