Bringing wild meat home

  • Avery follows his owner, Mark Beauchesne of Concord, “on heel” after the pair hunted together in Andover on Monday. ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

There is, as Concord hunter Mark Beauchesne says, “no free-er ‘free range’ ” meat than wild game.

Beauchesne, who is also the advertising and promotions coordinator for New Hampshire Fish and Game, gave me a short lesson on hunting and eating wild game Monday.

First point: you have to find said wild game.

We gave it our best shot Monday morning in Andover, tromping through swamp lands and pushing past branches of a young-growth forest with Beauchesne’s dog, Avery.

Though we managed to “flush” five grouse – scaring them and sending them flying away with a light “drumming” in the trees – we didn’t get a chance to shoot any.

Avery, who is an English Setter, was “lit up,” Beauchesne said, and was mostly running circles around the birds’ scent, instead of finding them, standing still, and pointing his nose until we came along.

I didn’t get the chance to watch Beauchesne field dress a bird, though we did walk past the pink, purple and brown remnants of a moose that had been gutted along our path.

Beauchesne explained to me that after taking a quiet moment to express gratitude towards the animal he has killed, he pulls out his pocket knife. If it’s a grouse or American Woodcock – what we were looking for that day – he makes an incision in the bird and then takes out a “spaghetti hook” to remove the insides.

The dog gets the heart and liver. Then Beauchesne peels the skin (with feathers) off the bird, removes the wings, returns those parts to the woods for “Mother Nature to consume” before storing the rest in his game bag, a big pocket in his neon orange vest.

Once at home, Beauchesne said he rinses off the meat and inspects it for any remnants of shot.

“That’s one thing that will ruin a meal right there – a crunch,” he told me.

Once clean, Beauchesne pats the meat dry. Then, he added, “I love the vaccum sealer.”

Beauchesne doesn’t necessarily fill his freezer for the winter with the game he hunts. He does keep some in there, though, for his New Year’s tradition: grouse marsala.

“I’m a bit of a cook – a bit of a foodie,” he admitted. “Grouse is better than turkey, better than chicken.”

He uses all of the grouse, except the breast and thigh meat, to make a stock with water and fresh herbs. He fries the meat in flour, salt and pepper with oil, a little marsala wine and a shallot.

He adds some mushrooms – which he usually forages while out hunting – into the stock, and then puts in half a bottle of marsala wine and heavy cream into the mixture.

Beauchesne said he then puts the grouse meat into the sauce, and tops off the meal with some pasta.

Much like getting the meat itself, he added, the recipe “is a process.”

Though wild game can make for a special substitute for farm-raised meat, Beauchesne said it should be eaten differently, and with different expectations for taste, than your regular old beef or chicken.

“If anyone says, ‘Oh, I got venison, and I marinated it in Italian dressing,’ say, ‘No thank you,’ ” Beauchesne warned. “It’s just wrong.”

He added, “We as more modern humans have lost the taste for wild meats.” In his opinion, wild game should taste like what it is – wild. He advises to keep the natural fats and the bones present when cooking and eating venison, for example.

“To me,” Beauchesne said, “that’s where that special flavor comes from.”

When cooking up American Woodcock, Beauchesne said he usually just uses salt and pepper and pan sears the meat.

The outcome, he said, is almost “steak-like” with a unique flavor.

“Some would describe woodcock as muddy or earthy,” Beauchesne said. “The taste of blood – that’s what is in the meat.”

The hunter’s personal favorite is bear meat, which he describes as similar to pork.

“A lot of people have a hard time with bear because it can be a little strong,” he said. When he did a dry rub and smoked some this fall, Beauchesne said, “it as just amazing – it was just like pulled pork.”

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter