It’s Never Out of Season!

May 2008     Marin County, California

If you do not want to know how meat starts out running around on hooves and ends up glistening on your plate, then this little gem is not for you. Go back to your US Weekly or practice your golf game or whatever. And for those of you into multiculturalism and celebrating diversity, I say this: Respect my people. This here’s culture hey goddamn! Pull up a fork! Git ‘er done!!

I was motoring up the coast for a weekend of oysters, crabs and beer – just a weekend away from the city. Driving along a winding country road between the farms and the ocean, a car ahead of front of us {WHAM} intersected with a deer. Two cars stopped, and we drove slowly past. A Honda hissing, a woman distressing, and a deer, relaxing on the pavement.

I am an emergency services worker, what should I do?

Well, turn around and slaughter it, of course.

I flipped a quick U-turn, eased onto the side of the two-lane road, and stepped out. The woman got into her car as a man pulled the deer towards the ditch, using the claw of a hammer as a tool. I said “You want that deer?” He pursed his lips, quietly shook his head no, and stepped back. I went over and poked the animal. Dead. I waited until the woman drove off, then grabbed both front hooves and dragged the deceased across the asphalt to the wide grassy shoulder whereThe Mud Falcon (my car) rested.

The deer was still dead, so I grabbed gloves, rope, a strong knife, plastic sheeting: things that while living in New Jersey I learned to carry in the trunk at all times. You never know when you might have to move a body, after all.  She looked like a 2-3 year old doe, maybe 120 pounds, externally intact. There was no reason to gut her, so I left the belly intact and skinned her and left the hide flat underneath. First cuts would be the backstraps, one on each side of the spine, neck-to-ass, really nice cuts.

While taking the first tenderloin, I noticed broken ribs, maybe a hip dislocation. More importantly, she was a fresh kill: the meat was hot, the blood was draining, not clotted, and the flank steak was still twitching.  This deer had not been hit once and then speed-bumped again; no, it was sashimi-grade venison, somewhat tenderized. This would have been a dumb time to cut myself, so I stayed pretty focused: Roll her over, cut out the other tenderloin, throw it onto the plastic.

We were situated on a long straightaway, just two people, an art-car, a carcass and a Leatherman knife, with a couple of buzzards already circling low overhead. Hard to miss. The girlfriend managed to not look at the work being done, yet photograph it, and not make eye contact with other drivers, yet smile and wave to them. I never looked up, but I heard most cars slowing way down… and then flooring it. All of them had the sense to not roll down the window and voice a Northern California opinion towards me. I think I would have just started gnawing on a raw haunch. Oh, to have heard the children shriek…

CHP happened by just around the same time the woman returned to the scene. She had left to go get a stiff drink (really) and then returned to take pictures for insurance reasons. The girlfriend held her hand and talked her down off the ledge while I did my work. As I filleted some rump-steaks, the cop stated that cars, or “deer-magnets,” have already killed over 250 deer here this year. He said the problem is bad for insurance companies, but good for the ecosystem: plenty of meat for coyotes, buzzards and bobcats.

True, this was not as sporting as hunting, partly because I did not have to sit in a tree stand in Michigan at 0500 in November, or butcher the kills in the dark and haul the meat two miles to the nearest road. No, it was a warm, sunny day, plenty of space, overlooking the Pacific ocean. I would do this again even if I were only on my mountainbike, sporting a keychain-knife.

The best part: you do not need a license for roadkill. It’s never out of season!

We are going to drop in on Chef Ben tomorrow night, iron-chef him with twelve pounds of surprise ingredient, and see what magic he works for us.



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