The movement toward food sovereignty is sweeping across the country, but whether you’ve never so much as set foot in the forest or learned how to clean a deer before you could drive, Haley Heathman will show you not only how to hunt your own food, but how to make it delicious. Check out the introduction to her field guide and cookbook below, or click here to jump right to her recipe for venison meatloaf.
The Complete Field to Table Guide to Bagging More Game, Cleaning it Like a Pro, and Cooking Wild Game Meals Even Non-Hunters Will Love
Wild game hunting and cooking enthusiast Haley Heathman shares her journey into the sport along with practical hunting advice, tips, and informative how-to recipes to “tame the game” out of meat in this memoir cookbook.
Big game, waterfowl, and upland birds can be tricky to hunt and even trickier to make delicious for dinner. With details on how to ensure you’re ready for the hunt, how to chase and clean your prey, and how to prepare it so guests are impressed, Haley Heathman will have you out in the field in no time.
Confused on how to hunt and prepare upland birds? New to plucking a duck? Unfamiliar with calling deer? Haley covers it all. When you come back from the field, choose an easy but decadent recipe that will enhance the natural flavors of the meat without any of the typical game flavor that turns so many hunters and diners away.
Take the mystery out of hunting and cooking wild game one species at a time with Haley Heathman.
Introduction and Recipe from
Hunt It, Clean It, Cook It, Eat It
On-sale August 12, 2021
Hey there! Thanks for grabbing my book. I’m Haley, and I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter: many of you have picked up this book and are intrigued. You’re now flipping through the pages to see if this is the kind of book you want to buy or if you’re going to put it back on the shelf and keep browsing. Perhaps you’ve already bought it. Or maybe you were gifted it and are now trying to figure out what you’re in for.
Regardless of how it came into your possession, you’re checking out the introduction because you’re thinking to yourself, “This book sounds interesting, but who is this chick and why should I listen to her, of all people, when it comes to hunting and cooking wild game?”
I get it. If you’re gonna drop some coin on a book and spend your valuable time on something, you want to be sure that the information in it is worthwhile, credible, and that you’re going to get your money’s worth, especially when the information comes from someone with zero name recognition. You’re here trying to get a quick look at my credentials to see if I’m the type of person you want to learn from.
Let me be up front with you…
I’m not an expert hunter. I don’t have a YouTube channel or a TV hunting show. I’m just a gal who appreciates hunting, who has connections to the hunting world, who is a keen researcher, and who wants to keep the tradition of hunting alive.
That being said, while I’m only a novice hunter, I do consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in the kitchen. In fact, that was the genesis of this book.
After spending a lot of time with hunters and sitting at many supper tables with more experienced hunters than myself—lifelong hunters, in many cases—I was more often than not left quite underwhelmed with their preparation of the wild game they cooked. Sometimes, it was barely edible and it was all I could do to choke down some of the gamey, livery meat they’d all but obliterated.
So what are my credentials then?
I grew up a Hoosier in the great state of Indiana. When I was in my twenties, I moved down to Florida to begin my career as a superyacht stewardess for the world’s rich and sometimes famous. I spent ten years traveling the globe, working hand in hand with some of the world’s best chefs to create elegant experiences for some of the most discerning people on the planet.
While I did not start off my yachting career as a proficient cook (growing up in Indiana, my idea of fine dining was a nice meal at Olive Garden or Red Lobster), by the end of my ten year career, I had acquired enough culinary skills to be able to feed a hungry, international crew of eight and was occasionally asked to cook for yacht owners and their guests when the regular chef was unavailable.
What a culinary journey I’ve had going from a humble Indiana girl who hated when her food touched on her plate to becoming someone who can expertly pair wine with food and create sumptuous meals with ingredients I had once never even heard of for the global one percent!
After I left the yachting industry, I returned to my landlubber roots and bought twenty acres in Montana complete with a gun range in the front yard. Up in rural Montana, hunting is practically a way of life. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t hunt. I became immersed in hunting culture. My former husband was an expert hunter. I used to say, “If he kills it, I’ll cook it!”
Even though my palate became exponentially more refined, I still never forgot my Indiana roots, and I felt at home with my down-to-earth Montana neighbors after having spent so many years catering to the jet- setting crowd. Nevertheless, I was quite surprised that many of the lifelong hunters I had the pleasure of becoming friends with in my post-yachting life had not mastered the art of wild game cooking.
I realized I could take my knowledge and skills and rectify this. Rather than just being mere survival gruel you plopped on a plate, I wanted to elevate wild game to something more sophisticated. I wanted to remove the stigma from wild game as something mostly inedible and that only hardcore hunters liked eating and create dishes that even non-hunters would enjoy. Most importantly, I still wanted it to be approachable to your Average Joe.
I lived in a town of just a few hundred people. We did have a grocery store, but I know all too well what items and ingredients are available in a fly-over country grocery store. There were no high-end grocery stores within a two hour drive. Ingredients must be basic kitchen staples available in almost any grocery store.
I’ve adapted many recipes that I’ve cooked using non-game proteins and modified them using a similar type of wild game. Each recipe reflects any changes you’d have to make cooking wild game as compared to cooking traditional meat dishes. All recipes are my own, but some were inspired by other people I know either online or in person from my yachting days.
Not only that, but as the food sovereignty movement grows and people are more in-tune with where their food comes from and how it’s raised, I decided it was crucial to not just include wild game recipes in this book, but to also give detailed instructions in how to hunt the game and the field care required.
