So, the MH took me out antelope hunting this morning. I’d sort of hoped he’d kill the antelope for me, but for one thing that’s illegal, and for another thing, he wasn’t letting me off the hook that easily. He told me he’d help me, and that if I wanted to eat antelope, I should learn to kill one. He’s right, of course, but I was really nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do it. We got out there and had a good sight line and he helped me set up the shot, and believe it or not, I actually killed an antelope. My biggest worry had been that I’d wound an animal and cause it terrible pain, but astonishingly, although it took two shots, and it was a little hairy for a couple of minutes, I did manage to kill it without disgracing myself or the animal (and I even managed not to give myself a black eye by getting too close to the scope). I thought it would be kind of freaky, but I don’t know — maybe it’s because I’ve been around people who hunt my whole life, but it didn’t freak me out to kill an antelope. I shot it, it died. (I might also have jumped up and down a little from the adrenalin rush and from relief that I’d actually done it.)
The other part I was worried about, the gutting part — turned out to be a surprise — that part was actually really really interesting.
The MH took care of the gutting for me — I might not have been so interested if I’d had to do it myself. I mean, it is a little startling to see someone start cutting into an animal that was alive mere moments before, and I was a little nervous that I’d embarrass myself by being grossed out (can you tell I had brothers and 6 boy cousins? my horror at acting “like a girl” remains unscathed in adulthood). He’d asked me to help by holding onto one leg to keep the antelope on it’s back and at one point, as there was some tugging involved, the MH looked up and said “You okay?”
That’s when I looked into the cavity and realized that yeah, I was totally okay. In fact, I thought it was much more interesting than it was gross. All the guts are enclosed in a membrane, so they’re like one big sac. “Look!” I said. “There’s the heart …” As if the MH hasn’t done this thousands of times in his life … There was some blood, and it was surprisingly red — like movie blood — but nothing smelled bad – the only smell was of digested grass and that wasn’t much different from being around cow or horse dung. In fact, I thought it was all very interesting in the way that when you’re a little kid you just want to see what things look like. Once the MH had gotten everything detatched, he tipped the carcass up and rolled the guts out onto the grass. Then he pulled out the liver, showed me the bile duct before carefully cutting it out. He tucked the liver and the heart into the carcass, then he dragged the antelope back to the truck (I offered to help but he said he was fine — so I trailed along like the girl).
When we got back to his house, I helped him hang the antelope on the meat hooks in the garage and then he skinned it. Apparently, it’s much easier to skin when the animal is still warm, and since you want to cool it down as quickly as possible, it’s good to get it skinned out right away. Again, not icky. A little startling to think of actually pulling the skin and hide off of something, but again, I was mostly just fascinated to see the musculature revealed, and appreciative that the MH was doing this part for me (along with the gutting — it was cool to watch, but I’m not sure I’d have been as sanguine if I’d had to do it myself). It’ll hang for a while — I’m not sure how long — and then I think he’s going to butcher it for me.
So that was my adventure in hunting. Over on Michael Ruhlman’s blog they‘re talking about how once in your life you should eat an animal you slaughtered yourself, so I guess I can now cross that off the list. I have to say though, I don’t feel any more what, reverential? about this antelope because I shot it than I have about all the other antelope or elk or venison that I’ve eaten that my friends have shot. But then again, the idea of eating an animal that was killed by someone I know isn’t so foreign to me. I grew up eating elk and venison and ducks that my dad and brother and Dad’s guide, Ray Kennedy hunted. I imagine that the experience of eating an animal that you or someone you know killed is probably more powerful if the only meat you’ve ever known came from the supermarket on those icky little sanitary pads. I would never have hunted an antelope on my own, but since the MH got me a tag last summer, and since he took me out and helped me, and since I really like to eat antelope (much more than venison or elk), well, I hunted an antelope.
I am glad that I ordered the River Cottage Meat Book the other day though because I’m now the proud owner of an antelope heart that I have to figure out how to cook. And I have an antelope liver, so I can try the Terrine Jacquy again (or maybe I’ll just do the Pate Campagne out of Charcuterie — I did that last year and it was delicious). And in a couple of weeks I’ll have lots of antelope meat — which is delicious delicious delicious.