Venison Recipes: Chill ‘n’ Grill Kabobs

By Tracy L. Schmidt

Wild game is personal — it comes with
a story, not just a sticker!

Venison steak kabobs

Does this look delicious? You bet, and it’s supremely healthy too. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

It doesn’t get any more personal than sitting down to a dinner you put on the table and eating an animal you hunted. It’s far more satisfying to feed your friends and family meat you didn’t find at the grocery store on a pretty pink plastic tray. How good does that feel?

Nothing honors an animal more than acknowledging its sacrifice by getting real about how it ended up on your plate. It didn’t drop from the sky perfectly trimmed, weighed and covered in plastic. It’s beyond me why people find meat more palatable when it comes in such a nondescript form from the grocery store.

Unlike grocery store meat, the animals I’m going to eat have real meaning. The venison we put on our table means so much more and is never wasted. It comes with a story, not just a sticker. A conversation that shares a value not in cents, but in the common sense we’re responsible for instilling in our kids. What’s the true cost of food? That’s some great dinner table conversation! So why don’t we talk about it more often?

Tracy Schmidt poses with deer

Tracy Schmidt doesn’t just cook wild game. She participates in everything, from the field to the table. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

No brightly lit arches or plastic toy gimmicks are involved — nothing that gets tossed to the side — only appreciation and respect for the reasons we are able to eat. Yes, that’s old school, but it is a lesson that’s worth remembering. We’ve shared our philosophy with our girls since they were little. It’s normal for them to understand the food chain — very few kids do.

It takes hard work and effort to successfully hunt a deer, and a lot of hard work to process it for the table. Serving the folks who hold the forks and knives, and knowing they understand and appreciate their meal, is what fills up your heart as a hunter. Being able to tell the tale of the great gift we have received not only fills our stomachs, but also our souls.

Venison wild game recipes

Even the Schmidt children know where their meat comes from. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

Somehow certain people seem to feel chicken from the store is more humane to eat than the meat from a hunter. How exactly is that, I wonder? No cage, no antibiotics, no nameless person did a deed that we pretend never happened because we live in a world lined with rose-colored foam.

I prefer to see the world straight up without the glare. I’m a hunter, and I appreciate the sacrifice of the animals I consume — I eat wild venison, and I eat it with pride.

Chill ‘n’ Grill Venison Kabobs:

1 pound cubed venison steak
24 cherry tomatoes
2 large sweet bell peppers, chunked
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 large onion, chunked


1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Place marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade for basting. Add marinade to cubed meat in a bowl and refrigerate overnight or for at least 30 minutes. Alternate meat and vegetables on the skewers and grill until done.

About Tracy L. Schmidt:

Tracy Schmidt headhsotTracy L. Schmidt is a certified master food preservation specialist and the author of the book “Venison Wisdom.” She is married to Daniel Schmidt, editor in chief of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine and host of “Deer & Deer Hunting TV” on NBC Sports. Tracy enjoys the versatility afforded by Havalon Knives in both the kitchen and the field.

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Rabbit Recipes: Spanish Rabbit and Garbanzo Bean Bake

By Tracy L. Schmidt

Not only is rabbit meat tasty —
it’s a nutritional goldmine!

Rabbit recipes cooked and served

Rabbit served like this will be the centerpiece of the meal, and you won’t have leftovers. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

My family and I are certified venison fanatics, but truth be told we are equal-opportunity wild game meat eaters. We live ready, meaning we’ll gladly freeze, can, pickle and dry just about any critter we can get our hands on. It’s fun, clean living, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Deer might be our preoccupation, but small game like rabbits and squirrels are celebrated as winter treats. I will admit it took me a while to acquire the taste and learn how to cook these critters.

When prepared properly, rabbit meat is not only tasty — it’s a nutritional gold mine. In fact, rabbit meat is one of the healthiest wild game proteins you can find. It is extremely low in fat, and high in protein, vitamin B-12 and selenium. One 3-ounce serving of rabbit meat contains 25 grams of protein, more than 100 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B-12 and nearly 50 percent of our daily selenium requirement. (Selenium is a natural antioxidant that helps prevent hardening of the arteries.)

How to Skin and Cut Up a Rabbit

Rabbits are among the easiest animals to process. Field dressing is best done while the animal is still warm; this makes taking the hide off as simple as removing a sweater.

Skinning rabbit meat

Skinning a rabbit is like taking a sweater off. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

The best knife for field dressing small game is one that’s sharp. When cutting up your rabbit, you should also have either a bone blade or shears.

