The crew I hunt with often chuckles as we eat some of last year’s game while we’re hunting up this year’s harvest. Is there anything more luxurious than eating game while hunting? The unsaid concept here is “plenty.” Still having a selection of uneaten inventory at the start of next season means you haven’t run out of meat to feed your friends and family, even as you actively refresh your supply of protein. 

These hand pies are an effort saving riff on hand pies. The inspiration comes from both the Pop-Tart and the classic Cornish Pasty. Pop-Tarts are an almost comic toastable snack, but they are tasty, portable, and fast. While the classic Cornish version is made with shortcrust filled with a specified collection of raw ingredients and spices, we are cooking the bear meat first and making a deeply flavorful sauce. Every addition to this recipe enhances the flavor and deepens the color of the end product. You will see I have avoided garlic and heavy spice. One could certainly add a few chopped chili peppers for a bit of heat, and garlic would be a fine addition. But, I wanted to focus on building the flavor with paprika and three kinds of onions while taking a break from garlic. 

My hope is that you and your hunting pals have a chuckle as you enjoy these while spring bear hunting this year. Do take time to celebrate the richness of the outdoor experience we access and the culinary treat that hunting affords us.  


Here’s how to make black bear hand pies:  




  • 12” Cast iron frying pan 

  • Stove  

  • Oven 

  • French knife 

  • Paring knife 

  • Wooden spoon 

  • Cutting board 

  • Cup measures 

  • Dutch oven 

  • Baking sheet 

  • Silicon paper 

  • Spatula / lifter 

  • Fork 

  • Pastry brush 

  • Rolling pin 






  • 1 pound or 450 grams of bear loin or leg 

  • 2 Tbsp of canola oil 

  • 3 green onions, white and green parts finely diced 

  • 3 shallots, peeled and sliced finely 

  • 4 strips of fatter side bacon, diced 

  • 1 cup of diced mushrooms 

  • 1/2 cup of diced leeks, just the white part 

  • 1 cup of finely diced celery leaves and stalks 

  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika 

  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste 

  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard 

  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce 

  • 1 cup red wine 

  • 1 cup of venison (or beef stock) 

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp of heavy cream 

  • 1 egg 

  • A 395-gram package of frozen tenderflake puff pastry 

  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour, plus some for rolling dough 





  1. Remove the bear and pastry from the freezer a day ahead and thaw in the refrigerator. 

  1. Once thawed, rinse with the bear cold water, dry with paper towels, and dice in small pieces about the size of a chickpea. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 

  1. Season the bear meat with equal parts coarse salt and pepper, and let rest at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.   

  1. Prep the vegetables: slice shallots and finely chop celery. 

  1. Measure and portion the other ingredients. 

  1. Add the bacon, bear meat, and oil to the cast iron skillet, stir, and place on high heat. Your goal is to render the fat from the bacon and caramelize the meat. 

  1. As soon as the bear is nice and brown, add and stir in the shallots, leeks, green onions, celery, and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the shallots start to color. 

  1. Then add the flour and stir well. Shut off the heat for a minute. 

  1. Add the wine, stock, and cream, then stir well to absorb the flour and turn the heat back on to high. 

  1. Add the mustard and fish sauce. Stir well. Bring it up to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for a few minutes.  

  1. Pour the bear mixture into the dutch oven and bake for 2-3 hours at 325 degrees F. Check every 45 minutes or so and add water as required. The goal is to end with tender morsels of bear meat in a mixture that is a thick stew to fill the hand pies. 

  1. When the bear is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it cool. 

  1. Lightly flour the work table and rolling pin, and roll the pastry to make a thin crust. Cut in 8” squares and add 1/2 cup of cooled filling.

  1. Wet the pastry edge and fold the pastry into a triangle. Press the two joining sides of the pastry with a fork. Poke a couple of small holes in the top of each pastry to let the steam escape. 

  1. Mix one egg and 2 tablespoons of cream, and brush the tops of the pies with egg wash.  

  1. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden. 

  1. Serve hot, or chill and take a couple of these to the tree stand on your spring bear hunt.  


Note: this fish sauce is found in Asian markets. Michael Ruhlman shared the trick of adding a bit of this sauce to his braises in his book Ruhlman's How to Braise: Foolproof Techniques and Recipes for the Home Cook. 


This is another example of value-added treatments to game meat.