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Question for hunters about venison.

Why does wild venison taste so...cowlike? As opposed to goatlike or muttonlike.

Any deer hunters out there?

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  1. I'm not a hunter, but it depends a lot on what the animal ate. I promise you that venison who lived in pine forests doesn't taste anything like cow.

    1. Not a hunter but a friend is and bags me a deer every year or so. The pervious poster is right, it depends what they eat.

      3 years ago was cleanest, freshest one we every had. He bagged in a state forest in CT. All we could think was that this was a really well fed deer.

      This years is much more "gamey" and strong. Also a little tougher than usual. It was bagged in northern NH.

      I have never had venison that tasted like beef.

      2 Replies
      1. re: foodieX2

        I'm not saying you'd ever confuse venison with beef in a taste test; I'm talking about the characteristic funk I associate with goat and lamb that is absent from venison, even at it's gamiest.

        1. re: knucklesandwich

          I know exactly what you mean about the lamb and goat funk. Apparently hair sheep have less of that.

          In addition to the previous comments about diet there is also the age of the deer to consider and if a buck, whether or not it is in rut. An older buck in full rut has his own funk that is completely different than goat or sheep. Certainly even in the same area their diet will change as the season progresses.

      2. NOT a hunter, but have NO problem with those who do... unless it's just for a rack to hang on wall.

        First time I EVER had venison was a ZILLION years ago when I was in college... in Pocono Mountains of PA. VERY good friend family was gutting/restoring an OLD house in the boonies. You could see where original "house" was ONE room... HUGE timber beams and a little space above... for sleeping... a one-room house!?! NO closets at all. Spent the day helping to remove LOTS of hooks and putting insulation in.

        Asked to stay for dinner... dinner bell for poor college student! Dad had a deer hangin in dirt floor basement! Asked how I like my venison?? Said never had it?? Then asked how I liked steak! Said DEFINITELY pink, bordering on rare.

        Thinking this deer didn't have to forage much... probably attacked corn fields. Was like FILET MIGNON! NO strong flavor and super tender.

        1. In the U.S. there are three main kinds of deer: mule, white tail and black tail. Deer are goat-like. Venison is very lean. Tough and terrible when overcooked. Preparation, aging, what they eat, rut, quick kill (or not) each and all effects flavor of the end product. If venison alone (as in a steak or roast), I would rather eat a 'little' black tail from the Oregon coast that has eaten mostly grass than a bigger Eastern Oregon mule deer that somehow eats sagebrush or something that effects its meat. Venison being such a lean meat is awesome when mixed into pepperoni, beer sausage, lunch meat like thuringer summer sausage (we add pork meat and beef fat to our 'mixes' for better results than if made it without). To be clear I eat most of my deer processed into other good foods I prefer. Deer also makes awesome jerky. My Finn grandma who lived to be 97, would always cook a pork roast with her venison roast in the same 'roaster' and was a good way to go - she was a great shot and always had us 'butchers' save her roasts to eat plain so we would not 'process' them.

          Elk is cow-like. In fact I often would rather eat any elk than beef from a store - no hormones, antibiotics, GMO corn fattening, etc. Elk is like eating a lean cow breed such as 'texas longhorn' or 'limousine' - other varieties of beef have more 'fat marbling' than elk meat. I personally prefer lean meat (elk or a home raised beef such as texas longhorn or limousine) not so 'marbled'. Elk live in large herds more than deer - similar to cows. There are two kinds of elk here in Oregon the bigger Roosevelt in the West and Rocky Mountain elk East. Most Western Roosevelt elk here is not gamey at all - eats like lean beef if not better. Western elk in general often taste better than Eastern Rocky Mountain elk usually due to diet - there are exceptions if can find an eastern Oregon elk to take who has lived close to farm fields. Any elk is more beef-like than any deer. Elk is damn good eating. I usually only process a small part of my elk into peperoni, beer sausage, and lunch meat as mostly eat elk in steaks and roasts. Roosevelt elk is one of my favorite proteins to eat of anything.

          NOTE: often a younger deer or elk tastes better than a big one with a huge 'rack' - I've been taught to hunt meat not horns. Would rather 'shoot' the really big ones with a camera and have their bloodline live on.

          Both elk and deer are tasty to me. Grew up on it. Can not buy in the store. Hunting, fishing, crabbing, and clamming is a lifestyle and there is an 'expense' the meat is not free. My childhood has caused me to appreciate the wilderness and wild places. Yes it is work to get quality critters, but good exercise then can eat on them all year. Nothing goes to waste here. When young thought we were weird Finns eating wild animals from the land - as so different from my city slicker friends. Older and wiser now consider myself lucky to have been raised half-Finn on deer / elk with ducks, salmon, fish, grouse, crab, crawdads, shrimp, & shellfish including clams as our primary proteins.

          1 Reply
          1. re: smaki

            You are so right, not that I hunt. My sister's in laws provide us with elk, venison and other stuff; either roasts, chopped meat, sausage, pastrami style plus burgers and hot dogs (they have a great butcher!). Hunt in the Adirondacks and Montana. If I had to, I would, but I'd have a LOT to learn! Meanwhile I know what I'm missing.