Trimming fat off of rabbit meat

For best taste, trim away all fat. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

Hang the rabbit up by its back legs and trim the hide away from the leg bone. Make a Y-shaped incision toward the pelvis, and repeat the same cut on the opposite side of the legs. Pull the hide as you go. Once you start, you’ll get the idea. It comes off very easily.

Splitting legs of rabbit meat

Split legs with a Havalon Bone Saw or a pair of shears. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

Eviscerate the rabbit while it’s still hanging. Remove all innards, vital organs, blood, body fat and stomach skin. The more time you take here, the less time you’ll have to spend trimming the meat on your butcher block. Next, use a bone blade to remove the head and feet. You can then split the pelvis and remove the offal remnants.

Washing rabbit meat

Wash rabbit meat under cold water to remove all traces of blood and hair. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

After field dressing, it’s important to thoroughly wash the rabbit meat with clean, cold water. Make sure to clean your sink and prep area too. Sanitize these areas, as well as your cutting boards and other equipment, with a diluted bleach solution containing 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water. This is will prevent harmful bacteria from entering your cooking area and avoid cross-contamination.

Quartering rabbit meat

Quarter the rabbit with a sharp knife. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

Should I Soak Rabbit Meat in Brine?

After washing the meat, pat the meat dry with paper towels or soak the rabbit for 30 minutes in salt brine. We prefer to soak all of our rabbits, squirrels and ruffed grouse in salt brine overnight. It is believed the gamey taste in some wild animals has to do with the fact that they build up urea in their bloodstream when they don’t drink much water. This is especially true for rabbits and squirrels — they acquire most of their bodily fluids from the foods they eat. Soaking the meat in saltwater helps with the appearance of bloodshot meat.

We use 3 tablespoons of salt per gallon of water. In the winter, we place the brine bucket on our covered front porch. During warm weather we place the bucket in the refrigerator and cover it with plastic wrap. Since moisture causes bacterial growth, we pat our meat dry before putting it in the refrigerator.

Ready to cook rabbit meat

Your rabbit is ready to cook, and it’s cleaner than any meat that comes in cellophane on a pink foam tray. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

Spanish Rabbit and Garbanzo Bean Bake:

16 oz. can of Garbanzo Beans
6 cups water
1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 small bay leaf
3 chorizos sausages, cooked and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Place the Garbanzo beans and water into a small Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the rabbit and place the pieces in a 10- to 12-inch skillet and brown them. I like to use a cast iron to get a great color. When the beans have simmered for 30 minutes, add the rabbit, onions, garlic and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 60 minutes. Add the sausages and rice to the rabbit. If you want to remove the rabbit meat from the bones, now is the time to do so. Place back into the pan and simmer with the cover on for an additional 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked off and the rabbit is tender.

Rabbit meat browning in cast iron skillet

A cast iron skillet does a great job of browning your rabbit meat. (Photo: Tracy Schmidt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the beaten eggs and pour them over the top of the casserole without stirring. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the eggs are firm and lightly browned.

About Tracy L. Schmidt:

Tracy Schmidt headhsotTracy L. Schmidt is a certified master food preservation specialist and the author of the book “Venison Wisdom.” She is married to Daniel Schmidt, editor in chief of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine and host of “Deer & Deer Hunting TV” on NBC Sports. Tracy enjoys the versatility afforded by Havalon Knives in both the kitchen and in the field.

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How to Hunt Rabbits Without a Dog

By Steve Sorensen

No beagle? No problem! Rabbit hunting
can still be fun!

Back in the “olden” days, I cut my predatory teeth on small game — mostly rabbits, the most widely distributed small game in America. As an early teenager I tramped through the thick stuff and stomped on brushpiles, hoping to kick out br’er rabbit and get a shot.

Rabbit hunting works as a great introduction to hunting

Scott Phillips, like countless other young people, was introduced to hunting by going after rabbits. (Photo: Doug Phillips)

Those really were the “olden” days, because back then society didn’t have the same fear about kids with guns that society has today. In fact, after school I often walked across the football team’s practice field carrying my shotgun. The coach always waved as I headed for the perfect rabbit habitat — the cross-country team’s track, which snaked through the brushy woods on the hill above the school. The next day the coach would hold me accountable by asking, “How many did you get?”

