This year has been the best for hunting the pre rut that we’ve seen in several years! Hunters in a wide range of states (Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and more) have shared how they are seeing more deer than previous during the pre rut.
This most likely will change in a matter of days. Bucks don't need to move much during the peak of the rut. This is when the highest percentage of does are receptive and bucks don't have to travel far to pair up with a doe. Once with a receptive doe bucks often tend her for 24-36 hours. Often, neither the buck nor doe will travel far during this time.
Southpaw, a 6 year old buck, is on our hit list.
During the chase phase of the rut bucks aren’t following a food/cover pattern. They are moving throughout their home range in areas they believe they have the best chance of finding a receptive doe.
Hunting stands that were placed overlooking scrapes will not be my first choice at this time. Why? Because bucks or does rarely use scrapes during the peak of the rut.
Bucks and does tend to abandon most scrapes during the chase phase of the rut. It seems bucks don’t wish to spend energy checking and/or maintaining scrapes when checking the wind often yields much better results of finding a receptive doe.
During the rut bucks will focus primarily on checking scrapes that are in a travel path between areas they will be seeking does. If I find scrapes that are maintained during the chase phase of the rut that can be a key stand location!
It is important to think about how bucks will be traveling during the rut. Research has shown that bucks will be up and on their feet, moving up to 4X more than the “normal” distance. This is the time to hunt bottlenecks, pinch points and travel corridors.
As always, there's usually more deer activity just before and after a strong cold front so I'm always watching the weather forecast!
One of my favorite pieces of venison to cook is the backstrap (or loin). This is the piece of meat that hunters crave. It’s one of the most tender cuts. If you’ve had it and not really enjoyed it, chances are that when it was butchered the silvery, connective tissue that surrounds that cut was not removed. If the meat was wrapped in butcher paper some folks leave the silvery sheath on the meat until thawing. This is said to help protect the meat from possible freezer burn. Once the meat thaws (or is partially thawed) remove as much as that silvery sheath as possible. We vacuum package our venison and that sheath is removed before freezing.
Grant shows how to remove the loin in this video.
The backstrap is great on the grill. The simplest way to grill it is to marinade it (find my favorite venison marinade recipe here) and grill over low heat. Some folks like their backstrap rare, while others like it well done. The bonus of the back strap is that it lends itself to all tastes as the thin “ends” will be well done while the thicker middle is medium rare to rare. Some chefs recommend cooking quickly over high heat and only serving grilled venison rare. However, rare just isn’t to everyone’s taste. For our family, low and slow on the grill works to keep everyone happy with the meat that goes on their plate.
A tip from a friend that is a “grill master” is to take the meat off the grill a couple of minutes before it reaches the degree of doneness desired and let it rest, wrapped in foil on a platter for 5 to 15 minutes before cutting. If you want to serve a fancier loin try Bacon Wrapped Backstrap!
I’ve never used a dry rub as a marinade but understand they can be good for tenderizing and adding flavor. I cook most everything as low sodium as possible. Most dry rub recipes rely on salt as the tenderizer. That’s the same reason I don’t brine any of our wild game. It works well but that sodium (salt) is not worth it when there are other methods available.
I would love to hear your favorite ways to cook venison. Let us know by posting your comments to this post on our social media.
Cooking venison for the family,
Like the rest of the GrowingDeer Team, I really enjoy hunting with my kids. The hunting memories that are at the top of my list are those where I watched my daughters take their first deer and turkeys as young girls.
With hunter numbers declining, it’s important to pass along the tradition and recruit new hunters. Hunting is a tradition and pastime that not only boosts the economy but also connects people to their roots. I suspect that many kids might not get to go hunting it if wasn’t for youth season because their mentor would be too busy hunting and would not be focused on taking them hunting.
We always put a lot of work into scouting for youth season. We want the hunt to be enjoyable. If a youth hunt is enjoyable, regardless of a harvest, I consider it a success. The goal is to pass on the tradition of the hunt, a kill is secondary.
By the time youth season starts, we have always made sure both our girls shot a lot of rounds from the bench and hunting positions. They have always been prepared by knowing their weapon. They were confident in their shooting skills and ready to have some fun (watch Rae’s hunt from 2009 here).
