Just to the east of downtown Boise is a mountain I shall not name. It is a popular biking, hiking and trail running area for residents of the City of Trees. I have seen deer sign on those trails for years while running them. Seeing game sign on a run immediately makes me wish I was hunting. I lose all interest in my pace, my calories burned and my training “program.” I become a hunter. I look for bedding areas, food sources, trails and high-pressure escape routes.
One draw in particular has always held my attention. I have stared at that area from three separate kitchens wishing I was there hunting it. The draw starts off open and inviting with several trails intersecting at its base. Then it gets steep and narrow, and all trails abandon it for nearly a mile in diameter. The ravine gets so little sun that water is present year-round. It even has a nice riparian area for bedding and forbs.
Basically, I have drooled over this spot for the better part of a decade. I have seen it from every angle on onX Maps and Google Earth. And I finally decided last spring that I was hunting this spot.
A few miles of hiking put me in the ravine that I had obsessed over. An either-sex tag in my pocket. Deer sign began to show up. The worse the terrain and the harder and farther away from the trails I ventured, the more tracks and scat I saw. With a trickle of water flowing in the bottom, I knew I was close.
I sat on a rock to glass a cut into the ravine. Then I heard the telltale sign of mule deer, the bouncing run that they use. They were only about 50 yards up the ravine from me, climbing boulders and glancing over their shoulders at me. Eventually they stopped and did the classic mule deer look back.
I quickly put my pack in front of me, securing a stable shooting rest. I waited and watched. When a doe stopped and turned broadside at about 130 yards, I took my shot. It was a little more forward than I wanted – neck shot, really. She dropped. Mission success.
I quickly processed her into manageable chunks and put her into game bags. The roughly 70 pounds of pack wasn’t bad. Walking down the path I ran into a number of hikers and bikers. I received several looks of surprise, a few looks of happiness and one downright scowl. But I knew what I was doing. I was making meat in an area as close to my house as I could. I had the dedication and motivation to hunt where I could see the biggest city in the state of Idaho but still be isolated from other hunters. My determination had won the day. Time to pick a new draw.
Sherry Cream and Mushroom Deer Steak:
In this dish, venison steak with sherry cream mushrooms, you get balance from combinations of saltiness, fat from the cream, sweet from the sherry, and then umami from the mushrooms. Stack that on some venison and a “bright” flavored potato (lemon and parsley) and you have a winning combo.
3 tablespoons butter
4 each, 6-ounce venison steaks (sirloin, flatiron or backstrap work best)
½ pound chanterelles (or other wild-ish mushrooms)
½ onion, small, diced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
½ cup sherry wine
½ cup cream
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring steaks to room temperature. Season steaks with salt and pepper. In 10-inch sauté pan add a tablespoon of butter and heat on medium until butter is clear and foaming. Add the two steaks to the pan. Brown on both sides – two to three minutes. Set aside.
Add another tablespoon of butter and melt it. Add the two remaining steaks to the pan and cook until brown, three to four minutes per side.
Place all steaks on a cookie sheet and place in a 350-degree oven and cook until 120 degrees internal temperature, or to your preference.
Add the remaining butter to the pan. Melt and add the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Lower the heat. You don’t want to burn the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. When the mushrooms begin to lose some moisture, add the sherry wine. This will boil fast and quick. Then, when most moisture is gone, add the cream. Bring to a boil and then simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until steaks are done. Serve over mashed potatoes and roasted carrots.
Randy King is a recipe contributor to Idaho Fish & Game and lives in Nampa, Idaho. He is a trained chef, passionate hunter and angler, author of the cookbook “Chef in the Wild,” and has written food articles in numerous national publications.