5 Weird Wild Game Meats and How to Cook Them

Most people hunt to put meat in their freezers. Trophies and photos come second. But what happens when you bag a critter that isn’t exactly appetizing at first glance?
5 Weird Wild Game Meats and How to Cook Them

Maybe you're after their pelts. Maybe you're doing your part to combat an invasive species, like Asian carp populations that are growing at an alarming rate across the country and outcompeting native fish for food and habitat. Or maybe you're simply protecting your property  and livestock against destructive varmints or dangerous predators. Whatever your reason, one thing is certain — these critters have to go. So when they do, what happens to the protein?

Here are five plate-worthy animals that deserve a spot at — rather, on — the dinner table.

1. Bobcat

If you're an avid predator hunter, you've probably bagged your fair share of bobcats. But have you ever thought about eating them? More hunters choose to skin and tan the hides or use the carcass for bait but, for those who choose to eat bobcat, many claim the meat is delicious and (like the cliché for most things) "tastes like chicken."

The meat is surprisingly white and delicate, like pork tenderloin, and maintains a good, crispy sear when grilled. Some simply fry it up in an egg wash with seasoned flour or throw it in a slow cooker.

Here's a recipe for barbecued bobcat from the October 2011 issue of Predator Xtreme where the author, Keith Sutton, tried out three different recipes using the boneless loins, tenderloins and steaks. This recipe was his and his family's favorite of the bunch.

You've already killed it, so why not try eating it? As Sutton put it, "It would be shameful to waste such delectable game."

Grilled Bobcat With Memphis-Style Barbecue Rub (pictured above)

  • Boneless loins from one bobcat
  • 1/2 cup sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 4 teaspoons black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all the seasonings, and sprinkle on all sides of the meat to form a thick coating. Allow to stand 30 minutes at room temperature until the rub appears wet, then season heavily again, pressing the barbecue rub into the meat so it sticks.

Slow-cook on the upper rack of a gas grill, turning frequently, until the meat is done to taste. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side.

2. Squirrel

Mark Olis' squirrel gumbo with andouille sausage

We've discussed why squirrel hunting needs a comeback. Not only is it a great way to get people of all ages out in the woods and increase interest in small game hunting, but it will make you a better big game hunter, too. And the meat on those critters is damn fine. Squirrel is often thrown into a stew or gumbo as pictured here because it lends itself to the texture of chicken, but it can be a bit gamey. Treating it this way is a great strategy to ease your family or folks you know into eating more wild game should they be a bit squirrelly over the idea.

Predator Xtreme Editor Mark Olis is a big fan of squirrel, and he makes hearty batches of his gumbo during squirrel season. You'll notice  — unlike traditional gumbos that have a dark, rich roux that could take hours to achieve — this rendition is a "white" gumbo, meaning the roux isn't cooked as long. The andouille sausage compliments the varmint meat well, too.

Mark Olis' Squirrel Gumbo

  • 7 tbsp. flour
  • 3 tbsp. corn oil
  • 4-5 sm. squirrels
  • 3 qt. cold tap water
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped green onion tops
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • Red pepper to taste

Put oil in pan and heat until warm. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture is brown. Scrape bottom often to keep roux from burning; set aside. Put roux in deep gumbo pot. Add water. Set on medium heat and stir until blended. Add chopped onion, squirrel, salt and red pepper. Cook for 1/2 hour, then add sausage. Cook for 1 hour or until meat is tender. Add onion tops and parsley; cook for 15 minutes more.

3. Crow

Traditional blackbird pie; Credit: Krissie Mason, Outdoor Life Magazine

The phrase "eating crow" has a negative connotation, and the idea of a "murder of crows" can be a bit eerie. And, let's face it, watching as crows pick apart fresh roadkill isn't what most would call appetizing. Truth is, though, the red meat of a crow's breast is a dismissed delicacy.

