If this article title piqued your hunter’s curiosity, you likely have a fur buddy or two and are the adventurous, frugal, self-reliant type. After all, a recipe for deer liver brownies isn’t going to make many humans mouth water, but the digestive delight wild game snacks trigger in man’s best friend is truly drool-worthy. Dogs are naturally attracted to liver and other organ meats. The ingredients for economical, nutritious, chemical-free snacks your dog will love are available in your next deer, elk, moose or antelope gut pile. Practically any big game will do. This hunting season, when you’re elbow deep in a body cavity, field dressing, consider setting aside the liver, heart, lungs and trachea.
I know what you’re thinking. Why dissect a steaming pile when neatly packaged processed dog snacks are a debit card swipe away. Store bought means you skip the extra effort and exposure to gag-inducing “aromas” associated with rummaging through gut piles. Right? Think of organ hunting in a gut pile as a worthy challenge for your pet’s benefit. Besides, making rewards for their field performance and unconditional love is a culinary adventure.
Check the price per pound for commercial dog treats and the argument for frugal, self-reliance is won. Seriously, there have been numerous reports of pet health problems, even deaths, from pet food products made outside the USA. The best reason to give homemade wild game dog snacks recipes a go is more about who we are as hunters and where we came from. Portioning the kill with four-legged friends puts us in touch with our ancestral roots.
Ties That Bind
Sharing game with canines traces back to ancient times when our ancestors hunted to survive. Look what history and archeology tell us about the age-old bond between man and dog. It was born from human needs for support in hunting, herding, protection and as a food source. In return, dogs gained refuge, companionship, safety, and a reliable food source. These were the ties that have bound man and dog through the ages. We’ll never know for certain how it initially started, but prehistoric burial sites provide evidence of domestication. Dogs were profoundly important, often given the same rituals as humans and buried near their owners.
More recently, historical accounts demonstrate the vital role dogs played in fulfilling human needs for Native Americans and the pioneers who settled this country. Dogs working skills were most valuable — as hunting companions to provide food for the table, trailing wounded game, herding, to fight dangerous animals and as an alarm system for approaching dangers.
Native Americans and frontier men and women were masters in wild game utilization, for obvious reasons. Meat, fur, feathers, hair, hide, bones, blood, antlers, horn, organs and more aided in sustaining the tribes, pioneers and their dogs.
Your hunting successes yield healthy nutrition. Share it like your ancestors and carry on this ancient ritual between hunter and dog. The following are tips and canine-approved recipes for homemade wild game delicacies.
Deer Liver and Heart Jerky
Make these mouth-watering rewards for your furry friend and have a paper towel handy.
Commercial dehydrator or oven
Wire rack, parchment paper and sheet pan for oven drying
Cutting board and sharp knife
Plastic bags, glass jars or vacuum sealer system for storage
Deer liver or heart (or any big game)
Garlic powder, if desired
Preheat oven to its lowest temperature, typically 170 degrees. For oven drying, position wire rack over a parchment lined sheet pan. For electric dehydrator use, set drying temperature to 150 degrees.
Slice partially frozen liver or heart into thin strips about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
Lay strips on the rack or dehydrator trays. Leave at least 1/2 inch of spacing. Sprinkle slices lightly with garlic powder if desired. Don’t overdo. Excess amounts can be harmful.
Place strips in the preheated oven or dehydrator. Drying times will vary depending on thickness of strips and drying temperature. Dehydrators may take 8-10 hours at 150 degrees. Oven drying is usually quicker, about 3-4 hours. Check slices periodically for a flexible but dry texture. Jerky should be firm and leathery, not brittle. Note: Leave a narrow opening in the oven door for moisture to escape. Monitor closely. This is not recommended if children, the elderly or pets are nearby.
Remove the racks. Cool strips completely. If any strips feel soft, return to the drying process or set aside to feed within a short time.
Place jerky strips in plastic bags, glass jars or use a vacuum sealer. Refrigerate and use within two months or freeze for longer storage.
Deer Liver Brownies
Liver brownies are easy to make, though not for the squeamish. Baking liver odor can be offensive, so open a window or two. Your dog will happily remain nearby. For Fido, it’s olfactory heaven.
1 to 1 1/2 lb. big game liver, slightly frozen
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup water or stock
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup molasses or cane syrup
2 cups whole-wheat flour (other flours can be substituted according to allergy issues)
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Line a 13x9 or two 8x8 (inches) pans with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
Slice and cube the liver.
Liquefy liver chunks, with garlic and water/stock in a food processor or blender.
Add oil, eggs and molasses. Blend until smooth.
Pour liver mixture into a large bowl and gradually mix in the flour with a spoon.
Spread the batter in prepared pan. Bake about 25 minutes or until the middle is set.
Cool for 1 hour on a wire rack. Lift the paper/foil from pan. Cut brownies into bite size pieces with a pizza cutter. Use refrigerated treats within a few days. Freeze extras on a cookie sheet before placing in plastic bags or vacuum sealing.
Note: Tweak the recipe to fit your dog’s preferences. Try adding grated sweet potato, or cooked pumpkin or winter squash, for added nutrition. Don’t worry if you over bake the brownies. Trust me, your dog won’t mind.
Additional Used from the Gut Pile
Cartilage is a natural source of glucosamine, which is important for healthy joints. Save the windpipe, (trachea) of large game such as deer, elk, caribou, antelope and moose. Wash thoroughly. Trim excess meat and all fat. Cut to fit trays. Set dehydrator at 165 degrees and process until completely dried. Store in an airtight container.
Wild pig snouts contain glucosamine. Wash thoroughly, bring to a boil in water and simmer for 30 minutes. Bake at 200 degrees until crisp.
Lung puffs make a high protein, low fat snack in a light, crunchy texture, perfect for puppies, senior pets or dogs with sensitive teeth. Select healthy looking lungs free of shot damage. Wash thoroughly. Remove extra connective tissue or fat. Slice into strips and season lightly with garlic powder, if desired. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Slow roast on a parchment lined pan at 180 degrees until crispy.
Soft, easily swallowed rewards are key for reinforcement during training sessions. Boil duck, goose or wild turkey hearts and livers until done. Chill. Cut to desired size. Refrigerate or freeze the extras.
The spleen, located on the backside of the stomach, is a flat, blood-engorged organ. It makes superb, homemade catfish bait. The tough outer tissue of dried spleen is not easily pulled from a hook. Fish are attracted to the bloody scent released into the water.
Old timers simply laid the spleen on corrugated tin to dry in the hot summer sun, flipping as needed. Dry the whole spleen on a rack in an oven set to the lowest setting, or in a dehydrator set at 165 degrees, until dry yet pliable. Cut to desired size. Go fishing.
Warning: Your dog may happily chew on a long dead squirrel carcass with no ill effects, but there are food items they should never ingest: chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions or onion powder, mushrooms or seeds of any type.