A Winter of Hunting

Hunting for meat

setting up camp under a redgum tree preparing for a deer hunt red deer

After an early morning start and the long drive we arrive on the property mid afternoon. Its overcast but calm and the farmer allows us a good camp site in a grove of big redgums. (yes we checked for overhanging branches, just free sky above the tents).

It wasn’t really that cold but a camp fire made life more pleasant. The discussion turned to planning and we decided, despite not knowing the lay of the land we’d be up before sunrise and scouting at first light.

Actually we got up an hour before we should have, so just stood around talking shite while slapping gloved hands on our thighs to keep warm and thinking of things to come. Of course, we didn’t see any deer, just a couple of foxes and one lone rabbit. But apparently this is where Australia makes kangaroos to export all over the country. I’ve never seen so many, hundreds in a paddock. They made stalking a trial, even though you’re doing everything as best you can, sooner of later a roo would bound through the bush, thumping its tail message for all the other animals to hear.

And then it started to rain and blow a gale, ….and didn’t stop for the rest of our trip.

removing the skin prior to butchering a red deer using handmade knives

Finally, on the third try, we were able to take a prime red deer doe for meat. My hunting partner got to within 50m and put his 308 in the right spot, the deer didn’t even take one step. There were two other chances we could have taken at the same spot, but we elected to pass up on them while attending to this kill.

Both knives were made by me. One from RWL34, the other is a chisel ground gun-blued O1.

lifting up the deer pelt after skinning a present for the property owner

We gave the pelt to the landowner as thanks. He likes to tan them for use around his house. I was impressed with how thick the fur was, some ten to fifteen centimeters.

large amounts of red deer meat aging hanging to age

Back home, we hung the meat in a converted fridge, keeping it at five degrees for ten days before sharing it out.

There was no choice, the backstrap fillet was simply cut into medallions and seared with fresh pepper and a little salt.

I boned out a hind leg and cut the meat into five full sized roasts. Three of these were kept as is but from my time in Africa, I had a hankering for some game-meat biltong.

I made a biltong drying cabinet out of scrap drawers recovered from renovating a bedroom. The door is metal flyscreen. A gentle heat is provided by a light bulb and air is circulated by a fan.

showing a close up of the fan forced heating system for the biltong cabinet

The fan is controlled by a dimmer switch because I found full blow is a bit too much. You can also see the ducts are able to be moved and pointed. The door is sealed with stick on foam tape.

a biltong making cabinet hanging deer meat to make biltong

I cut two of the roasts into steaks, with the grain running lengthways. These are soaked in marinade and covered in roasted herbs and seasoning then left over night in the fridge. I hung them in the cabinet for around four days of drying.

an entire red deer haunch and back leg getting ready for the roast

cleaned up and preparing for the oven, guests coming around for dinner tonight !

biltong made from red deer meat being cut using my knife warrick edmonds riflebirdknives

Some people like their biltong hard and dry, like a jerky, some like it soft and pink under the crust. I like it just in the middle.

While I enjoy the backstrap fillets, the leg roasts and cubed meat for stews, there’s something incredibly moreish about biltong. My wife and sons love it and these strips disappear as fast as I can cut them down.

This is what collecting your own wild meat is all about. Just like fishing, there’s the immense enjoyment of the journey with mates, a couple of beers around the campfire at night. Then if successful, there’s the fantastic pay-off in tender meat, equal to any fine steak. I happen to also turn some into biltong. Its not something done as often in Australia as it is in South Africa, however I’d experienced this wonderful treat while on holidays driving the Garden Route and knew how addictive it could be.