Wild-game dog food.
One of the most exciting parts of the hunt is not the hunt at all, but processing the animal you’ve worked so hard to harvest into usable pieces for the whole family to enjoy. Sadly, hunters seldom use all the resources their quarry provides. I find myself thinking about this regularly and it has transformed how I hunt, process, and preserve the animals I harvest. Admittedly, offal is intimidating, and most hunters are guilty of leaving it on the mountain. Many hunters less-than-enthusiastically harvest rib meat, sometimes the heart, and rarely the liver.
I stumbled into a great way to use those off cuts when my dog suffered a nasty gastrointestinal bug and I was forced to make him a bland diet. A bland diet consists of foods that are easy to digest and won’t further aggravate a dog’s digestive tract. A veterinarian will typically recommend a concoction of boiled and strained ground chicken, beef, or venison mixed with rice. So, I pulled out some venison from the freezer and did exactly that. My dog was crazy about it; in fact, he had a hard time transitioning back to his normal, store-bought food.
Now, my dog looks forward to hunting season more than I do. Like me, his tastes aren’t limited by species; he’s enjoyed elk, antelope, deer, and goose. And, homemade dog food isn’t limited to offal. All the trim and scrap that’s cleaned from the muscle before grinding that would otherwise be tossed goes into a pot labeled “dog.”
A word of caution before you trying this at home: dogs require some micro nutrients that aren’t available in the trim and offal, so I add vitamin- and nutrient-rich foods, such as spinach, sweet potato, blueberries, and apples. Organs are full of essential nutrients; hence they are often the first to be consumed by wild predators.
Next time you harvest an animal, consider packing out the under-utilized pieces for your four-legged companions. And if you need more motivation, remember that you’re also saving a few bucks.
Wild-Game Dog Food
Organs (liver, lungs, kidney, spleen)
2 large sweet potatoes
1-2 bundles of spinach
1-2 packages of blueberries
Volume of cooked rice equal to volume of puréed ingredients
Cut game pieces into manageable chunks and cover fully with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook 12 hours. Add in berries and vegetables and cook 4 more hours or until tender, on low heat. Remove fat layer from top. Use an immersion blender to puree mixture to desired texture. Ingredients can also be puréed in a food processor.
Prepare the rice. The goal is a 50:50 ratio between wild-game mixture and cooked rice. Fold rice into game mixture until evenly distributed. If it seems too wet, a handful of oats can be added as a binder. The food will harden naturally as the collagen congeals.
Place in food-saving bags, vacuum-seal, and freeze.
Safety note: as with any wet food, do not leave at room temperature for excessive lengths of time to prevent bacterial growth. It’s best to thaw it out in the refrigerator.