Deer can be found in South East Alaska and some southern points of interior Alaska like Kodiak island where they have been transplanted. They are not as commonly hunted as caribou or moose, but they do have some of the best flavors in big game hunting. Until recently, the deer species in Alaska was limited to whitetail deer, but sightings near the Canadian border have confirmed that both blacktail deer and mule deer are making their way to the last frontier.
My husband hunts for deer each year just outside of Petersburg, a small town on the panhandle of Alaska. At the end of his fishing season, September to October, he takes to the rainforest in search of an animal to fill our freezer. His time is limited before he packs his bags and gets on a return flight to our home in central Alaska so he goes hunting rain or shine.
Over the years he has harvested 8 different deer. He loves hunting for deer because it is a hunt that is easy to complete alone. A single man (or woman) can load up their gun, put on their rain gear (even if the sun is out), and head to the hills. Then, with patience and education, the deer can be skinned, harvested, loaded into a meat pack, and hiked back home without taking multiple trips.
I am grateful that my husband enjoys this hunt and that he makes time to do it. The southern coastal towns of Alaska are much more abundant in deer life. You can walk from the city center to the hunting grounds and be back in time for supper.
From central Alaska, you will find deer if you take a boat out to more coastal places like Kodiak or Perry island outside of Whittier. We attempted this journey one cold October day and the trip took a turn for the worst. What we expected to be a quick trip with plenty of meat to fill the freezer turned out to be a long and arduous journey that required the United States Coast guard to help us return to safety.
I said it before and I will say it again, venison is one of the most flavorful game in Alaska. Bear, moose, and caribou can have a musky flavor, especially in fats. Deer, on the other hand, has many similarities to beef but unlike beef, the fat is minimal. It has roughly 50% less fat than your average beef cut. The meat is a wonderful texture, strong and smooth, but it doesn't require extra steps to tenderize it. The flavors are earthy. If you don't mask the natural flavors with spices, you will notice the meat is already dressed in the herbs the animal had once grazed on.
Like beef, there are many recipes that you can make with venison. Many hunters prefer the basics so that they can truly taste and appreciate the animal they harvested. My husband saves the backstrap cut for a special occasion and we usually cook it as a steak with basic seasonings like garlic, salt, rosemary, and thyme. It can be made into burger, jerky, sausage, and cut into roast, steak, and stew meat.
When you are feeling under the weather, most people crave chicken noodle soup or some form of warm broth to soothe their throats and uneasy stomachs. My husband had not been feeling good and we had recently thawed out some venison. I decided I would make him deer and dumpling soup.