Total Outdoorsmen: Eat, and Share, What You Kill

Total Outdoorsmen: Eat, and Share, What You Kill

No matter if it’s a gourmet feast or a rustic camp supper, a family meal of shared wild game has always brought hunters together

The dusky grouse came from the big slopes of the Flathead and Kootenai national forests, behind Tom Healy’s house in the Northern Rockies. When Fast Eddie, Healy’s wirehaired pointing griffon, locked up along an edge of pines, Healy knew instantly and intuitively that it was no ruffed grouse. “The big duskies like that sunshine, that open ground in the big woods,” he says, standing in the deep shade of a wall tent, stirring a mixture of grouse meat, elk meat, and wild rice. “I knew what was coming.”

Healy harvested this wild rice too, with his wife, in a canoe deep in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Now he stirs the dirty rice in a black iron pot as he describes arrowing through the dense rice stalks in the canoe, knocking the grains loose with short wooden batons so they fell into the boat.

There is elk heart in Healy’s dirty rice mix too, and elk sausage from a cow he killed eight days into a Big Hole Valley backcountry hunt. He had a .270 in camp, he recalls, but he carried a slug gun that day. “I wanted to force myself to get a little closer,” he says. “Make it a little more real.”

I glance around the tent. Nearby, a tall, bearded, cowboy-hatted guy sears mallard breasts from a Rocky Mountain spring creek. Another outdoorsman debones a Bristol Bay salmon. There is snowshoe hare and Idaho chokecherry sauce and goose confit in the works. On an open fire outside the tent, skewers of lynx meat sizzle. Getting closer to the heart of the matter seems to be the dish of the day. I’m in Boise, Idaho, at what is arguably the world’s most impressive wild-game meal: the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers field-to-table dinner, held during the group’s annual Rendezvous. Each year, some of the country’s best wild-game cooks put on a fundraiser feast so fine, it’s been written up in gourmet-cooking magazines.

I wander from camp stove to fire pit, sampling beaver meatballs and smoked Lahontan cutthroat trout. I quiz the chefs about each dish, but what I hear most isn’t the merits of wild plums versus the grocery-store variety, or why jackrabbit is underrated on the table. Instead, everyone tells me a story about the harvest. I hear how warm it was that January day on the Boise River when the trout were biting, how the moon lit the trail on the tough hike out with the elk quarters.

It’s been this way, always. This might be one of the fancier wild-game gigs I’ve ever attended, but I’ve felt this same kinship in Cajun squirrel camps, Yukon duck camps, and my deer camp back home. It’s what we do. The earliest art, religion, and connections between human communities were all rooted in the things we chase, kill, and eat. And share.

Spice of Life

Here’s another story: A few years ago, my wife, Julie, and I had new friends over for dinner. I smoked a chunk of pronghorn backstrap and served it with Gouda cheese and red peppers blackened on the grill. It was not terribly different from our normal wild fare. To our guests, though, antelope was the most exotic meat they’d ever eaten. They gushed about its tenderness and sage-tinted bite. They wanted to know where I’d killed it (Wyoming) and how (arrowed from behind a decoy). They asked about my other hunts. They were surprised to learn that I butchered my own deer and aged ducks in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper. They were unaware of the modern hunter’s connection to this ancient cycle, that wild meat still nourishes soul as much as body.

I asked if they’d like to meet their meal, since the antelope’s head was hanging on my office wall. They politely declined, but still, that one simple meal sparked a conversation about hunting, sustainability, and the honesty of eating what you kill. They still talk about it. Not every wild-game dinner is a conversion experience, to be sure. Sometimes you just want to chew on a squirrel leg. But there’s no doubt that a grilled backstrap is as fine an argument for hunting and fishing as any philosophical treatise.

At the BHA chow-down, I hover over Idaho chef Randy King as he works up a dish of spring rolls stuffed with goose confit. Always a sucker for a good goose dish, I’m about to ask for the particulars of the dish, but King tells a different story. “This is kind of funny,” he says, “in sort of a bad-funny way.” He tells me that he and his 12-year-old son, Cameron, hunted these geese from a southwestern Idaho farm ditch last winter. Cameron was shooting a single-barrel 20-gauge, the kind with an exposed hammer, and with the first shot, the hammer bit the boy on the cheek hard enough to require stitches. Blood gushed. “I felt awful,” King says, “but he is so proud of that scar, you wouldn’t believe it.”

But I would, of course. What hunter wouldn’t? It’s the kind of story that seasons a meal and life long after the hunt, and makes every day on this Earth a sweeter bite of life.

