Five years ago, on 09/09/09, Krause Media released Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison. Since then, largely through word of mouth, it’s gone on to become the best-selling book on the topic—and a perennial top-seller among hunting books in general.
Every year my coauthor and I are helping more hunters learn to butcher their own deer, and that’s exciting. Sure, they’ll save a few dollars. But the biggest payoff is something less tangible. It’s the same feeling of self-reliance you get from building your own deck or canning your own tomatoes—but somehow way more powerful and primal.
Eric Fromm, my coauthor, was definitely the expert on this project. I, on the other hand, could totally empathize with the complete beginner. That’s because as an adult-onset hunter, I was one myself. In the end, however, it turned out that my beginner’s perspective was actually very helpful. It meant I took nothing for granted, and I knew just which steps would seem especially challenging or intimidating. And given my instructional design background (that’s been my day job for the last twenty years), I thought a lot about what learners really need to know so they’ll be successful at this task. In the corporate world, I helped people learn the skills they need for their jobs. Here, I helped hunters learn the skills they need for this job.
This book is different from anything else out there. We’ve shown readers all the step-by-step details, with supportive tips and guidance at every step of the way. We’ve been especially careful to zero in on the details that matter most. Other books only devote a few pages to the practical details of field-dressing, skinning, and butchering. But that’s where we spent nearly all our time. That meant there just wasn’t room for recipes, hunting stories, advice on how to shoot the biggest buck of your life, and the history of deer hunting over the last 50,000 years. But that’s OK. There are already plenty books on those topics.
After all the butchering is done, and after the chapter on making deerburger, sausage, and jerky, we did include a brief chapter on cooking techniques. Once you’ve gone to all that work, we’d hate to see you ruin your venison in the kitchen. And it turns out that cooking venison is very different from cooking beef. For now, if you remember just one thing, remember this: Don’t overcook it.
In the five years since Gut It. Cut It. Cook It. first appeared, more and more deer hunters are deciding this is a job they don’t want to delegate—and maybe you’re one of them. Plus, more Americans are taking up hunting as adults, and more of us are thinking of ourselves as DIY locavores. It’s not just about sustainability, and it’s not just about saving money. It’s about the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done the job yourself—all the way from pulling the trigger to doing the dishes. That means five years later, Gut It. Cut It. Cook It. is more relevant than ever.
Finally, a few words of encouragement: You can do it. If you’re a beginning deer hunter, or if you’re an experienced deer hunter who hopes to butcher your own deer this fall for the very first time… Just relax. This isn’t a delicate surgical procedure. Your deer is already dead. If some of your steaks from that first deer are a little lumpy, and if you inadvertently turn some of the very best cuts into ragged scraps and shreds, it’s OK. They’ll be great for gourmet stir-fries and fajitas. You can do this. If you can clean your own fish, you can butcher your own deer. So good luck, good hunting, and bon appétit!
And by the way… You can find Gut It. Cut It Cook It. online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Backwoods Home Magazine, Bass Pro Shops, Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, Scheels, Target, Walmart, and a number of other sources. You can also find it at bookstores, sporting goods stores, and outdoor retailers everywhere—not just Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, and Scheel’s, but lots of smaller independent shops, too. Same with bookstores. But if you’re not near your favorite independent bookstore right now, click here to buy Gut It. Cut It. Cook It. at Indiebound.
© 2014 Al Cambronne