Why is Deer Meat Called Venison?

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Introduction

The deer-hunting season is coming to a wrap, so your freezer should be filling up with venison. Many people ask why deer meat is called venison. Venison refers to the meat of antlered animals such as deer, caribou, moose, and elk. Do you know the difference between caribou and moose, or elk and deer, and can you tell how moose meat tastes compared to deer and elk? The unique flavor of venison is directly related to what the deer eats. Corn fed deer have a milder flavor than those that eat sage or acorns. 

Local venison according to most hunters, is a more sustainable source of protein that helps keep the deer populations under control and prevents damage to crops and woodlands. The growing popularity of venison is owed due to its well-documented health-giving properties, with many nutritional experts praising its low-fat content and richness in vitamins and minerals. But what venison is known for is its ultra-lean meat with a rich flavor, very distinct from beef and other red meats. 

What is the Name Given to Baby Deer Meat

A baby deer is called a fawn. I do not suppose there is a specific term for baby deer meat.  But people who have tasted fawn meat find the meat veal, similar to that of a calf. However, there are some hunters with a contrary opinion.

There is controversy in whether you should shoot fawns and people will ridicule you for shooting them. However, such young deer are a safe bet for good meat. By end-October, an average fawn will field-dress 40 to 60 pounds and can yield around 20 pounds of trimmed steaks.

What Does Venison Taste Like?

The best way to describe venison, its taste, and texture is with words like rich and earthy. It is meat imbued with hints of sage, acorns, and herbs that the deer enjoyed during its life. Vension is succulent and juicier than beef, but most importantly it is like lamb in many ways. It lends itself to spicy, minty, and autumnal flavors in a way that beef usually doesn’t.

The “Gamey” Flavor

Another word typical of venison meat is gamey. Perhaps it is from the pungent, musky, flavor of an animal raised in the wilderness instead of a farm. The ‘gamey’ flavor is more noticeable in the fat. During processing to lessen the ‘gamey’ taste, you must remove the fat, silver skin, connective tissue, bone, and hair. Failure may lead to some strong undesirable flavors due to inadequate bleeding, failure to cool the carcass promptly or delay in field dressing.

Things that Will Ruin Your Deer Meat Flavor

Some things consistently make venison tasty. And some things will ruin the flavor, too. Here are the things that can ruin your flavor. 

Poor Field Care

In hunting, it is critical to have a proper shot placement. The longer it takes for the deer to die the farther it runs, and the more adrenaline and lactic acid build up in the animal’s muscles and system. The faster a deer hits the ground, it should be field-dressed, and the better the meat will be. If you kill the deer instantly, the meat is uncontaminated by blood and other entrails from the chest cavity. The lungs remain the best place to aim.

Failure to Cool Quickly

The first step of decomposition is when the internal bacteria takes over after death, expelling gases and causing the animal to bloat. The process is accelerated in warm weather. By learning to field dress a deer you will rid the venison of the bacteria and other organisms. Cooling the animal down is also helpful to preserve its taste. 

On a cold night, you can leave a deer hanging skin-on overnight. In especially cold weather, some hunters find this to be the best way to age a deer for several days. If you live in a warm climate, you will not have that luxury. The best method after successfully hunting a deer is to get it field-dressed, skin it, quarter it, and put it on ice within the hour.

Shot the Wrong Deer

Modern deer hunters follow the principles of deer herd management. There are lots of practices that you should do that contribute to the health of a herd, and it includes which deer to shoot. Given the chance, most hunters will always select the mature buck with big antlers.

Old bucks are edible, but rarely the best. As the buck ages, the muscles become stringy and tougher. An old buck has spent its years fighting, scraping, rubbing, and chasing does will be lean. Expect to have a chew steak. The same applies to mature old does that have spent many years burning calories producing milk to nurse fawns. 

For steaks, the best venison meat is a young buck or crop-fed does. A Deer that spends a summer munching on corn and soybeans has an easier life and is more likely to have fats from such kinds of food sources. The deer that spend a lifetime wandering the woods in search of the scattered mast and browse will be tougher and leaner.

A young deer has nothing to do all summer except get fat. Am not saying you forgo everything and start whacking every young buck that walks by. The point is if a deer for the freezer is your goal, young bucks from the early season are usually the best and you will have more meat than does to boot. 

Failure to Age / Purge

Most experienced deer hunters caution about aging venison on ice. However, I have a different opinion. In my experience, the temperature rises above 50-degrees on most days of deer season and that is too warm to let a deer hang. My options are always limited to icing the venison. What works for me is to line the bottom of a cooler with a layer of ice, add deer quarters on top, then cover the venison with more ice.

Keep the cooler in the shade with the drain plug open and on a downhill incline. It is essential to let the ice slowly melt and drain from the cooler. It helps to keep the meat cold, as it purges an amazing amount of blood from it. You can repeat this process for at least two days. Remember to check the ice regularly in warm weather. 

However, if you do the process without a drain plug, you will have the opposite result of what you expect. The deer quarters will essentially be marinated in bloody, dirty water. 

Poor Trimming

Compared to beef fat, deer fat does not taste good. And the same taste applies to the membranes, sinew, and other connective tissues holding the various muscle groups together. Venison, regardless of whether they are destined for steaks or hamburger, should be trimmed. Ensure they are free of anything that is not rich, red meat.

Dirty Knives and Power Saws

When skinning the deer and getting it to small quarters you must have skills to separate complicated joints. 

For example, a deer’s legs are held together with ball-and-socket joints and connective tissue. If you know how to separate the legs efficiently you can cut an entire skinned deer with a good pocket knife. Using a power saw for this process is all-advised as the power saw puts bone marrow, bone fragments, and any other mess on the saw blade into your venison. If you haven’t checked our article on How to Cape a Deer, then now is the perfect time.

As good practice, always have three sharp knives when cleaning a deer. One is for field-dressing. It should be a stout knife with a drop point for prying through bone. The other for skinning. You can consider a blade with a gut hook as it works beautifully. Finally, the last knife is one with a heavy blade for quartering. 

All these knives should be honed to a razor edge and quickly re-sharpened. Other than dulling a knife’s edge by slicing through hair, as skinning is not taxing on a knife’s blade. From experience, a flexible fillet knife will work fine. Here is a list of knives that will work perfectly for you. The point from all this is to keep your knives separate. It reduces the contamination of the venison with blood and hair.

Cooked Too Cool, for Too Long

Venison recipes, especially grilled recipes, are not easy to get right. Often people remove the meat after a couple of minutes per side. The result is that it will taste raw and probably gross. However, if you place it back on the grill. After a while, it turns gray, then dry and chewy and the taste will still be gross. 

Grilled venison is best when it has a medium-rare interior, but the outside must cook well.  To do that, your grill needs to be hot enough to instantly sear the meat surface and lock in those flavors and juices. Remember to flip your venison steaks one time. 

Most Popular Deer Hunting Accessories

Conclusion

Although venison is generally considered a safe and healthy alternative to many other types of meat, there are some dangers of eating deer meat that needs to be considered. Always be sure to practice safe cooking and handling techniques to kill off bacteria and prevent the spread of infection. Remember to store your deer meat in the freezer or refrigerator and cook it to an internal temperature of at least 160-degrees Fahrenheit. 

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