Gear Tip: Cooking by the Book

Time to make some room on your bookshelf. Randy King’s collection of recipes and essays, Chef in the Wild: Reflections and Recipes from a True Wilderness Chef is pretty close to sharing a cooking fire with the Idaho icon. And the latest cookbook from award-winning food author Hank Shaw, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Game from Field to Table, elevates gamebird and small-game cookery to its rightful status.

Written by T. Edward Nickens for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

Camo-Plate Specials: The Best Diner Breakfast Recipes for Hunting Season

Camo-Plate Specials: The Best Diner Breakfast Recipes for Hunting Season

Four all-American diners share their favorite breakfast recipes that you can cook at camp

Breakfast should be the official meal of opening day. You can get it at many local fish-and-game clubs on the opener. You can get it at deer camp, as long as someone gets up to cook. And you can get it at 4 a.m. at the Blue & White Restaurant in Tunica, Mississippi, on the opening day of duck season.

“All the guides bring their clients here for breakfast before the hunt,” says Steven Barbieri, co-owner of the Blue & White. “We’re like their headquarters. During the season, I’d say at least 70 percent of our customers are wearing camo, some still in their waders. Some even with paint on their face.”

To one degree or another, that’s the story this time of year at rural diners across the U.S. The “Hunters Welcome” signs go up, and we pile in. But if you can’t get to the local diner, you still need to have a killer morning meal on opening day—and these four belly-busting recipes, shared from some of the country’s best diners, will do the trick. Dig in, then get hunting.

Southern stack: Blue & White ­Restaurant’s 61 Hobo Breakfast

After the morning shoot, waterfowl hunters pile back into the Blue & White for a second breakfast, filling the 144-seat place to capacity. A favorite, says co-owner and kitchen manager Joe Weiss, is the 61 Hobo Breakfast. “It’s a big, messy stack of food that a hunter would cook at a duck camp.” In fact, a version of the dish was originally cooked at Weiss’ own Lazy Drake Duck Club.

You Will Need

Ingredients | Serves 1

  • Hash browns
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Game meat
  • Eggs
  • Cheddar cheese


Start with a single portion of hash browns, which you can buy pre-made in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Then melt butter in a large skillet and crisp the hash browns on one half of the pan. On the other half, sauté half a medium onion, cut into strips, and cook your protein. “We offer pork sausage, ham, or bacon, but venison sausage or duck breast would work great,” Weiss says.

Flip the hash browns, and then stack the onions and cooked meat on top. Then fry eggs to order and add them. Finally, sprinkle cheddar cheese over the whole mess and cover the pan to melt.

“It’s an absolute favorite with our hunters. I’m sure some of them order it once before the hunt and get it again after,” Weiss says.

Eastern Icon: Neptune Diner’s Country Scrapple

What’s scrapple? Commonly described as “Everything but the oink,” scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch treat of boiled pork offal mixed with cornmeal and formed into a loaf—then sliced and fried. It has a dedicated following in much of the Mid-­Atlantic, and is a breakfast favorite at the renowned Neptune Diner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Co-owner Alex Mountis says the diner sells so much scrapple that they source it from a local supplier. But having grown up in the area, Mountis can surely tell you how to make this Keystone State staple: “Typically, the meat is pork heart, liver, and butt, but it would be easy to substitute almost any game meat.”

You Will Need

Ingredients | Serves 4 to 6

  • Game scraps and/or organ meat
  • Spices
  • Cornmeal
  • Oil


Boil 11⁄2 pounds of meat scraps in 4 cups of water until the meat is very tender (at least two hours). Strain the broth into a saucepan. Run the meat through a grinder or zip it almost to a paste in a food processor. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the processed meat, as well as salt, pepper, and sage to taste. Slowly add cornmeal (about a cup), stirring constantly, until thick. Transfer into greased loaf pans, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, cut into 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch-thick slices and fry.

“We’re best known for how we prepare it,” Mountis says. “You want it soft in the middle and golden and crispy on the outside. At home, you can fry it in a deep skillet with about an inch of high-heat oil, or pan-fry it with oil or butter, and use a light press to get the crust.” Serve scrapple as a side with eggs and pancakes or French toast. Some like it with ketchup, others with maple syrup. Try both.