In those days a kid could frequently have a gun on school property, and when graduation day rolled around they’d be recognized with an award for character. Try that today and you’ll be expelled, you won’t graduate and you might end up living under a bridge somewhere. So don’t end up living under a bridge — just find another place to hunt rabbits!

I had a rural upbringing, which included a beagle. A dog does the hard work — penetrating the brush — and the work you can’t do, like smelling the rabbit. Mitzy was good — slow good — so the rabbits she chased would stay a comfortable distance ahead. Sometimes Mitzy was so far behind that by the time she showed up I had already finished the field dressing.

No need for special gear when hunting rabbits

You don’t need specialized shotguns or expensive gear to have lots of fun hunting rabbits. Leah Woytek shot her first rabbit with her dad’s singe shot shotgun while hunting with her grandfather. (Photo: Pat Woytek)

Today, when many hunters live in urban areas, dogs are expensive and difficult to keep. Puddy tats are more popular, but more tuned in to catching Tweety birds than chasing rabbits by scent. However, you can still pursue Peter Cottontail even without a dog. Here’s how to succeed:

1. Know their cover – Rabbits live almost everywhere, but you need to know where they’re most easily accessible. Your inventory of rabbit habitat should include edges of cultivated agricultural fields, old brushy farm fields with plenty of openings and those spots farmers can’t cultivate because they’re too rocky, too wet or otherwise unfriendly to farm equipment. Notice especially islands of brush within farm fields — they’re virtually guaranteed to harbor a rabbit or two.

2. Look for rabbit sign – In some respects, rabbit sign is like deer sign. They excrete pellets similar to the dry, roundish pellets deer leave. Although rabbits don’t use antlers to rub bark off trees, they do chew the bark off small trees. So take a closer look at that buck rub — it might be the work of a rabbit. Like deer, they don’t mind the rain, but unlike deer they avoid mud, so you won’t find many rabbit tracks except in snow. Find rabbit sign and you’ll find rabbits.

3. Get out early in the season – I always marvel at people who comment on the abundance of bunnies all summer, and then wonder where they’ve gone in the fall. Many have been eaten by coyotes, foxes and winged predators that enjoy open season year ’round. So the earlier in the season you get out, the better.

Rabbits are abundant in spring and summer but frequently disappear in the fall and winter

We see lots of young rabbits in our yards in the spring and summer, then wonder where they all went come fall. The answer — foxes, owls, hawks and other predators (including domestic pets) are effective whether the rabbits are near houses or out in the woods. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

4. Don’t overlook the late season – Winter snows will deliver a couple of advantages. Rabbits will concentrate around food sources, and you’ll see tracks in the snow. It’s not hard to know which brush piles to stomp. You can follow rabbits in the snow even though you can’t smell them.

5. Team up – You don’t have to live in the dog house to be the dog. Have one person follow the trail while the other keeps himself positioned for a shot. Two shooters also means a bouncing rabbit may avoid one, but not the other.

Busting brush while rabbit hunting without a dog

These hunters know good rabbit cover. Be willing to bust some brush, and wear safety orange so hunting partners can keep track of each other. (Photo: Marissa Everett)

6. Go solo – A one-man hunt can be a lot of fun. Rabbits are nervous and often hold tight, hoping you don’t see them. Look for that perfect circle of an eye — sometimes it’s the easiest thing to spot. Use their paranoia to your advantage by taking a few steps, then stopping for 20 seconds or more as you look. They’ll be convinced you’ve seen them so be ready to shoot when they make a mad dash for alternate cover.

Over the years, I’ve shot cottontail rabbits with air guns, shotguns and .22 rimfire rifles. They all work. Since you don’t need specialized guns or gear, rabbits are one of the least expensive game animals you can chase. Same goes for jackrabbits (a major nuisance in some places) and wintertime snowshoe hares. So put on a pair of boots, some brush-resistant pants and some fluorescent orange and get going. Not having a dog is no excuse.

About Steve Sorensen:

hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenOutdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen is the author of “Growing Up With Guns” and “The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series.” He also writes an award-winning newspaper column called “The Everyday Hunter”® and edits content in the Havalon Nation. He has also published articles in Deer & Deer Hunting, Outdoor Life and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at

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Eastern Coyotes: Photographic Evidence of Their Origins

By Steve Sorensen

Hot topic — where did eastern coyotes
really come from? The secret is out!