As hunters know, crows are pests. Farmers who grow crops can't stand them as they're notorious for plucking the sprouts out of the ground almost as soon as they've breached the surface. This costs crop growers a great deal of money and time, which is why so many are more than happy to let hunters onto their property to get some wing shooting practice.

Related: Sharpen Your Shooting Skills By Crow Hunting

While they're fun to shoot, not many hunters have tasted crow meat. If you can put aside your inhibitions, you'll be in for a real treat. This recipe from Outdoor Life for blackbird pie has us itching to get out and shoot some crows. If you'd prefer something simpler, you can always slice it up and pan-fry it in bacon grease or oil with an eggwash and some seasoned flour. However you do it, you won't be disappointed.

4. Carp

Credit: Hank Shaw and Holly Heyser

While it’s a prized fish in parts of Asia, carp are typically considered trash fish here in the Western Hemisphere. They can be bony, muddy and just plain dirty. But when properly farmed or freshly caught in clean water, carp can be firmer and cleaner tasting than cod or even tilapia.

Originally brought to the United States as a food source in the 1800s, according to the National Park Service, carp is currently a highly farmed fish. They’re also an invasive species in much of the mid-section of the U.S. — primarily bigheads and silvers — and are making their way up to the Great Lakes. Being a prodigious reproducer (females lay up to 2 million eggs while spawning) and extremely resilient to pollution that would kill other species, fisherman and sportsmen have taken it upon themselves to take a stab at combating their populations (bowfishing is a popular method).

Related: How to Clean a Pike

But there is one thing that turns a lot of people off from eating carp — the bones. These fish have an extra set of bones — the Y bones — you’ll have to deal with. As long you clean them the right way like Hank Shaw does in his recipe for Sichuan Crispy Fried Carp, they're not a problem. The trick is to run your fillet knife along the outer parts of the top and bottom of the "Y," which allows you to slice it neatly and discard the boney strip.

5. Raccoon


A traditional Southern way of cooking raccoon is to roast it with sweet potatoes.

Mark Olis, the editor of Predator Xtreme magazine, recently did a series on trappingtanning and cooking raccoons. Being fairly new here at Grand View Outdoors, I was roped into — ahem, invited — to taste this critter. I'll admit that I was a bit nervous to consume raccoon, considering the first thing that comes to mind is roadkill. But once I got over my own inhibitions and took a bite, I was pleasantly surprised.

Parboiling the coon made the meat tender, and roasting it with sweet potatoes offered a hint of sweetness to the dish. The parts that were submerged in the liquid from the meat and potatoes cooking down were the best — super juicy and fall-off-the-bone good. Keep in mind that this recipe was kept simple so the flavor of the meat would shine through. Overall, if I were in a position where I depended on varmints like this to survive — as some of our predecessors did — I'd say I was eating large. That said, I'd still choose venison or even squirrel over coon any day of the week.

Roasted Raccoon With Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 skinned and dressed raccoon (torso and hind legs)
  • Preferred seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, steak seasoning, etc.); measure out according to your preference
  • 6-8 peeled sweet potatoes roughly chopped in large chunks, enough to line the bottom of your roasting pan

First, trim the fat from the carcass and removed the scent glands from each arm and leg. They will look and feel like small marbles or peas. Next, soak the meat in white vinegar for a few minutes or, depending on your taste, overnight. This will tenderize the meat and cut down on the gaminess.

Then, sprinkle with seasoning and parboil or pressure cook the raccoon meat for 30 minutes or until tender.

Next, peel and chop enough sweet potatoes to line the bottom of an oven roasting pan (approximately six to eight potatoes).

When the raccoon is done parboiling, remove from the pressure cooker or crock pot. Line your roasting pan with the sweet potatoes and place the coon on top. Season again, then cover with foil and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. The meat should fall off the bone when it's done cooking.

Lastly, serve it up and enjoy!

Featured photo: Grilled bobcat with Memphis-style barbecue rub; Credit: Keith Sutton.



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