I had just attended a very sad funeral in Barcombe, the village I grew up in and on the journey home by Scaynes Hill Cricket ground I noticed something big and still…. A surge of excitement ran through my body as I quickly indicated to pull over. The one animal that had alluded me (partly because I hadn’t really been able to pursue it) was deer.
Oddly (and illegally) I had a knife in the car from an Allotment Dinner I had the day before and so I grabbed it and rushed back to the dead carcass which was a Roe deer! Whooo-hoo!
Have you seen how expensive venison is?!?!
I stood over the body sizing up what fleshy goodness would be good to eat. I then realised I hadn’t actually thought this though and actually a suited man holding a largish knife on a busy road standing over a dead deer at half three in the afternoon was not a great idea, and possibly a bit stupid. I quickly folded the knife away and tried to act natural. Difficult.
My mind raced. I couldn’t set about chopping it up where it was because I didn’t know how, and I didn’t want to terrorise kids returning from school (seeing me sticking a knife into Bambi). Removing the whole deer was my only option. I returned to my car and backed it up so I could lift the deer into the boot. As I opened the boot and worried over what evidence I was going to have to hide so that my wife would not know what I had done, I realised there was a woman walking down the grassy verge toward me. I appreciated that a suited man wrestling with a dead deer may have looked a little strange but I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Having lived in the country for so many years I have noticed that more people are less engaged with what you might call country ways and furthermore may object. My paranoid mind told me that she looked like an ‘objector’; perhaps she might think a dead deer is best left undisturbed or it’s soul will be destroyed. As you can see; I suffer from an over active imagination which leads to all sorts of problems at times!
Holding the front and back feet in each hand I struggled to lift the deer into the boot and winced as I saw the blood trickle out of the deers mouth and down the bumper. In my mind I was working out if I had enough wet wipes to clean up this early evidence. I could hear the foot steps of the woman behind me and a rush of adrenalin came over me which helped with the extra effort to get the deer in the boot. By the time I was reaching up for the boot lid a rather old woman with lots of white hair was at my side looking into the back of the car. I laughed nervously and turned to her smiling and said “Well, waste not want not…eh?!” and I braced myself for a possible hostile response, but she replied with vigor ”GOOD FOR YOU, yes, good for you!” and she carried on her way. Phew… I didn’t hang about and carried on home.
Once home I quickly changed and pulled the animal from the boot and without the adrenalin I had before I struggled to move it. Luckily I had been showing my kids a couple of my skateboard tricks and so my ‘deck’ was close at hand to use as a trolley. Once I got to the end of the garden and the deer was tied up by it’s front legs I then once again realised that I didnt know where to start. I understood that gut, shattered bone and feces are all things to be avoided when trying to harvest easy meat. I got my hands on the deer and felt around the body trying to understand where the impact with the car (I presumed) had occurred and it was clearly evident on one side as the ribs were clearly fragmented and instead of being firm actually felt like a bag of marbles.
The legs looked good and much of my ‘deer fantasy’ involved cooking a whole leg in a similar way to Ray Mears when he cooked a leg of deer with some Gurkhas (series 1) by fire pit. I had seen a deer skinned at The Wilderness Gathering with Nick Weston and Ash Ross and was happy about peeling back the furry skin and go about trying as best I could to get the legs off. Having taken legs of smaller game in the past I was content that I had some idea what to do although I was pleased to have no-one watching me. Admittedly my stabbing motion probably wasn’t the right or correct way to go about it, but I eventually removed one hind and then the other.
I trimmed up the legs and hung them up. I am so pleased to see two haunches there ready for chompin’.
I looked back at the deer thinking a) well, without rear legs that’s one weird looking animal and b) what more can I take? I knew I needed some words of advice so I called up my friend Ash and he said that I had to get the backstrap (the long meat section that runs along both sides of the spine) so he gave me a couple of pointers and off I went… These backstrap cuts were absolutely amazing. Two long tender-looking juicy pieces nearly the length of my arm! As Alan Partridge would say “Back of the net!”.
Once I had taken the meat from the well mutilated body I was saddened that I couldn’t make better use of what remained. Perhaps next time, with more time, daylight and experience….
Thinking about when the daylight returns; I reckoned my neighbours wouldn’t want to see this beast in the middle of my garden as they looked out of their bedroom the following morning. I dragged the two legged lump up by my shed although this was more ‘tidied away’ than hidden from view. I decided the short winter days might buy me a couple of days to work out what to do with the remains. I kind of hoped that the foxes were hungry and might kindly finish off the deer, but to be fair it would have been a big meal for the Sussex Puma.
Eventually, two days later and with the deer having been munched a little by something and with a musty smell surrounding it I pulled it out, wrapped it in a plastic sheet and then I dumped it in a skip at work. I appreciate there may be reasons why this was the wrong thing to do, and I wont repeat it, but I was out of options and had to get the body out of there fast whilst I had the chance.
I gave one leg away due to lack of freezer space, I have another leg in a mates freezer, have one section of backstrap left and I ate the other piece with my friend Charlotte at Christmas…. it was better than I could have hoped. Wrapped in bacon sealed in a hot pan, and then cut into thick slices and served very pink. We ended up using this cooking method as we run out of time and the weather turned bad so we had to adapt.
My wife although annoyed at my antics has no real reason for complaint as there is very little evidence of what occurred in the car or garden.
Ray Mears and his pit cooking. (3mins 30sec in) - SADLY REMOVED BY USER…
but check this out! They used a tractor!
A video that I will refer to next time.