“Why do you hunt?” is a question often asked of those who preserve the time-honored tradition. In more recent years, motivations for hunting, and even for asking the question have changed slightly. In the former case, it has more to do with knowing what you put on your table. In the latter, it’s more curiosity than confrontation. Many of the unfounded anti-hunting prejudices are fading away and hunting is gradually making its way into the mainstream.

A good deal of that stems from an increasing trend toward locally sourced foods and greater self-sufficiency, which was accelerated during the pandemic when grocery stores became less reliable. Much as it pains me to admit it, reality TV has contributed as well. Where once it would have been unheard of, prime-time shows are now depicting survivor types foraging and hunting for both plants and animals, and the general public is eating it up. Hunting for your own food is now cool.

One reason is health benefits. Game is pure protein, with no preservatives or additives. Venison has one-third the fat of grass-fed beef, and only a third of that is saturated fat. It has a quarter of the cholesterol and more iron. It’s a great source of B vitamins and complete protein, containing all 10 essential amino acids.

Debates about whether a young, early-season deer is tastier and more tender than a mature buck taken during peak rut will wage on without end. In truth, it largely comes down to how the animal is handled in the field and at home. Quick, clean field dressing and cooling the animal will make any deer taste better, and aging can take it to a whole other level. But deer isn’t the only animal on the menu.

Some hard-core wild game lovers might argue, until they’ve tried it. Once they have, most will agree that moose is better than deer. It has the flavor and consistency of lean beef, without the slightest hint of “gaminess” sometimes found in deer. If I could shoot a moose every couple years I’d never shoot another deer.

Wild turkey tastes like grouse or pheasant, which doesn’t tell the non-hunter much. Think tame turkey with just a hint of cranberry sauce. Care must be taken when preparing it because it lacks the fat that gives farm-raised fowl much of their flavor, and less-desirable ingredients, and therefore will dry out much quicker.


Bear meat is delicious, if properly cared for in the field and at home. It has a flavor and consistency somewhere between beef and pork and tends to be fatter or “greasier” than venison. That’s partly because the meat has more brown fat – the type between the muscles that you leave on beef to add flavor, as opposed to the white fat or tallow you trim off deer and moose. I once cooked bear ribs for a barbecue and people who had never eaten bear – and some who had never eaten wild game – raved about them.

Waterfowl is more of an acquired taste, which some never acquire. If you don’t like liver, you might not like it, unless you’re lucky enough to find wood ducks that have been fattening up on acorns or geese feeding on grass and waste grain. It’s chancy. I’ve had some goose that tasted like roast beef, and some that tasted like a blend of liver and anchovies. To each their own.

Snowshoe hare can be delicious. The first one I cooked had a distinct flavor of spruce needles, which I didn’t much care for. The next one, slow-cooked in a crock pot with cream of mushroom soup was outstanding – a lot like squirrel.

Perhaps the best part about preparing wild game is that you know where it came from and how it was handled. For those who have the means but lack the time, a processor is a viable option for preparing your game for the freezer or the kitchen. The rest is up to you and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: bob@bobhumphrey.com

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