Over the years, I've heard people around the country saying that one species of deer tastes better than the others. It's kind of like what caliber or rifle is best. There's lots of talk about what the deer eats and where it lives. I'm sure there's truth in all of that, though I tend to believe it's more important how the animal is taken care of after it hits the ground.. I generally eat mule deer that feed on winter wheat and other farm crops. I haven't eaten a lot of whitetail but what I have had, seemed pretty much like other venison.
Well, this past year we had fairly decent success when it came to deer. In October, I harvested a small three point (Western count) mule deer in the craggy terraine of Eastern Washington. These deer live in the sagebrush and rocks but do their dining on the lush winter wheat of the surrounding hillsides.
Then in November, I took my son-in-law out right close to home in Western Washington and he took his first deer, a nice little three point blacktail. These deer live in the heavy vegetation of the rainy northwest and live on fresh, succulent shoots that spring up almost year around.
January found me on the East side of the nation, hunting in Maryland. I flew out for my first and only Sika hunt on the Eastern Shore of Maryland's Chesepeak Bay. But before we left my son's place for our Sika hunt, I was fortunate enough to drop a fat little four point (Eastern count) whitetail in the woods behind my son's home.
And finally, on our Sika hunt, I was extremely fortunate in taking a spike buck with my son's crossbow. It was certainly one of the toughest hunts I've been on, but oh so fun. Wow! I now had backstraps of four different deer in my freezer.
Something I've always wanted to do was to have a taste test, and who better to use as judges than my family who all love venison. I fixed several backstrap steaks from each species and prepared them exactly the same. I put each species on its own plate and labeled them one through four. There would be six judges and we would eat a steak of each deer and then rate them, one through four. A first place vote would get 4 points and a last place would get 1. No one knew what deer they were eating except me. Let me add here that this was one of the best tests I've ever taken. I would volunteer for this duty anytime.
Before I tell you which deer got the most points, let me say that all four were delicious. And the reasons for voting one over another varried. Some preferred tenderness while others opted for flavor. The deer that came in first didn't surprise me but the one that was last did. Let me also say that I would serve the last place finisher to anyone and they would love it.
Now the results. With 13 points, the last placer finisher was the Eastern Washington mule deer. In third place, with 14 points was the Western Washington blacktail. In second, with 16 points was the Maryland whitetail. And the winner, with 17 points was the East Bank Sika. I have to admit, it didn't surprise me. I don't think I've ever tasted venison so tender and mild flavored as Sika. Several of the hunters we talked to while on that hunt told us they thought it was the best of all venison. I would have to agree. The biggest problem with the Sika is the amount of meat you get from one. I think you'd be hard pressed to get more than 20 pounds of pure meat off an average size Sika buck. On the other hand, it's not uncomon to shoot a 300+ pound muley buck where I hunt. One would get close to a hundred pounds of pure meat from an animal like that.
What a fun test it was! I find it hard to believe there are lots of people out there that think venison is unedible. To me, it's one of the finest table fares you can get.