Tasty Myths: Why Your “Gamey” Venison Probably is Your Fault

“Nice 2-year-old! At least the meat will be tender and taste good.”

I couldn’t help but smile when a Millennial wrote that comment underneath my Facebook post that included this photo. I was tempted to reply that Abraham Lincoln was spot-on when he said it’e better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

Let’s put this silly notion to bed once and for all: The age of an adult deer has negligible impact on the skill and perseverance it takes to harvest it. What’s more, it has zero impact on the flavor of the venison.

Despite the fact that we have published results from meat-science studies over decades, some folks still feel inclined to equate venison to beef, pork, chicken or lamb. As we have reported, biochemists have concluded it would take an extraordinary human palette to discern the difference between venison based solely on the animal’s diet, age or both.

Venison Bleu Cheese burgers are great with your young or old deer, but only if you take care of the meat and prep wisely.

Venison Bleu Cheese burgers are great with your young or old deer, but only if you take care of the meat and prep wisely.

As for diet, unlike domestic stock, venison will not readily appear any more or less flavorful whether the deer eats farm crops or woody browse. Remember, flavor in domestic meats is acquired via “marbling” — aka fat — within the layers of the meat. Processed properly, venison is 100 percent lean muscle tissue. In a deer, the so-called “good” attributes from eating corn, soybeans or alfalfa are lost once the meat is reduced to its pure form. Even then, venison fat renders much differently from, say, that of a beef cow, so that point is pretty much moot.

As for “tough, old bucks,” yes, muscle density becomes thicker as an animal ages. Theoretically, that could have an impact on the meat’s texture, but I’m highly suspicious of anyone who says they can tell the difference because age disparity is typically just one or two years. I guess the only real way to test that hypothesis would be to do a side- by-side comparison of a very young and very old buck.

Even then I’d be skeptical. I’ve brought home dozens of deer during the 22 years I’ve been here at D&DH and neither I nor my family members could tell the difference between the venison of a yearling Wisconsin doe versus a 10-year-old Texas buck.

One thing we know for sure is that overall venison quality comes down to processing. When the meat is taken care of immediately and cut properly, it’s great venison. When it’s neglected, it’s not so great.

I know this topic will surely cause debate in some deer camps. Let your voices be heard, and be sure to copy us in on your banter via our social media pages.

But please give me moment to finish chewing the last precious morsels of this “tender 2-year-old.” (Insert belly laugh here.)


Here’s a great burger recipe from wild game chef Scott Leysath, who has a great cookbook you should check out!

Venison Bleu Cheese Burger

1 1/2 pounds ground venison
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cups mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 tbsp bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
4 burger buns
4 lettuce leaves
4 slices tomato

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Stir in mushrooms and sauté until soft. Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool.

Add ground venison, blue cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix well with your hands to blend. Form into 4 large patties. Grill, pan-fry or broil patties until browned. Add to bun with lettuce, tomato and your choice of other condiments.