Good-tasting meat doesn’t just come from the kitchen. It starts in the field with knowing what the best species and types of game to kill are and how to treat the game in the field with the care required to be sure you’re working with the highest quality specimen possible when it comes time to cook it. No amount of cooking skill will be able to salvage a poorly shot or improperly field-dressed animal.
But if I’m not a hunting expert, where did all the hunting know-how in my book come from?
Another very good question.
I’m not an expert, but I’m not an imbecile either. I’ve been in the field. Not only that, but I’ve sat around many campfires while the boys swapped stories of their most memorable hunts. That’s all well and good, but those anecdotal stories merely fill out and inform the book. The real meat (pun intended) comes from the hours of interviews I did with hunting experts from across the country.
I interviewed at least a half dozen hunting guides, firearms experts, and other lifelong hunters. I spent hours upon hours asking questions about the areas of hunting that I knew I wasn’t well-versed in. I have pages full of notes. I had audio interviews transcribed so that I could reference them later. Beyond that, I consulted lots of online hunting resources. I watched hours of YouTube videos and sat in front of the TV watching various hunting shows with celebrities in the hunting world.
In other words, I did my due diligence to make sure that I was only providing top-quality, well- researched, and fact-checked information. I then compiled the information and distilled it down to the best of the best tips and tricks for hunting and cleaning wild game, even coining my own names for some of the various hunting and cleaning techniques I present throughout the book.
What results is a comprehensive beginner’s guide to hunting and cooking six of the most commonly hunted wild game species in North America. The information is presented in an entertaining and easy-to- read style. In other words, your eyes won’t glaze over and you’re not going to die of boredom when you read this book!
While this book was written with beginners in mind, there’s enough information in here to appeal to hunters of all skill levels. Some hunters might be quite experienced when it comes to big game, but not waterfowl, for instance. Some hunters might consider themselves well-versed all around but will still be able to learn a few new tricks to keep up their sleeve for their next hunting season.
Or, you might be the type of hunter I had in mind when I created this book—an ace in the field but an omega in the kitchen. You will definitely get a lot out of this book.
While this book might not be a four-inch thick tome of hunting know-how written by one of the master hunters themselves, I have no doubt that you’ll be both informed and entertained while reading this book. Each page packs a punch. Your time is important and I want to make sure you’re getting bang for buck, not just meaningless filler.
Lastly, I want to say a few more words about why I wrote this book.
Once upon a time, I had a misconception about hunting and hunters. What astounded me the most when I was researching this book and from my experiences within the hunting world is how compassionate hunters are. Far from the barbarians many outsiders portray us as, I came to realize that the vast majority of hunters are caring individuals who are excellent stewards of the environment, contrary to popular opinion. On the hunts I’ve been on and at the supper table, in a touching and reverent show of appreciation, we would pray over the animal, thanking it for its sacrifice so that we could feed our families with its meat. Hunters are some of the most humane, ethical, and respectful people you’ll ever come across.
Through my research, I was also surprised to discover that hunters actually pay for the majority of the conservation efforts throughout the US. Because of all this, I also was dismayed to find out that the proud hunting custom that was once as American as apple pie is slowly dying. For various reasons, both cultural and political, the days of self-reliance, tradition, and heritage are in danger.
The sport of hunting, apart from a few exceptions, has been in a steady decline since the late ’80s. Each generation, fewer and fewer people are introduced to the sport. I hope and believe that we might be starting to slow the decline and the numbers might start to rise again now that food sovereignty and the importance of self-reliance are becoming popular again.
It’s my hope that my book can play some small part in reigniting a passion for the sport of hunting and take the mystery out of cooking wild game meat, while reducing the stigma attached to it. I also hope that my book will inspire current hunters to get back in the field and get them excited about their next hunting season now that they’re armed with all sorts of new hunting techniques and recipes to try out.
I hope you’ll join me, just a humble Indiana gal who’s had quite a cultural journey and awakening herself and who hopes to inspire others to save the time-honored tradition that’s one of the many things that’s made America great throughout the generations.
Prepping wild game may be a bit intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. Below, Haley shares her Venison Meatloaf recipe that’s sure to be a hit with newbies and veteran venison lovers alike. Give it a shot yourself, or pass it on to a game cook that’s been looking for something new. We’d love to know what you think about it in the comments below.
Haley Heathman’s Venison Meatloaf Recipe
- 2 eggs
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 – 2 pounds ground venison
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. brown or dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. white vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
- Add tomato sauce, veggies, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and venison to the bowl. Using your hands, mix until all ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix.
- Press mixture into an ungreased 9” x 5” loaf pan.
- Combine brown sugar, mustard, and vinegar and pour over the meat loaf.
- Bake uncovered for approx. 70 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees.
My friends go crazy for this recipe. The brown sugar/mustard/vinegar mixture on the top along with the tomato sauce in the loaf itself gives it a slight BBQ flavor and produces a moist and flavorful meatloaf.
Normally, meatloaf goes well with mashed potatoes and gravy, but given the slightly sweet BBQ flavor this loaf has, I like to do a couple of baked sweet potatoes to go with it.
If you wrap them in cling wrap and put them in the microwave, they’ll be done in 6-8 minutes. Otherwise, you can poke some holes in them, wrap them in foil, and bake the potatoes along with the meatloaf. Start checking on the potatoes after about 45 minutes. Once they’re soft to the touch or a knife inserts easily into them, they’re done.
About the Author:
Haley Heathman developed her taste for fine cuisine traveling the globe and working side by side with some of the world’s most accomplished chefs. A lover of hunting and wild game, she uses her culinary skills to elevate wild game from mere survival gruel to tasty, refined meals that even non-hunters will enjoy. She lives in Florida with her family.