Saturday was a day to put your game face on as staff and volunteers with the California Department of Fish and Game held a Game Care and Cooking Clinic in El Dorado.
The all-day clinic Aug. 4 was a hands-on class on how to ethically harvest, butcher, and cook wild game.
A carnivore’s fantasy, attendees got to sample a wide variety of tasty dishes that were cooked in front of them. Then at lunchtime, all the dishes, including those in the oven and on the barbecue, were laid out buffet style.
Included on the menu were critters and cream made with squirrel; antelope heart and liver with onions; coot fajitas with bell peppers and onions; antelope meatloaf; pheasant cacciatore served over polenta; antelope liver mousse; and an assortment of barbecued wild game, including boar, duck, venison, goose, and turkey.
Arvid Ekenberg of Sonoma said he is a repeat attendee.
“I came last year because I was a new hunter and wanted to learn everything about game care.” He said he was so impressed after trying the antelope heart and liver that he will probably make a trip to Wyoming to hunt them. “I’m not a trophy hunter,” he said. “I just want to put meat in the freezer.”
In addition to the food, everyone received recipes, a field dressing kit, and tips on everything from cooking techniques to how to reduce the gaminess that comes when an animal is allowed to stew in its own skin and entrails too long. The trick being to immediately field dress and then eat or refrigerate the animal after it’s killed or soak the meat overnight in buttermilk.
The clinic also included instruction on ethical hunting and how to skin and butcher an animal. In the afternoon, different animals were used as examples of how to field dress an animal, including a goat, squirrel, pheasant, chukar, and coot. Participants in the class were invited to try it themselves in order to learn the different cuts of meat and how to process an animal at home.
Greg Moore of Rocklin said he had attended other Fish and Game clinics, but this was his first time at the cooking class. A hunter for 40 years, he said “I enjoy meat and being outdoors. Elk is my favorite. It’s the best meat there is.”
Class instructors and head chefs were Capt. Roy Griffith and Lt. Dan Lehman of Fish and Game. Hunter Education Instructors Bill Adams of El Dorado, who made an antelope meatloaf, and Steve Bennett of Napa, who did the barbecuing, were there as volunteers.
Lehman said he has been teaching the class for four years and has been a game warden for 20. He does the class once a year and it’s always filled. “I used to do a bear clinic,” he said, “but interest was limited.”
Lehman said the reason for conducting the class is to keep interest in hunting alive since license sales make up half of their revenue. It also helps them get instructors.
He said Fish and Game also conducts clinics in wild turkey hunting, wilderness survival and first-aid, orientering, wild pig hunting, deer hunting, black powder hunting, land navigation and wilderness survival, upland game hunting, and waterfowl hunting. People can find out more by going to the Fish and Game Website at dfg.ca.gov.
Classes are very reasonably priced. The one on Saturday was only $45, which included the food, instruction, recipes, and a field dressing kit.
Lehman said there are different reasons for interest in the class, one of which is a desire by people to eat more organic food.
“And you can’t get more organic than game,” he said, “And then there’s the foodie craze with all of the cooking shows. It’s also because of the economy. It helps people be more self-sufficient.”
Lehman says he does it “because it’s my way of giving back as a hunter and as a game warden. It’s very satisfying when people come up and thank you. Very, very satisfying. Even the old salts learn new things.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or email@example.com. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.