Gut it – Cut It – Cook It, the Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing & Preparing Venison, Eric Fromm & Al Cambronne, Krause Publications, Inc. 2009 254 pages.
Co-author Al Cambronne sent me this book after I responded to a LinkedIn post of his looking for ways to market it. His enclosed letter stated, “…if you like it, you can thank us by simply helping to spread the word.” I was pretty skeptical as I opened the book. Most of these how-to books are poorly done, with mediocre writing, simplistic content and less than useful illustrations, But, at first glance this book was looking OK
The first thing that hit me was the binding – spiral bound – you could open it flat and it stayed that way. The pages were heavy and glossy- as in waterproof. Maybe Al wasn’t just trying to sell books when he said it was a book to be used while working up your deer. The print size is also big enough to read at three feet and the pictures are clear.
But what about the content? As a former game warden I’ve handled more deer than most and always cut my own game. I might not be the sharpest guy on the block, but I’d been around the block plenty of times. A picture on page 33 had me wondering. It showing a square beam with thin poly rope over it clinched to a boat dock bracket and attached to a gamble. The only way you could hoist and tie off a deer with that set up is to have your buddy give it a bear hug up while you tied it off- not the most practical set-up. But the description in the text on hanging your deer turned out to be right on.
The equipment section is well done. I liked the fact that they didn’t push all the extra stuff; they were mentioned but the focus was on the basics, as in a good sharp knife. As I read I thought, right here would be a good place to talk about Chronic Wasting Disease. I turned the page and there it was, with the subtitle “The Threat is Real”. This was followed by a four-page spread on what you can do to deal with it. It included enough science to understand the disease and help the reader think through the threat in a common sense way without being alarmist.
By now I’m thinking this book is the real deal. An hour later I know it. From shot placement pushing the clean kill ethic while minimizing meat spoilage (even talking about the latest findings on lead fragments) to clear pictures on where to cut off the lower legs, this is a book for beginners to the most experienced. I picked up a great tip on holding the knife for maximum control and safety when reaching up to cut the windpipe while gutting. How come I never thought of that?
Another thing I liked was the use of real deer carcasses. These are not sterilized game farm deer, but look like the deer we shoot. Not bloody road kill but good examples of what hunters really work with. They also do a good job with fully using the deer from ribs to shanks. They did overlook making stock from the marrow bones. I know lots of hunters don’t do this but they are missing some wonderful food. The stock you buy is not much more than salty water compared to the rich meaty stock you can get after a few days of simmering your own deer bones on the wood stove.
Also included is a bonus CD with recipes and some charts. It is ok but the layout and quality of the recipes doesn’t match the rest of the book. Seems like a last minute add on.
But enough of my nitpicking. Gut It – Cut It – Cook It is a terrific book and well worth adding to your library.
I forgot to mention the low-key humor woven into the text. Here is how the book ends in a section titled Why We Hunt:
“..although antlers and trophies can be a great way to remember the hunt, these souvenirs are not by themselves reason enough to hunt. For most, the challenge of the hunt is reason enough. If you need more reason than that, we’d like to remind you why hunting deer is so challenging in the first place.
“There’s just one reason deer are so wary and so elusive. It’s the reason they’ve learned to watch their back and watch the wind. It’s the reason they’ve learned to hide so well and run so fast.
“Somehow, instinctively, they know…
“Venison is delicious.”
This is a pretty delicious book. I suggest buying a copy for a friend – but read it first, you just may want to get another copy for your buddy.