Midwestern staple: Zingerman’s Roadhouse’s Famous Corned Beef Hash

You can get hash anywhere in the Midwest, but if you want “famous” hash in one of the country’s biggest deer-hunting states, you go to Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Zingerman’s uses a corned beef recipe that originated in Detroit’s Eastern Market in the 1980s. But you’ll want to corn your own venison, which is a simple process of brining venison for a week, then boiling or steaming it until tender.

You Will Need

Ingredients | Serves 4 to 5

  • Potatoes
  • Corned venison
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Red pepper
  • Flour
  • Chicken stock
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Sage
  • Heavy cream


Start by dicing 2 pounds of blanched, cooled potatoes and 2 pounds of corned venison. Mix them in a large bowl and set aside. In a skillet, melt a couple of pads of butter, and sauté 11⁄2 cups chopped onion, 3⁄4 cup chopped celery, and 11⁄2 cups chopped red pepper. Next add 6 tablespoons flour and mix well. Pour in 11⁄4 cups chicken stock, 11⁄2 tablespoons Worcestershire, and 1⁄2 teaspoon dried sage, and stir. Add 1⁄4 cup heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and pour over the corned-venison-and-potato mixture. Use your hands to mix thoroughly. Now it’s ready for the griddle or frying pan.

Serve with runny eggs and sourdough toast.

Western Jefe: El Patron Café’s Huevos Rancheros

If you’ve hunted in the Southwest, you’ve probably had this Mexican breakfast classic and wondered why you can’t get anything quite like it anywhere else. The secret is the green chile sauce, which finds perfection in New Mexico. And the best green chile in the state, according to USA Today, is found at El Patron Café in Las Cruces. Here’s how chef Patrick Tirre makes it.

You Will Need


Game meat Butter Jalapeños Onion Garlic Flour Chicken stock Green chiles Tomatoes Spices


In a skillet, brown 11⁄2 pounds of meat, cubed into bite-size pieces. Chef Tirre uses pork shoulder or butt, but wild pig would work well, as would a mix of fatty pork and wild turkey, pronghorn, elk, or deer. When the meat is brown and crispy, splash in a little water in the pan to ­deglaze and set aside. In a pot, melt half a stick of butter and sauté 4 jalapeños, half an onion, and 4 cloves of garlic. Then add 3 to 4 tablespoons flour to make a roux. Next, add 2 quarts chicken stock, 16 ounces roasted, chopped green chiles (available in the ­Mexican section of the grocery store), and the insides of three hollowed-out tomatoes. Add the meat and season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin, and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. Finally, simmer until the meat is falling apart. Slap two or three corn tortillas on a plate, smother them with the meaty green chile, add two eggs any style, along with jack and cheddar cheese, and serve with flour tortillas to sop it all up. Serves 6 to 8

Written by Dave Hurteau for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Wild Chef: How to Make Catfish Sausage

Wild Chef: How to Make Catfish Sausage

Grind and cook your catch with a side of creamy grits and roasted tomatoes

Chef Robert Phalen, at Atlanta’s acclaimed One Eared Stag restaurant, makes this citrusy, herbal, head-turning “sausage” with catfish, but it’s a fresh and terrific vehicle for other freshwater gamefish like bass or walleye. Don’t let the ­sausage-making component scare you off; after a simple pass through the grinder, this dish couldn’t be easier.

You Will Need


_ Serves 4 _

  • 2 lb. catfish, bass, or walleye ­fillets, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups grits (not instant)
  • 1⁄3 cup white wine
  • 11⁄2 cups parsley, roughly chopped
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 11⁄2 Tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 11⁄2 tsp. onion powder
  • 11⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 10 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • About 1⁄2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. Place the components for your meat grinder in the freezer to chill.
  2. Make the grits: Bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the bay leaves, then slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer very gently for 30 minutes to an hour, until the grits are very tender.
  3. Meanwhile, add the wine, parsley, lemon and lime zest, fennel and coriander seeds, onion and garlic powder, and red pepper flakes to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Combine this purée with the fish fillets, and salt and pepper generously.
chopping catfish Roscoe Bestill (Food and Prop Styling)
  1. Using the coarse setting on your grinder, grind the fish mixture into a clean, cold bowl. Keep refrigerated until ready to cook.
  2. As the grits are cooking, place the tomatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle with about 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place under a broiler for about 8 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and blackened in spots. Keep warm.
  3. In a nonstick sauté pan, heat about 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Make patties with the sausage (or sauté loosely, as you would ground beef) and cook, ­flipping once, for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. Add the butter to the grits and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Ladle the grits into shallow bowls and top with the sausage and blistered tomatoes. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve.

Written by Jonathan Miles for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Field & Stream