My deer-hunting stand offered a view into misty woods with only a scattering of snow on the ground.
It was fate. The other night I came home to find a postcard from the Wisconsin DNR. The doe I shot on the first day of gun deer season in November had tested negative for chronic wasting disease. In addition, Dianne was headed out for dinner with a friend (my wife hates venison), so I was free to eat deer meat!
I quickly thawed a loin, wrapped in a plastic bag, in a bath of hot water. Then I slathered the meat in olive oil, coated it with coarse salt and pepper, and seared it for one minute a side in a cast-iron skillet. I then placed the loin in the oven for about three minutes at 425°F. Meanwhile, I made some mashed potatoes and steamed some broccoli. Finally, I poured myself a nice glass of Chilean cabernet, hearty enough to stand up to the venison.
The main thing about venison is that it's easy to overcook because the meat is so lean, and so you should eat it rare. That's why you give it a healthy coating of oil, and sometimes you might wrap it in bacon. So, whatever you do for a rare beef steak, cut the time roughly in half for venison.
Anyway, it was a great dinner. And I was lucky to have it. This year, the deer harvest was off 25% from 2013, and only 31% of hunters were successful. That rate is actually about average, but hunters got used to a decade of big harvests, which topped out at a 76% success rate in 2000.
Attitudes about hunting have shifted a lot in Madison over the last decade or two. As people become more attuned to local sourcing and knowing where their food comes from, and as the public understands more about the need to keep the deer population in check, the hunt has become more widely accepted.
This is the first deer I've shot in four years. I can go on and on (and often do) about how hunting isn't like a video game; how it's the waiting that matters more than the actual killing. So years of patience were rewarded in a season in which I actually had a two out of three chance of coming up empty again. That in itself made the venison taste even sweeter.