While most big game seasons are closed across the country, there are still plenty of hunting opportunities to be had during the winter months with small game hunting, predator hunting and trapping. Although many people may not consider the animals in these categories to be dinner table standouts, Chef Jeremy says many of them make for amazing wild protein.
Small game animals aren't one of the more "taboo" field to table animals, but often people don't bother with them because they are small and it takes a mess of them to make any kind of substantial meal. You may not get your limit in one day, however, Chef Jeremy encourages hunters to clean the rabbits they do get and then put them in the freezer until they have a stash big enough to cook a good meal with. The great thing about rabbit, he says, is that it's very versatile. "It's like the chicken of the woods," he notes. The flavor is mild and can even be slightly sweet, based on where you are geographically and the diet of the rabbits you're hunting. For these reasons, rabbit is a great wild protein to prepare when introducing people to wild game for the first time. It eats really well, it's not typically overpowering and you don't have to cover it up with brines, marinades or sauces, he says.
Predatory animals, like coyotes, generally get a reputation for having foul/rank tasting and smelling meat. As a result, the lion's share of predator hunters are never going to eat the song dogs they hunt. However, in the spirit of #EatWhatYouKill, Chef Jeremy has taken on a coyote cooking challenge more than once. In fact, during a recent Facebook Live event he prepared and tasted some coyote backstrap. "A lot of folks get hung up on the stink that's on the hide, but once you get that bark off of them it's just more wild delicious protein," Chef Jeremy says. Coyote meat is just like any other meat, he notes, you can take it anywhere you want with different cooking methods and seasonings. While he has prepared it a number of different ways, Chef Jeremy says a few years ago he boned out the hind leg of a coyote, seasoned it, put it all back together, wrapped it in bacon and then smoked it. "People could not get enough," he says. The taste is similar to grass fed beef crossed with venison and it has the ability to be very tender.
In the realm of trapping, beaver and bobcat can be valuable in terms of pelts, but what about the meat? Beaver meat is often said to be greasy and gross, however after cooking and eating several himself, Chef Jeremy says he has never found that to be true. Noting that animals "are what they eat", the flavor of beaver meat will likely vary based on where you are trapping them. However, even if the meat is a little greasy, Chef Jeremy says that shouldn't deter people from eating it. There are different cooking methods to help you work around the greasiness and make it work for you, not against you. And as for bobcats, despite the fact that felines don't show up that often on the dinner table, Chef Jeremy says bobcat meat is incredible. "It's the veal of wild game," he says. It not only tastes great, but it's also very tender. With any animal, the legs are going to do a lot more "work" than the backstraps so they are often a tougher cut. However, with bobcat, even the hind quarters can be cut into strips and cooked without having to be pounded out or tenderized in some other fashion. Bobcat stir fry is fantastic, he says, so are bobcat backstraps sliced into medallions then cooked and eaten like nuggets.
Passionate about his #EatWhatYouKill motto, Chef Jeremy says there is more to wild game cooking than just stripping out the backstraps and tenderloins of a given animal. Backstraps are incredibly popular because people are familiar with them, but the further you get away from them, the less familiar people are with the different cuts of meat and the less likely they are to use them. We have to get our minds past backstraps, Chef Jeremy says. There is so much more to wild game cooking and with resources, like social media, easily accessible it makes it simple for people to learn more about how to cook all the different cuts of meat from different wild game animals.