Was that a teal? A quick glance at the watch on a gloved hand tells you it’s legal shooting time and all of your senses come alive. Pupils dilate to pierce the low light, and pungent smells of coffee and decaying leaf matter rise and mix to an already cold nose. You hear a faint chatter from far above, the hint of hungry duck. Then in an excited, quiet whisper your hunting buddy says, “In front!” Without pause or thought you rise to slap the trigger. You barely notice the recoil of the shotgun as a beautiful drake wood duck is promptly delivered to you by your best friend. So you got one, the first of the year for the roasting pan, gumbo or other time-honored recipe handed down by mother.

In this era of going organic and getting back to nature there can be little more natural than wild game meat, whether fowl, fish or venison. Some of the purest protein we can consume comes from the fields, lakes, and streams of Alabama and it’s easier to prepare than you may think.

Processing game meat for the freezer is not difficult and only takes a few minutes. The basic guidelines are as simple as getting the meat cool and keeping it clean and dry. Beginning with small animals or birds, simply remove and discard the hide or feathers and entrails. Wash well and wrap and place the meat in a refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Larger game animals such as deer require the same process with a little added effort and freezer space.

Preparing your own food for the table offers a great deal of pride, satisfaction and independence. It can also save quite a lot of money in processing fees. Across the state there are many competent facilities that do a very fine job, but they do not offer total self-reliance and the complete hunting experience.

Volumes of literature and video abound on the subject of processing meat. There are many hunters who process their big game harvest, many of whom would be happy to pass on their knowledge. A traditional hunter education course offers one place to begin to learn. A quick Internet search can yield a variety of additional sources of information. With time, practice and a good, sharp knife, anyone can process their own harvest and have the confidence of knowing that from field to freezer it was done correctly for their family.

Information on hunter education, wild game processing, recipes and the Hunters Helping the Hungry Program are found at www.outdooralabama.com. For further discussion or information about this subject and programs presented by the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries please contact Stuart R. Goldsby at (256) 737-8732, or stuart.goldsby@dcnr.alabama.gov.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.



By Stuart Goldsby, Regional Hunter Education Coordinator, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries