Meat From Older Rutting Bucks: Best Ways to Prep and Cook To
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Meat From Older Rutting Bucks: Best Ways to Prep and Cook To

Jan 02, 2024

Use a meat mallet or needle tenderizer to tenderize tough venison steaks from older bucks. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley)

The best venison comes from younger animals, but if you (or your partner) are a trophy hunter, you’ll inevitably end up with a freezer full of meat that might be a challenge to use up. Sure, I’ve had a few hunters tell me that they don't notice any difference, but talk to their wives and kids, and you’ll hear a different story.

Taste can vary between animals, depending on species, age and diet. I’ve eaten older bucks that tasted fine, and I’ve had others that overwhelmed my palate. Regardless, one common factor is texture: they were both tough. Eat the tenderloins and backstraps as usual, but what do you do with the rest of the animal?

The most obvious thing to do with older deer is to grind it. Older animals tend to be more flavorful than younger animals, so rutting bucks can actually make for delicious ground meat. Add fat to the mixture and you’ll have a nice supply for quick dinners that will last you months.

Learn More: How to Properly Prepare Venison for the Grinder

The tougher the animal, the better the braise. All that sinew and connective tissue melts down into a tender, jelly-like texture, which is not present in younger deer. Have a little patience, because older deer may take up to 3 to 4 hours to tenderize. Older deer are perfect for the slow cooker.

Get the Recipe: Slow Cooker Venison Roast Marsala

My favorite places for venison steak come from the rounds, which are located in the hindquarters. On an older deer, the dining experience is often not so tender. I might tolerate it for myself, but I wouldn't serve it to others, let alone use it to introduce anyone to wild game.

If you want to serve older venison as steak, you need to make sure that you remove as much silver skin and sinew as possible. On an older deer, there will be more connective tissue and it will be twice as tough. Don't cut the steaks too thickly, and then tenderize them using a needle tenderizer for the best results. If you don't have one, use a meat mallet.

Get the Recipe: Chicken-Fried Venison Steak

To help further tenderize the steaks, marinate them. Use a marinade that has acid in it, such as wine, vinegar or citrus. This acid will help break down connective tissues in the steak.

It's important that you slice the meat thinly, as most marinades will only penetrate 1/8 of an inch into the meat, no matter how long you let it sit.

Get the Recipe: Easy Venison Marinade

Sausage is another choice, especially if you find the venison too gamy. Choose a recipe that is heavily spiced, and it will help hide any off flavors in the meat. I don't usually send venison to a processor, but with older deer, I have. All that summer sausage, bologna, cheesy brats, meat sticks, etc., could be worth it.

How to Make Venison Sausage

Another option is to make ground venison jerky. Make a big batch—the whole deer if desired—and vacuum seal in small batches. You’ll have snacks to add to your lunches and outdoor adventures for a good while.

Learn More: Cooking Tips for Tenderizing Your Venison Cuts