I had a productive fall season for gathering wild game meat. Some of it we ate fresh, but much of it I processed and put in the freezer for a later date. That later date is now. I provide for a family of five, not including myself. My wife and I have almost exclusively raised our children on wild game – much of which has been whitetail deer because it’s easy to acquire, seasons are liberal, and the meat is excellent. Typically, we run out about this time of year. So, recently I reached into the freezer and pulled out round two - predator meat.
I let this bear ham age for about 10 days. This is upper limits of my preference, but the meat was just right after I trimmed off the crust of air-dried meat.
Rooted deep in our meat-eating culture is a distaste for carnivore flesh. For many, the simple answer is they won’t eat anything that eats meat. Others cite ancient religious laws that only allow eating cloven-hooved animals that chew their cud. Certain cultures have stigmatized certain types of meat for good reason, but others maybe not. These religious laws did protect people from food-borne illness for thousands of years before modern sanitation and cooking techniques. Predators (or omnivores) are prone to carry parasites like trichinosis. However, cooking to an internal temperature of 145 degrees kills the stuff dead. Most meats are cooked to a much higher temperature than this. The risk of parasite infection from eating carnivore meat is slim unless is mishandled (not properly cleaning surfaces) or undercooked.
Perhaps the reason humans have never relied heavily on carnivores as a meat supply is simply an issue of efficiency. Predator numbers are less than ungulate numbers. They are harder to kill. Ungulates yield more meat than most carnivores. Additionally, hunting predators comes with inherent risk of potential conflict, something early humans (pre firearm) would have calculated. Predators weren’t easily domesticated and couldn’t be farmed like ungulates including sheep, cows, camels and goats. Can you imagine ancient humans raising domesticated bears? Nope. Is our distaste for meateaters an issue of ancient survival skills?
I killed a mountain lion in Idaho with my Timberghost Longbow in December 2016. It was one of my most memorable hunts. Adventure I expected, but excellent tasting meat I did not. Many told me that it would be good, but I honestly wasn’t expecting it. The meat is fine-grained, very lean, and almost white. All I did to this lion shoulder was let it age for about 10 days in the fridge, trimmed off the air-dried exterior, covered in Jankey Salt (southern seasoned salt made in Southwest Arkansas) then hickory smoked it for eight hours at 225 degrees. The meat had a beautiful smoke ring and melted in your mouth. Lion meat has taken over position as my favorite game meat (an I’m not trying to be eccentric on purpose). In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the stigmatization of eating a cat, I think people would like it as much as elk or moose.
I also smoked an Arkansas bear ham along side the cat meat to complete my “Bearcat Platter.” The mascot of my high school was the bearcat. We never really knew exactly what a bearcat was, but that never seemed to be an issue. I cooked the bear meat in the exact same manner. Bear is a dark meat, a bit greasier, heavier grained and full of flavor. It is excellent meat for smoking because it’s hard to dry out. Both the bear and cat were excellent.
When it comes to eating predators, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. And if you have tried it and still don’t like it, then I can guarantee you haven’t tried my hickory smoked Bearcat Platter….
I used a salt rub called Jankey Salt made by a friend of mine in Southwest Arkansas.
Mountain lion shoulder on the left and the bear ham on the right before being smoked. Both were heavily rubbed with Jankey Salt.
I smoked this meat for eight hours in direct smoke at 225 degrees. I used a combination of charcoal and seasoned hickory chips. I switched positions of the meat one time during the eight hours.
The meat was beautiful and tasted excellent. In all honesty, I preferred the mountain lion meat (left) over the bear.
It might appear that this meat is undercooked, something you wouldn't want to do with mountain lion or bear meat, however it's thoroughly cooked. Lion meat is thin grained and very light colored. The meat is ultra tender and light with no foul taste. Maybe far Eastern cultures have something going with eating cat?
Don't knock it until you've tried it...I killed this lion while hunting with Leon Brown and Clark Fork Outfitters in Idaho. This wasn't the biggest cat we saw in my short hunt, but it was a tom that was in traditional archery range. You can watch the video to this hunt at this link.
*I was shooting a Timberghost takedown recurve at 64 pounds.
An acorn-fed Arkansas black bear taken on public land in 2016. You can watch the video of this hunt at this link.
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