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In season: Deer mate, hunters hunt, and hungry people are fed

In season: Deer mate, hunters hunt, and hungry people are fed

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Primary mating season, aka the “rut,” is on for white-tailed deer.

Such activity has deer running around, heedless of cars, so watch out while driving. And it brings out the hunters, who are allowed to take them.

Deer hunting with bow and arrow began in early October, but those with muzzleloaders started on Oct. 30, and rifles were allowed from Nov. 13 through season’s end, Nov. 27. These parameters and other hunting dates later in the year vary slightly by county, so be sure to check the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources ( before you hit the woods.

Mark and Jennifer Phillips keep busy during the season running J&M Deer Processing in Rocky Mount. They have been in business for eight years, with their busiest time running from October’s end to December’s beginning. The Phillips accept clean, field dressed deer, then remove the hide, quarter the meat and clean off all fat and gristle. The result is a very tasty product for their customers.

For the past last six years, the couple has worked with Hunters for the Hungry, an organization that provides venison to people who may not be able to afford meat. After they process the donated deer and package it as steaks, roasts and burgers, the meat goes to food banks for distribution.

J&M Deer Processing has provided between 300 and 400 processed deer, all donated by local hunters, to Hunters for the Hungry. There’s something for which to be thankful.

“It’s been great to give back to my community,” Mark Phillips said.

Get more information from the charity at

The couple enjoys eating venison, too. One of Mark’s favorite ways to prepare it is mixing it with pork, jalapeno, and cheese and forming the mixture into a sausage shape. He then puts it in a smoker, and the result is a delicious sausage. He also enjoys deer steak in a crock pot, adding Lipton onion soup mix and gravy and, after he lets it slow cook on low all day, he has a tender, delicious dinner.

Below are some additional venison recipes for amateur and experienced hunters alike, or those who simply enjoy cooking the game animal for family and friends. Bob and Jeanne Pitner contributed the spaghetti recipe. Jeanne Pitner’s grandmother was a schoolteacher in early 1900s-era New Jersey, and one of her students’ mothers, an Italian immigrant, gave her this recipe, which the grandmother then passed down.

Jeanne Pitner’s Nana’s Italian Spaghetti 1 stick butter

½ c. olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

6-8 large onions

10-12 cloves garlic

Three 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes

Six 12 oz. cans tomato paste

2 cans tomato soup

1½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 lb. ground venison (or lean ground beef)

3 bay leaves

2-3 tbsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop onions, garlic, and parsley (a food processor makes chopping the onions less painful). Sauté in butter and olive oil until onions are soft. Add and brown the meat. Add tomatoes, paste, and soup along with seasonings and simmer at low enough heat to avoid sticking for at least four hours, stirring occasionally. Poke the tomatoes with a spoon to release the juice.

This recipe is good for making a big batch and freezing as quarts for quick meals. Simply thaw and add to cooked spaghetti.

— Bob and Jeanne Pitner

Venison Meatloaf

2 pounds ground venison

6 oz. stuffing or breadcrumbs

1 cup chicken broth

1 onion, finely chopped

½ cup barbeque sauce

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Mix venison, stuffing/breadcrumbs, broth, onion, ¼ cup barbecue sauce, eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Deposit venison mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish and form into a loaf. Spread the remaining ¼ cup barbecue sauce over top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated oven for one hour, or until it is no longer pink in the center and, when inserted, a baking thermometer reads 160° F.

Venison Chili

2 pounds venison steak cut into cubes

½ cup sweet onion, chopped

2 cup beef broth

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 tbsp. chopped garlic

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can black beans

1 can light red kidney beans

1 cup red wine (burgundy or merlot)

1 tbsp. chili powder

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. parsley

1 tbsp. curry

1 tbsp. sage

1 tsp. crushed red pepper (add more if you like spice, or skip for a milder outcome)

½ tsp. salt

3 tbsp. olive oil

In a large pot, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat for three minutes. Add venison and garlic, then brown for two minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, wine, broth, and seasonings and mix well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with cornbread or white rice. Cheese and sour cream are optional.

Satisfy your cravings

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