By Chad Pagano—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts and Host of Heritage Radio’s Wild Game Domain

chef-chad-military-300x342At a time when most people are just starting to think about the holiday season, my favorite holiday has already long past: October 1st, opening day of the New York State Archery whitetail deer season. I spent the evening prior checking and rechecking my gear, looking at my tree stand locations on Google earth, checking the weather and making sure my bow is perfectly tuned and sighted in. Before going to bed that night, my wife (who has long called hunting season “the ordeal”) gave me the grave news that I would have to get all three of my lovely children to school before I could officially start my hunting season.

The next morning, after loading my gear, rushing the kids through breakfast, and barely stopping my jeep for them to jump out at school, I was finally free. As I drove towards the state parkway, I tempered thoughts of actually bringing home a deer on that first day. The early season on Long Island is notoriously rough on hunters. Warm weather, crowded woods and deer still stuck in their summer feeding patterns all make for an unlikely opening day kill. Regardless, I could not wait to just sit in my tree stand for a couple of hours and simply enjoy nature.

After a few stressful hours of rain and Long Island traffic, I enjoyed a nice silent approach to my stand (due to the rain-soaked woods). Arriving at my stand, I realized that I had forgotten to wear my safety climbing harness. Ever the optimist, I started the 25-foot ascent to my hunting spot anyway. As I approached the last few feet of the ascent, my right foot slipped on a rain soaked branch and I found myself hanging by my fingernails, fearing for my life. I quickly righted myself, settled into the comfort of my stand and proceeded to calm my panicked breathing and rapid heart beat.

Photo Credit: Buck Valley Ranch

Photo Credit: Buck Valley Ranch

Just as I was attempting to calm down, I looked to my right and noticed two does within 15 yards of my stand. I could hardly believe my eyes. I slowly lifted my bow and quickly realized I had not even loaded an arrow yet. Cursing under my breath, I slowly, silently loaded my arrow as I painfully watched these two deer stroll out of my shooting range. Just then, I heard a branch snap to my left. Turning my head ever so slowly, I expected to see another hunter or maybe a squirrel, but to my surprise there stood a seven-point whitetail buck. Drawing back my bow, I felt surprisingly calm. As I released my arrow, I knew I had made a perfect shot.

Scarcely daring to believe my good fortune, I paused to listen for signs indicating I had indeed hit my target. Before leaving my stand to retrieve the buck, I sat for a few minutes, composing a thank you text to my lovely wife for giving me those three wonderful children, who had to be dropped off at school this morning, causing me to sit in traffic, to be late to my stand, to miss the rain and basically create a perfectly timed collision with my opening day buck.

The following Sunday, after watching my son win his youth football game, we enjoyed a NY Giants victory over the Falcons with a nice warm bowl of venison chili. It’s the perfect dish for any occasion when you have to feed a crowd.

Photo Credit: chiotsrun.com

Photo Credit: chiotsrun.com

Venison Chili

Yield: 8 cups

  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans, fluids reserved
  • 1 can kidney beans, fluids reserved
  • 2 cans water
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Add oil to a stockpot and heat on high until oil is smoking. Salt the venison and carefully add to the stockpot. Cook until browned. Remove and let sit 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add onions and salt to the pot and sauté over medium heat until transparent. Add chopped garlic and spices. Continue to cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Toss in the crushed tomatoes and beans (including fluids from the can). Fill each bean can with water and add to the pot. Stir.
  4. Add the browned venison to the pot with any drippings. Stir again. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve. Serving tip: chili always tastes great with beer and cornbread.

Want to hear more of Chef Chad’s hunting stories in person? Register for his upcoming baking and cooking classes or listen to his talk show, Wild Game Domain, every Monday on Heritage Radio Network.

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