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Guest Column: Stocking the Freezer with Venison—and Stories for the Kids

by on November 29, 2010 6:47 AM

Editor's note: Kurt Engstrom graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1989 with a degree in communication science. Kurt lives in State College with his wife Carolyn and his two children, Carl and Clare. When not busy being a parent and contractor, he tries to spend his free time hunting and fishing. Engstrom, an avid venison cook, penned this reflection exclusively for


by Kurt Engstrom

Daddy, what’s your favorite holiday? ask my kids. 

The Opening Day of rifle deer season, I reply. 

That doesn’t count. It’s not a real holiday.

Why not, you don’t have school and it’s the day I look forward to more than any other.  Besides, you two are always asking for venison for dinner.

No, you have to pick a real holiday.

Ok, Thanksgiving. It’s the closest to Opening Day.

I know Christmas is the biggest holiday for the children, but Opening Day is the day I obsess over for months. 

Where am I going to sit? With whom am I going to hunt? What are the child care plans for that day? What kind of weather is expected?

For me, Opening Day is not the start of deer season, but the climax. Deer season started 8 weeks ago with the start of archery deer with an early muzzleloader season mixed in.  Rifle season is when all of the information I have gathered archery hunting is put to maximum use. After Opening Day everything changes for one big reason: there are significantly fewer deer.

I may sound like a native of Centre County, but in all honesty, I grew up in New Jersey only 15 miles from New York City. Where I lived, you did not talk about deer hunting unless you wanted to start an argument over “How can you shoot Bambi?” 

Then I moved to State College while my wife finished graduate school and learned that hunting is not only accepted, it is assumed. This deer hunting culture is a big reason we continue to live in State College. My wife and I both deer hunt, and I hope one day both our son and daughter help stock the freezer with venison. 

My wife’s task during deer season is to tough out the weather and shoot a deer or two.  I take over from there by gutting, dragging, hanging, butchering, and cooking all of the venison that graces our table. After a deer arrives at our house, my daughter starts pestering me, “When are we going to grind venison?” 

She’s my little Laura Ingalls and pushes the meat into the grinder as I place it on top of the hopper. Since we usually kill two to three deer a year, both of my children have grown up with venison being a staple in their diet. When asked what they want for dinner on their birthday, the answer is always, “Venison.”  I am not a nutritionist, but the power of venison shows on my daughter’s growth chart. You can see the jump in her growth when she started eating it.

From about age 2 to 6, my children would ask whose deer we were eating. Then they would want to hear the story about how the deer made it to our table. The story starts with where the hunter was sitting, what the hunter was doing when the deer was spotted, which direction the deer was traveling and what the deer was doing. Of course, it ends with the deer falling to an arrow or bullet from a muzzleloader or a flintlock or a rifle. 

One day, my daughter asked for the story concerning the chicken we were eating that night. I told her that was the sad thing about store-bought meat—I did not know the story about the animal. 

Every year we add more stories to the freezer and I hope to add several more this year.

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