In West Virginia, deer season is more than just deer season. It’s a family heritage spread all throughout the state. It’s the time of year when sons and daughters that have moved away come home and old friends get together. It seems like the time of year, other than Christmas, that families get together and have a good time.
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I love to listen to the stories that my dad tells me of the time when they used to “drive” deer predominantly instead of stand hunt. He tells me 10 to15 guys that hunted together would make drives, putting people in stands at one end of the ridge and having people walk their way, causing the deer to move toward the people in the stands to give them a better chance at that sneaky buck. Another one of my favorite stories is how it used to be a tradition to cut off your shirt tail if you missed a buck. For people here in West Virginia, it is one of the most wonderful times of the year.
This year was especially exciting for my family. This is the first year that my little sister and I went hunting on our own. We did our own scouting, picked out our own stands and with all our preparation, we still hadn’t seen a big buck. On the last day of doe season, I asked my dad if he wanted to go out and see if we could get a deer this season.
I REALLY wanted to get some food for our freezer this year, even if it was a doe. Dad told me he was tired and didn’t think there would be anything out that day. After begging a little, I told him I would go out by myself (I knew that would work.) This finally got him to budge, but he told me, “ I’m not taking a gun this time. I want you to lead this hunt. I’ll just go along for company.” As we walked through the woods, I noticed him watching me avoid the sticks and branches on the ground, just like he taught me. I was showing him I had been paying attention. When we started to branch off the trail to the place I spotted, I told him where the deer would be coming in and where to sit. Now, I know my dad believes in me, but I could surely see the doubt in his eye. We sat in our makeshift stand for about an hour. Dusk drew closer, and my hope started diminishing.
After letting out a long (but quiet) sigh, I heard something coming down the ridge, right in front of us. No, it wasn’t the monster buck I had hoped for, but a mature doe that I had seen every time I had scouted the area.
I could see the shock on my dad’s face when the deer came just the way I told him it would come. Down the ridge on the trail, into the grassy clearing under the oak trees. My dad had to get me to calm down, because I was startled and had buck fever over this big, beautiful doe. Once she finally gave me the shot I needed, and I made a good shot, she fell right in her tracks. I felt excited to take my first whitetail. As we tagged and field dressed my harvest, Dad told me my grandad would be so proud of me, and that I was the 3rd one of his kids to take my first deer with his Remington Model 700 .25-06. That made this day even more special. I felt so blessed and thankful for the opportunity and for making memories that will last a lifetime, and at same time, put some meat in the freezer.
After field dressing the doe, we dragged it back to the house (my least favorite part) and we checked my deer in with a call to the DNR, the state requirement for West Virginia. Next, we hung it up in the shed and skinned it out. Dad said since it was cool, we would leave it hang overnight to air out and chill before cutting it up. We cut it up early the next morning. We cut up the best parts, such as the tenderloin and hams into steaks, carved roasts, and the rest, we chunked up for canning. Canning is so simple and great way to process for longer storage and quick meals. In fact, I have added a recipe for canning venison.
I love hunting, clay shooting and just the outdoors, but I also love to learn ways to live off the land and passing on family traditions. It seems so many people today don’t respect or even know where our food comes from, and many don’t understand that meal on your plate was at the cost of something from nature.
Michelle Cerino also cans venison and offered some tasty recipes in this post.
I also want to share a family favorite recipe. (P.S. I won our state venison cook-off with this recipe.)
What you need for our oh-so-simple deer roast:
Turn your crockpot up on high and cook your deer shoulder roast overnight or until tender. Once tender, add 1 quart of sauerkraut and cook for another hour. Serve. Simple and delicious!
Makayla Scott is a 16-year-old shotgun enthusiast from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and a brand ambassador for CZ-USA. View all posts by Makayla Scott