Gathering Cycle of The Year: December

By Kaare Melby

As the darkness settles in, and we begin to get used to the early sunsets, you might think that there is no more wild food gathering to be done. But grouse hunting extends until the beginning of January and there is still time to get out and harvest them.

I always describe grouse as tasting “the way you wish chicken would taste”. It’s tender white meat has a little more flavor than your average chicken. In my household, our favorite way to eat grouse is cut into strips, breaded, and fried like chicken. YUM!

Another way to gather wild food this time of the year is to go ice fishing. And as the ice gets thicker on the lakes, more and more people will be flocking out to set up their ice houses. If you want to go ice fishing, all of the equipment should be available through the Finland Co-op and/or Maple Grove Motel & Bait Shop right here in Finland, MN. Remember, you need a fishing license to go ice fishing.

As good as grouse and fish are, they don’t provide the quantity of meat that larger animals such as deer, bear, and moose provide. So what are you to do if you missed the big game hunting seasons and you have not already filled your freezer with local wild meat?

There is a solution: each year thousands of deer and other large animals are hit by vehicles in Minnesota. Now I know, there is quite a stigma associated with harvesting and eating “roadkill”. But for me, it’s something I have been familiar with my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are of community members coming together and processing roadkill deer together. Heck, I even seem to remember times when I was a child where you could order roadkill specials in restaurants. While that may not be the case anymore, it seems silly to let good meat go to waste. Here are a few rules to keep in mind if you decide to try harvesting meat from an animal that has been killed in a collision:

The first rule of roadkill is freshness. This is why winter is the best time to harvest roadkill, if the animal is still warm, it’s probably still good to eat.

The second rule of roadkill is to avoid damaged areas
. Oftentimes animals who have been killed by a vehicle collision are only minimally damaged, other times there can be so much damage that there is nothing left to get. It’s good to assess the damage before you decide to harvest roadkill.

The 3rd rule of roadkill is: don’t gut it! Chances are that the collision caused some damage to internal organs. To avoid an unpleasant surprise (and potentially ruining the meat), it’s best to avoid the gutting process altogether. Instead simply try to harvest high-value cuts, such as backstrap or undamaged leg roasts that can be removed without compromising the animal’s digestive system.

Remember, you have to get a permit to legally harvest meat from an animal that has been killed by a vehicle. You can get such a permit by contacting a local law enforcement officer after you have located an animal that has been hit. 

I hope you find a chance to try your hand at the art of harvesting roadkill. If you do, send us your stories! We just might feature your roadkill adventure in an upcoming newsletter!