Wild game can be one of the best sources of protein available and doesn't have to taste like the foliage it eats to survive.
Don't take it from me. Sarah Bowmar is a fitness nutrition certified personal trainer and bow-only hunter. And just three short years ago, she was a strict vegetarian. Now, she is an accomplished archer and recently published her e-cookbook Wild Game Wild Gains.
While becoming fitness nutrition certified, Sarah researched the meat that people have access to in grocery stores. And most of it contained a lot of unnecessary — even harmful — ingredients and hormones. But that's not the case with the venison, wild turkey and other meat she harvests with her bow.
Sarah says she feels bogged down and less vibrant when she doesn't have access to her venison and is forced to eat commercially-raised meat. If you get your meat or fish from the wild, "your body will absolutely thank you," she says. "Use that organic meat to fuel your body, and you will notice complete changes."
Others who have adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in the past but would like to start incorporating meat back into their diets often assume it will be a difficult transition. But Sarah says that wasn't the case when she reintroduced meat in the form of wild game.
"When I was giving up meat, I was giving up meat that was mass produced. And then when I reintroduced meat back into my diet, it was a wild turkey here in Ohio. So, to be able to give my body that kind of protein definitely wasn't difficult at all."
Wild Game Wild Gains
When most people think of wild game, they think steak and hamburger with a hint of gamey flavor. Or they remember their few experiences with deep-fried and butter-covered dishes.
In fact, when Sarah tagged her first whitetail in 2014, she didn't know what to do with all the meat. But she learned that the possibilities of cooking with wild game are endless.
Sarah says that while the occasional splurge is acceptable, a consistent diet of greasy, deep-fried food isn't conducive to a fit, healthy lifestyle. So, she started creating her own recipes and collected them into what is now Wild Game Wild Gains.
"To be able to cook that meat in a way that a lot of people might not have thought of is kind of what inspired me," she said. "If you know how to prepare [wild game], then more people are going to want to get out and hunt because they have not necessarily a reward at the end, but something to get excited about by actually getting a deer or a turkey or a bass."
The e-cookbook currently includes over 70 recipes including twists on classics such as antelope stroganoff and venison quiche, as well as some exotic dishes — like giraffe tail stew — inspired by her recent trip to Africa. And most dishes allow for swapping out other wild game.
As Sarah continues to add more recipes to Wild Game Wild Gains, the e-cookbook will automatically update for free. The digital collection of breakfast, lunch, dinner and side-dish recipes is available for $7.99 and will soon include desserts.
To enhance the flavor and remove any gaminess from wild game — especially venison — Sarah says that trimming off as much of the fat and tendons as possible is key.
"We shoot the deer, gut it immediately, and then that deer is processed and in the freezer within a day," Sarah said.
Then, when cooking, seasoning beyond just some salt and pepper is important. Flavors like onion, garlic and chili seasoning are some of Sarah's staples.
Sarah says that you'll see a notable size difference in wild turkeys compared to the Butterballs found in your local grocery store — further evidence that most commercial meat isn't as nature intended.
Wild turkeys can travel up to five miles a day, so their legs are lean — which can translate into tough, dry meat. Sarah opts for baking turkey legs in the oven to keep them edible.
Her go-to preparation for wild turkey breast is placing it in the crockpot, covering with water and adding taco season. After 4-6 hours, the meat transforms into moist pulled turkey.
If you've never bowhunted before but want to get started harvesting your own organic meat, Sarah recommends visiting your local pro shop and shooting several different bows to see what has the right "feel" for you.
Then, invest what you can in a quality rig, and it could last for years. Sarah skimped on quality when she purchased her first bow; she didn't shoot consistently and didn't enjoy it. But now she understands the importance of starting with the right setup.
"You will only be as good as your equipment," she said. "You will be limited based on the equipment and your ability to use it."