This year is no different. Rae has already been hunting with the crossbow while practicing with her Prime Centergy Air. She’s practiced with her rifle. After practice this week she returned proudly showing off her targets. Rae was shooting so well that she cut the same hole on the target! If you followed her season last year (watch Rae’s 2017 hunt here) you will understand why the practice this year is necessary to build her confidence!
My advice for success if you're taking new or youth shooters out to practice, make sure you’ve got the appropriate safety equipment and what I call “comfort equipment.” I use a Lead Sled to take all the recoil out of the rifle. This way they can concentrate on shooting and having fun with no worries about the kick of a deer rifle.
I hope that this year you invest in the future of hunting. Take time to make it fun. Get some shooting practice in. Put some time into scouting. Pass on the tradition and give thanks to the Creator who made it all possible.
Hunting with a purpose,
This recipe was inspired by the Warm You Up Sausage Quiche recipe here. Venison Quiche is a cool weather favorite at my house. It makes two very hearty quiches. I usually have plenty of leftovers!
If I know it will be a hectic day I pre-cook the venison and sausage and put it in the fridge. I simply take the meat mixture out of the fridge 15 minutes prior to making so it comes up to room temperature. I make one quiche with mushrooms and one without to accommodate the mushroom haters in my family.
When these come out of the oven be sure you are ready to eat! The baking powder gives the quiches that wonderful “puffy” delicious look but it only lasts for a few minutes before it begins to settle.
Venison Quiche Recipe
1 pound ground venison, cooked
½ pound breakfast sausage, cooked and drained
12 eggs, beaten
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
16 oz. small-curd cottage cheese
¼ cup melted margarine
3 cups shredded co-jack cheese
½ cup chopped onion, cooked until soft
4 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
- Grease two 9-inch round baking dishes.
- Mix ground venison and breakfast sausage together evenly.
- In a large bowl combine eggs, flour and baking powder together thoroughly.
- Add cottage cheese, melted margarine, shredded cheese and onion to egg mixture.
- Spread sliced mushrooms into bottom of one dish.
- Spread ½ of meat mixture evenly into each dish.
- Spread ½ of egg mixture evenly into each dish. Dishes will be very full.
- Cook in 375 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Every year hunters put out trail cameras hoping to discover a Boone & Crockett buck is calling their land home. For most of us, it is more likely we see pictures of a deer that has some sort of antler abnormality than a true Booner. The cause behind odd or non-typical antler growth boils down to two main factors, injuries and genetics.
Injuries to the body, pedicles and the antler itself during velvet all have the capability to cause an antler abnormality. The good news is that two of the three (pedicle injuries being the oddball) are typically short term as the deer will grow a normal set of antlers the following season. Abnormal antlers caused by genetics will not “heal”; the buck will likely have unique antlers for life.
This brings me to the often debated subject of the “cull buck.” There has been a long held belief that in order to improve a local deer population, it is necessary to shoot cull bucks. Should you shoot a cull buck? No and yes. If your goal is to eliminate a buck from the population because you want a better gene pool, you are fighting a losing battle. In a wild, free-ranging population it is impossible to control what genes are being passed down because you are not controlling what buck breeds with what doe. More importantly does carry most of the heritable antler traits. However, there’s no way by looking at a doe to know if her offspring consistently produce larger than average antlers.
At The Proving Grounds there’s a buck named Cactus Jack that some might consider a cull buck. We have pictures of Cactus Jack from multiple seasons and his antlers are probably the result of a testes injury. This is commonly the cause of “cactus” bucks. Cactus Jack is most likely four years old and we will happily harvest him this season if given the opportunity. If he was three and a half years old or less, we would pass. Even though one of our goals is to reduce the local herd population, harvesting bucks only has a short term impact.
It is much more effective to harvest does to reduce the population. Besides, even bucks with odd shaped antlers usually produce larger antlers as they mature!
Recently James Harrison and I sat down to do a Facebook live. James is a World Champion turkey caller. Those calling skills don’t end in the turkey woods. James is also an expert deer caller!
The focus of the live event was deer vocalizations that will help hunters get deer in range throughout the whole season.
Watch the video below (and listen carefully to the vocalizations) to learn about: early season, pre rut, rut, and post rut calling strategies, calls for different habitats, blind calling, strength/volume for calling, timing, and more!