Throw away what you think you know about the mysterious arrival of coyotes to the eastern United States. Did they arrive in a tractor-trailer from Wyoming? It must be true because a buddy’s wife’s cousin’s co-worker said he saw the truck. Was it an elaborate scheme involving a state game department trading coyotes for wild turkeys? Did a timber company conspire with an insurance company to import coyotes to kill deer that were destroying future timber crops and increasing insurance claims?

Fahgettaboudit. All of it. None of that happened. A perfectly logical, completely reasonable explanation exists on how coyotes came to the eastern states. And it’s simple — they walked.

Eastern coyote captured in 1938

The Pennsylvania Game Commission published this photo of a live-trapped coyote in the December 1938 issue of Pennsylvania Game News. It’s probably the first photographic evidence of coyotes living in the state. (Photo: PGC)

OK, OK. I’m not saying some power-walking coyotes bee-lined it east from Kansas looking for greener grass across the Mississippi. And no coyote version of Horace Greeley lectured any young’uns with the slogan “Go east, young pup!” It’s simple, but it’s not that simple.

Coyotes did find their way to the east without any help from man. Coyotes were simply doing what they do. When new litters of pups are born, they grow up and strike out on their own, gradually expanding their territory.

A 75-Year History in the Northeast

It’s a story that has been developing for at least 75 years. How do I know that? I have a photo of a coyote trapped near Ridgway, Pennsylvania, way back in 1938. At the time, the Pennsylvania Game Commission verified it was a coyote, not a young timber wolf as the trapper first thought.

That wasn’t the first coyote in Pennsylvania, but it’s probably the first that was photographed. Where did it come from? Gerry Parker, a wildlife biologist in Nova Scotia, traced sightings of coyotes progressing across the Canadian provinces north of the Great Lakes and into the Maritime Provinces, then down into the northeastern United States. His research is published in a book called “Eastern Coyote: The Story of Its Success” (1995).

Gerry Parker book Eastern Coyote: The Story of Its Success

Nova Scotia wildlife biologist Gerry Parker researched the eastern coyote and produced this book documenting the progression of the coyote from the upper Midwest, north of the Great Lakes, to the northeastern United States.

If you think an obscure 1938 photo doesn’t prove anything, I have more. In the fall deer hunting season of 1940, a group of hunters from Oil City, PA found some coyotes. They were unsure whether it was legal to hunt them, so they inquired and learned shooting them was legal. They put on a successful coyote hunt in January of 1941, and some photos were published in the March 1941 issue of Pennsylvania Game News.

Oil City Bucktails killed a pack of coyotes in Venango County, PA in 1941

Organized groups including the Oil City Bucktails killed a pack of coyotes in Venango County, PA. Here’s one of the canines killed on January 11, 1941. Some weighed as much as 62 pounds. (Photo: Oil City Derrick)

Expert Testimony

That’s not all. In 1948 a big coyote was killed in Clearfield County, PA. Again — photographic evidence. While I have yet to discover any photos from the 1950s, I can say with certainty that in 1963 coyotes were discovered in the suburbs of Philadelphia. J. W. Lippincott (son of American educational textbook publisher J. B. Lippincott) wrote an article in Pennsylvania Game News about his encounter with them, backed up by his hunting and trapping expertise. “The howl of a coyote was not new to me. I have hunted coyotes from northern Alberta as far south as Old Mexico. I have shot coyotes, I have skinned coyotes, and I have trapped coyotes. I knew a coyote when I saw one, and I knew their howling which commenced in the woods near my home in Philadelphia.”

Large coyote killed in Clearfield County during 1946 deer season

This large coyote was killed in Clearfield County during the 1946 deer season. Again, the Pennsylvania Game News carried the photo. (Photo: PGC)

By the 1970s coyotes were becoming more common. In 1976, an eastern coyote was run over by a car on Route 30 east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County. The dead animal was examined at the Pennsylvania State University, where biologists determined it to be a coyote.

In the late 1970s a hunter living less than three miles from my house killed one on his property. And in the mid-’80s I shot my first. By then, coyotes were rapidly filling up their habitat.

Westerners Came East Through Canada

Most people who are interested in eastern coyotes know that they are bigger than their western counterparts. A big western coyote might reach 35-40 pounds. A big eastern coyote can weigh 60 or more. Why? The answer, again, is simple.

Gerry Parker’s book says that when small numbers of coyotes encountered small numbers of wolves, they interbred. Studies confirm eastern coyotes share some genetic material with timber wolves. So the answer to their larger size is that wild canines behave like stray dogs — when they have difficulty finding mates they get friendly with the locals. In their case, the locals were Canadian wolves.

