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arrowflipper's picture
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Which one is BEST?

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.

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We all have different tastes.

We all have different tastes. To me, the best tasting meat is elk.

arrowflipper's picture
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no question

There's no question, elk is better tasting than deer.  BUT, we were only testing four different species of deer.  To do a taste test on moose, buffalo, elk, deer and antelope might be fun, but there wouldn't be much of a contest.  I might be hard pressed choosing between the moose and buffalo, but the deer and antelope might be fairly low on that test.

I agree on how important the field dressing, cleaning, cut of meat and preparation is.  That's why this test was fairly fair, I am the one that field dressed each one, cleaned each one, cut up each one and prepared each one.  I take extremely good care of my meat from the time it hits the ground until it hits my mouth.  I wouldn't think of letting anyone else cut up and process my venison.  You will not find a bit of hair or gristle or fat on a venison steak. 

Now, if we're just talking about what game animal is best, I have found it hard to beat the gemsbok of Africa as pure table fare.  But then my Alaska moose was pretty good.  Did I mention how good my Montana buffalo was?  Oh, I hope I didn't forget my Utah spike elk.  Then there was a fantastic backstrap off my Colorado antelope.  I gotta quit.... I have salavia running down my chin.

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Neat test

Very interesting stuff. Obviously very difficult to have a level playingfield, but still not surprised that the eastern Washington deer came in last

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game meat

To me it's all a factor of when it was harvested, age of animal, what it's been feeding on, and most importantly how you handle and care for that meat once you begin field dressing and after.  I think most deer and elk when handled properly and cared for will all taste great.  You also have to consider the specific cuts too.

For me though I prefere younger cow elk.  I think those offer the more tender meat and best tasting.

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The only mule deer I have

The only mule deer I have ever shot, about 10 years ago here in CA, tasted almost exactly like the whitetail I get in Vermont.  I expected it to be more gamey, sage like tasting.  I was pleasantly surprised......

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I am of the opinion that I

I am of the opinion that I just like the meat weather it came from a grain feed whitetail to a sage brush feed mule deer.  In all my years of hunting I have only shot one deer that I didn't want to eat.  He and his meat just stunk and that was from a high country mule deer buck.  I tried a piece of back strap off of him and couldn't even stand it so into salami he went.

I have friends that can't stand the taste of mule deer meat and will grind it all up into something else other than venison.  By the time you add all the spices and other meats you can't tell just what is in it.   

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Agreed...all depends on diet

Agreed...all depends on diet Thumbs up

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interesting

I find that explanation quite interesting.  Before this test, I may have agreed completely.  BUT, here's what the different deer were eating.....

Last place mule deer....  winter wheat, alphalfa and CRP grass

Third place blacktail.....  fresh shoots of tender vegetation year around.  We got NO snow and things grow profusely around here.

Second place whitetail.....  lived in the woods around housing developments in Maryland.  No crops to speak of.  Maybe some corn thrown out by a hunter.  Mostly browse.

First place Sika.....  whatever they eat.  I don't have a clue.  There were NO farm fields in the area.  Lots and lots of swampland and water.  Heavy forests.

With that information, I may have bet on the deer with what I would consider the best diet.  I don't think it worked out that way.  I do want everyone to know however, that ALL the venison was delicious.  We were not picking the bad from the good.  We were picking the fantastic from the great.  They were all tender and wonderful.  It's just not often I get the chance to have four different deer in my freezer at the same time.

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I'd be willing to bet if you

I'd be willing to bet if you used another group for the testing you'd get different results.

 

What I think taste good. You might not. As an example. Some people love liver. It gags me.

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I'm sure

I'm sure you are absolutely right!  I didn't mean to say that because of our little test, one was better than another.  It just turned out that way today.  Though I'd guess the Sika would come out high on any given group at any other time.  Our test was more for fun than anything.  But we did use only people that "liked" venison.  If we did it again, it might come out very different.  We sure had fun doing it though.