I’m getting indoctrinated

Our next door neighbors are big hunters.  Bob and his son, Cody, live to hunt, and the Bob’s wife, Jodi, and at least one of her daughters (age 10) are also avid hunters.  Bob would much prefer to hunt elk and caribou in Alaska, but right now he is settling for hunting deer in Missouri. Economic times being what they are, and having a family of six to feed, his goal is to put five or six deer in the freezer for the gang to live on during the coming months.

Cody and Bob began many weeks ago, practicing with nifty and complicated bows.  They prefer archery hunting, but will resort to guns when necessary.  Last weekend, guns were necessary.  Their family went east to the Gainesville area and had a successful hunt at a place called Caney Mountain.  At least I think that’s what they said it was called.  Cody shot and killed an eight-point buck, and he’s been grinning from ear to ear ever since.

Now comes the not so fun part – dressing the deer and cutting it up for freezing.  The head’s been hanging in a tree in their yard, and the buck’s been on ice in a cooler for about a week.  Evidently this “cures” the venison and removes some of the gamey taste.  Once Mr. Buck has chilled out for the right amount of time, the hour-long process of sharpening knives begins.

Next, you stand around and talk about cutting up the deer.  This can take quite a while, as well, because you are basically killing time, trying to put off the distasteful task as long as possible.  When no one can think of anything else to say (and in deer season, there’s ALWAYS something else about hunting to say) you start cutting up the deer meat.  Ideally, this is done on discarded piece of countertop – like the section that a factory cuts out a hunk of formica in order to create a hole where the kitchen sink will go.  You put the meat in metal bowls as you go and then vacuum seal it for freezing.

Cutting up a decent-sized deer is expected to take three to four hours, and it’s emphatically not a fun job.  However, once you have the tenderloin cut, you can begin the process of smoking it (cedar will work if hickory is not available) and/or drying it as jerky.  This allows you to feel as though you are finally making progress toward the end goal of edible meat – even though you still have the most difficult parts of the deer to cut.  Since you’ll be smoking for 12 hours and jerking for 18, you’ll have plenty of time to tackle the rest of the carcass while the first batches process.

All this I have learned without ever personally having to shoot an arrow, hold a gun, saw off legs, dangle a head in a tree, or wield a bloody knife.  Kept at arms’ length, maybe I can even grow to enjoy deer season.

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