42-pound eastern coyote roadkill

Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer Tim Flanigan (now retired) poses with a 42-pound coyote that was hit by a car in Westmoreland County, east of Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo: Tim Flanigan)

Now you ask, “So my state game department didn’t stock them?” The question brings me to one more point. This isn’t the first time in North America when coyotes have shown up in a new place, going through Canada. One historian says that way back in the nineteenth century, coyotes “followed the trail of dead horses,” scavenging what man left in his wake as he blazed a gold-fever trail to the Yukon. No one in Alaska claims anything else, and no one accuses the Alaska Department of Fish and Game of a secret coyote stocking program.

All this is not to say no man has ever released a coyote east of the Mississippi. Certainly that has happened, but biologists are on record saying accidental or intentional releases of a few individual coyotes had little impact on the population dynamics of coyotes in the Northeast. Coyotes have steadily expanded their range, independent of direct assistance by man.

Keep watching Havalon Nation for more on the history of eastern coyotes. Including answers to questions like “How did they rapidly fill the habitat?” and “How can deer hunters go after them?”

About Steve Sorensen:

hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenOutdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen is the author of “Growing Up With Guns” and “The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series.” He also writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and edits content in the Havalon Nation. He has also published articles in Deer & Deer Hunting, Outdoor Life and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at

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Announcement: Paul Schwartz Retiring from Havalon Knives

Paul Schwartz headshot

Paul Schwartz will be retiring from Havalon Knives after more than 11 years with the company.

It’s a bittersweet moment here at Havalon Knives as we prepare to say goodbye to one of our best. Paul Schwartz, sales manager for Havalon Knives, will be retiring from the company on February 18. Paul started with Havalon back in 2004, and after 11 years of representing the company both on the road and in the office, he’s ready to call it a day. Some of you might have had the chance to see Paul at one of the many trade shows we visit each year, or maybe even talk to him a couple of times. We couldn’t be happier for him, and we wish him and his family the best. Now let’s hear from the man himself:

What are some of your favorite memories from working at Havalon?

There are so many it’s hard to choose! The most difficult part of my decision is having to leave the people that became my friends over the years. After working with these people for so long, you can’t help but become close with them. It’s bittersweet, and it’s the memories you have that make it a big part of your life.

What are some things you’ve learned about hunting and the outdoors over the years?

I’ve learned a lot about what the real spirit of hunting is all about, and the true meaning and the conservation behind it. It isn’t all about the thrill of killing an animal, although it is for some. The vast majority of hunters are interested in the health of the herd and preserving hunting for the next generation, which is amazing. As Jim Shockey told me once, and I paraphrase, it is not only about the viability between the various species of nature, but that between nature and humanity. The selflessness of hunters is really reassuring to me. They take care of each other; when they use a product that is inferior the warning goes out, and when they use a product that is superior they make it their mission to let everyone know that this is a product you have to have.

You’ve traveled a lot with Havalon — what’s your favorite trade show you’ve been to and why?

The regional show out in Montana was my personal favorite destination. I really think I was supposed to be born in the mountains, so I felt at home there. My wife was able to join me on that trip, and we both enjoyed the area so much that it made it to our short list of possible retirement locations.

From a company perspective, the Great American Outdoor Show out in Harrisburg was always a fun time. The people there are always excited to see us at the show. They love to see us and have us at the show, so it was good to go out there as much as I did.  From an industry perspective attending SHOT Show always gave me hope that our Second Amendment rights will NEVER be taken away. So, those who try so hard to do so, give it up; you won’t win.

Over the years, what are some of the advances you’ve helped implement with Havalon (new knives, blades, retail, etc.)?

I don’t want to take credit for anything. I would rather hope to believe that my role played a part in taking Havalon to where it is today. Havalon is now a household name. When we first started doing trade shows, for every 50 people we talked to, only two would buy a knife. Now it’s the complete opposite. For every 50 people that come to the booth, only two don’t buy anything.

After retirement, what are your plans for the future?

Well, I think I want to slow things down a little bit and hopefully give back to the world that’s given me so much. I come from a large family and it is getting larger every year, so I would like to spend more time with them. I’m also going to do home inspections. I started my own business about 18 months ago, so I’m looking forward to doing that. My wife and I are looking forward to having the time to do what we want, when we want, and not worry about schedules.

If nothing else, when I get really bored and I feel like my time needs to be filled, or my wife is ready to kill me, I’ll just call Havel’s and beg to get my old job back!

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