          2. My spouse hunts (smaki, a fellow Finn and also a deer jerky fan!) and usually gets 2 or 3 deer each year. Each one tastes differently and I can usually tell which deer it is by the taste. Spouse says the flavor not only depends on what it ate but on the circumstances under which it was killed (ie, the taste can be gamier if the deer died under stress). Last year he shot a huge old buck at the height of the rut and it was so funky I did not find it pleasant to eat. Even that one, however, still tasted more like beef than goat.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Kat

              Hey Kat, good to see a fellow Finn here on CHOW! I also love jerky. As you may know there is a big Finn community around Astoria, Oregon on both sides of the mouth of the Columbia River. My grandmother was born in upper peninsula Laurium, Michigan when family first settled with friends from Finland the Bergs. The house she was born in donated property to make the George 'Gipper' Gipp memorial. There is a picture of the memorial here:


              My grandfather was born in Finland. My dad is a dual-citizen. Much of my family goes back to the home country often.

              Great grandfather on grandpa side was a logger on the Washington side in what is now Naselle, Washington; then farmer who settled his family near Knappa, Oregon. Great grandfather on grandma side was a wood boat builder before there were engines (specialized in 'butterfly' boats while built others), then finish carpenter in the houses of Astoria 1908 and beyond. They lived in Astoria, Oregon then later Lewis & Clark, Oregon. My grandparents spent most of their life living in Astoria and Warrenton, Oregon.

              Most of my family hunts. Women also. My grandma was an amazing shot. Her deer nearly always one shot between the eyes to maximize quality meat. Sometimes at long range.

              1. re: smaki

                Interesting info! I did know there is a big Finn population in the UP Michigan, but did not know about Finns in Oregon. My spouse's family settled in a small Finn community in eastern MA. Sadly, it seems to be getting smaller every year. Not many hunters left. Hmm...looking forward venison stew tonite!

            2. Not a hunter, but the venison I buy at the farmers market or the supermarket tastes like venison, not beef. There are similarites in taste but I think in blind tasting I could tell the difference.

              Food and age when shot will obviously affect taste.

              1. Venison is venison and unique. Not goat, not sheep, not beef. Deer are goat-like creatures, but not close enough to breed with goats. From: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/s...

                A QUESTION:
                "I know from having raised dairy goats that they are related to deer, not sheep. Can goats and deer inter-breed like horses and donkeys, or are they further apart genetically? "

                AN ANSWER:
                "Goats are far. far more closely related to sheep than deer. They are more closely wildebeest than they are to deer, but goats are most closely related to sheep amongst all the domestic animal species.

                Deer are cervids, they have light, disposable, branching horns Sheep and goats are bovids, they have heavy, bony, permanent unbranched horns (mostly).

                Goats and deer could never interbreed, they are far to distantly related.

                Sheep and goats on the other hand are closely enough related that a very occasional hybrid offspring is produced.

                http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8... "

                Deer meat is dear to me. Outstanding results are possible. Venison is very lean. Done wrong can have a 'strong taste', be 'gamey', or 'dry' - especially if done wrong when people 'experiment' as learn to do right (some never get it). There are lots of factors to consider. 'Off' venison I never eat plain. As said above most of my deer goes into pepperoni, sausage, lunch meat, and jerky we make ourselves (just in case and to be sure we will enjoy it). I'm 4th generation Finn on the North Oregon coast so was taught by well-practiced 'experts' who lived on it. Venison can take a bit of getting used to for most people even done stellar plain. Find mixing with other meat is best to be sure an enjoyable experience to all. Many do not like plain venison when first try as very often comes from imperfect situations. Example: Lots of hunters go for horns not meat complicated by do not know how to do it right, and the resulting venison proves the point if try to consume. Due to bad experiences, we eat ONLY our own wild game (or from a 'trusted' source).

                CAUTION: When take your wild game to a processing plant / butcher usually what you get back is meat, pepperoni, jerky, sausage, and lunch meat not made out of your 'perfect situation' animal. Especially for venison is best to make your own if want to control as well as perfect all factors year-to-year as my family has done for generations. Learn to make your own if want the best. A meat grinder I like to use is about $150, the Waring Pro Meat Grinder MG855 (large capacity cast base). For a reasonable price does the job year-after-year:


                1 Reply
                1. re: smaki

                  Thanks, smaki.

                  I know maybe 3 people who hunt deer regularly. They all swear by the take-it-to-the-butcher processing solution, with near-religious faith that what they are getting back (mostly ground meat mixed with beef fat and a few chops or roasts) is more or less exactly what they shot. Simple good manners dictates that I never mention your caveat to them.

                2. I grew up on venison. Nearly every man (and a good number of women) hunted and venison was a staple in the freezer. Preparation was simple and a lot of the meat was ground and mixed with beef or pork.

                  I agree with the other posters, diet, age, and processing, all can effect the taste. I never had unpleasantly "gamey" venison until I was in my 20s and moved to another part of the state. I was used to woods deer, not suburban deer.

                  We have close friends that do a lot of hunting across the US. They are really fanatical about their game and everything they prepare is terrific. They put a great deal of effort into all aspects of getting the meat to the table and it shows. There is a big difference between their methods and what I knew growing up, which was simple roasts, tough steaks, and venison chili.