In previous blogs, I’ve shared how I am learning to cook venison in the Instant Pot. As cooler temperatures have arrived, I transitioned a favorite “comfort food” recipe for Cubed Venison Stew to an Instant Pot recipe. A recipe that once took all afternoon to simmer was cooked and ready to eat in under an hour (prep time approximately another 15 minutes). If you don't have an Instant Pot I've also included stove top directions. If you like stewed beef and rice, you will LOVE this recipe for venison.
Savory Cubed Venison Stew: An Instant Pot Recipe
Mix together in a separate bowl:
1 ½ cups Mayonnaise
1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning blend
Mix together in a separate bowl:
2 cups all purpose flour with the following herbs: ½ tsp. garlic, ½ tsp. thyme, ½ tsp. basil, ½ tsp. oregano (OR 1 ½ – 2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend + the garlic), and salt and pepper to taste.
2 lbs. venison roast cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 celery sticks roughly chopped/sliced
½ cup onion, chopped
2 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
¾ stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
- Set the Instant Pot to sauté function, add canola oil.
- Mix Italian herb blend into the mayonnaise to make an herb mayonnaise. Dredge the cubed venison in the seasoned flour.
- Place venison into the Instant Pot. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the onion and celery. Let the floured venison brown just slightly. It’s better to err on being barely brown than to be overly brown and crispy. Stir occasionally.
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot and seal. Use the manual setting timed to 40 minutes with natural pressure release.
- Enjoy over rice (which can also be cooked in the Instant Pot!).
This can be cooked on the stove top. Follow the same steps but use a large pot. Sauté/brown the meat and vegetables on a medium high temperature. Add the remaining ingredients. After heating thoroughly (but not boiling), turn the heat to low. It will take up to 3 hours for it to tenderize, stir occasionally and watch your water/liquid levels. If it starts to become dry, add more water and stir. Hint: for the stove top cooking method it is better if your meat is in smaller ¾ inch cubes.
Using an Instant Pot to cook venison is a natural fit for busy cooks. Why? Because an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker cooks food faster and under pressure which can turn a tough cut of meat into a cut of meat so tender Grandpa can eat it with his dentures (out)!
Want to know more about the benefits of pressure cooking foods? There's tons of info online including instructional YouTube videos and a Facebook page for sharing and talking about cooking with the Instant Pot. Here's a link to an article that explains why pressure cooking in these new, modern, “not scary” electric pressure cookers makes so much sense. Take some time to learn and join me on this new cooking adventure!
I hope you enjoy this venison recipe as much as my family did! I’ll be sharing more recipes with you soon!
If you’re like me, you spend all year waiting until the temperature cools and leaves begin to drop, itching to get into a tree stand. I’ve been interning for a little over a month and one thought comes to my head daily, “Man! I wish I was lucky enough to have my own Proving Grounds.” I’m sure many others have the same thought when watching GrowingDeer and seeing their success. The good news is that you do have your own Proving Grounds – roughly 640 million acres of it.
Most people do not realize that we are the only country in the world with this unique system of public lands that is available to everyone and most of it is open to hunting. A quick search on your state’s game and fish or natural resources website will yield all of the public lands accessible to you, both state and federal. Most have specific details about each area – maps, regulations, harvest data, etc.
Don’t forget about preparation! Just because you don’t have your own piece of hunting property doesn’t mean you can sit around all year waiting for the season. You don’t have to dedicate your time to planting food plots, putting out trail cameras, hanging tree stands, and all of the other activities that come with having your own property but you still need to use your time wisely! This means scouting, scouting, scouting.
Two of the details I mentioned earlier are the biggest components for scouting public land and you don’t even have to get off your couch. Maps and harvest data for specific locations can give you a great head start on your plan for the fall. Identifying map features such as pinch points and travel corridors for deer can save you time before you scout in the field. Looking at previous year’s harvest data will show you how much pressure will be in the area. Deer dislike pressured areas so if you’re willing to hike further than the next person, you’re one step closer to a public land bruiser.
After learning how our public lands came to be, it makes the thought of harvesting an animal on them that much more appealing. Thanks to people like Teddy Roosevelt who had great foresight to set aside lands for the American people, I’ll be trying my hand at a public land buck this fall.