All right Deer Hunter, you have scored. You’ve got a buck or a doe, and you have dressed it out.
That meat will provide a number of tasty dinners, assuming you or someone else is adept at wild game cooking. You have disposed of the other, unusable parts of that deer.
Don’t throw away the bones.
"Dem bones, dem, bones, dem dry bones" — the old song could give a hint of making more use of the deer meat that comes your way.
When a deer is processed in the field, at home or by a commercial outlet, bones are left. They are commonly disposed in Arkansas by (1) tossing them out back to the dogs of the household or (2) burying. There is an alternative, a stopover between the processing and the disposal.
Make a pot of venison stock.
Chefs, serious cooks and everyday cooks with a bit of experience know the value of stock in building a tasty main dish. A can of chicken broth from the supermarket is stock. It is used as a foundation of a recipe. Stock can also be made from the remains of fish after cleaning or filleting, from beef bones — and from deer, duck and goose bones.
It’s a cooking technique well known in kitchens of times past but not as popular since ease in opening cans from stores came to the forefront. The basics are to put the bones in a large pot — and the name stockpot originated here. Cover with water and boil. What is left after removing the bones is stock.
For handling a bunch of bones left from a deer, a bit more guidance calls for the bones to be fitted into the pot with a minimum of space left over. Add water. Bring to a full boil then lower the heat to a good simmer. Go about other business in the kitchen and house but pass by occasionally to check the water level and to skim the scum from the surface. After a couple or three hours, take out the bones carefully, skim again and add one, two or three tablespoons of salt, depending on the quantity of liquid in the pot. Stir well, turn off heat, let cool and skim again.
Many Arkansans who make stock from deer bones strain the liquid after it comes off the stove. A fine mesh strainer works well, and so does several thicknesses of cheese cloth.
If not used immediately, refrigerate for an upcoming venison stew, chili, spaghetti sauce or similar preparation.
When deer are dressed in the field, the usual procedure is to quarter the carcass and cut out the backstraps. What is left is discarded with the entrails and hide. This includes other bones and meat from the neck and ribs. True, that is not much meat, but it is good meat.
A little work with a sharp knife, and meat for chili, soup and stew is obtained.
When a deer carcass is taken to a processor, instructions are given as to how the meat is to be trimmed out and packaged. Tell the processor you want the bones, and the processor should readily nod in agreement. It saves the business having to dispose of them.
Deer bones, cleaned and well dried, are used for carving and for making jewelry. Native Americans and pioneers made a variety of tools from deer bones, especially awls for working with leather or hides.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.