I like to eat Wild: where can I find elk and deer meat if my CSA doesn’t carry it?

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Bambi at Knole!
Adorable now, delicious and nutritious later. Photo by Tony Hammond. Used under Creative Commons license.

Sarah asks:

When I was very little, my mom was a vegetarian. Then she married a hunter and a flood of fresh-caught meat entered our freezers. I’ve always been for living up to both halves of being an omnivore, but I have my meat limits: no added growth hormone, no antibiotics, humane growing conditions, grass fed, not highly processed with fillers, etc.


Bambi at Knole!
Adorable now, delicious and nutritious later. Photo by Tony Hammond. Used under Creative Commons license.

Yet when I ask for advice on where to find elk and deer meat, I sometimes get called “barbaric” (even from non-vegetarians/vegans.) Unfortunately that answer doesn’t tell me where I can find trusted sources of meat regionally. I order produce from CSAs, but they tend only to have the basic meats: chicken, beef, pork. We’ve just moved to Great Lakes region Illinois and are having to restart the search process.

Would appreciate any suggestions on:

  1. where to find trusted sources of deer and elk meat in Illinois and
  2. how to explain to friends why I have so many conditions set on my meat.


This topic is near to my heart: it’s common for people to think of hunting as barbaric nowadays, and it’s a sad sign that we’re too separated from our food. However, this may not be a conversation worth having unless you’re in a beer-fueled bull session. Were I on the hunt (ha!) for wild meats, I’d keep it low key:

Me: “Hey, while we’re on the topic of food, I’ve been looking for a source of deer meat. Know any hunters who sell?”
Me: “It tastes great! No big; I’ll Google.”

Twitter and Facebook are also great places for lazywebbing. Friends love to be helpful.

These are good starting points, but that’s all the solid info I’ve got. I throw it to you, Homies. Can you help Sarah find wild food?

Comments on I like to eat Wild: where can I find elk and deer meat if my CSA doesn’t carry it?

  1. I know some grocery stores in Quebec, Canada sell 4 packs of elk, deer, horse & goat. Not sure of the suppliers name though.

    Perhaps find a local (semi-local) hunting group/club and ask them to share?

    -I’m a vegetarian, and your willingness to eat hunted, not farmed, makes me happy! πŸ™‚

  2. Aside from farmer’s markets, I would suggest going to a gun/hunting store and asking the manager/owner/gun-enthusiast. He should know if anyone is selling whatever it is they hunt for and may be willing to ask around for you.

  3. Best thing to do in my opinion is to ask around. Deer meat in the grocery (from farm raised deer) here in West Virginia is ridiculously expensive. Think like $20+ per lbs. I don’t even know how they sell it. Find a local hunter.

    My boyfriend hunts and we use the skins for projects, so we always fill our tags. However there is only so much meat you can go through before you just want some chicken. Most hunters will give you a tenderloin or a lb of ground chuck for free. Ask your more rural/redneck friends if they know of anyone. If you don’t have any rural/redneck friends, make them! (We’re good people!)

    As for your friends who think hunting is barbaric, take them on a hunting trip, then take them to a cattle processing plant. Neither is especially bad, but none is fun. Either way a living being is dying, so you should appreciate food more. Personally I think having to track your food, and skin it yourself makes you appreciate it WAY more.

  4. Do you have a meat locker nearby? We shop there to get our deer meat… find out where the hunters take their catch for processing, that’s always a great start. And you don’t have to feel weird about it. Any place that sells deer tags would be a good place to ask, gun stores, bait shops, etc…

  5. ask around, meet people who ARE hunters. if you have a Dick’s, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain or Bass Pro nearby, hit the hunting section – namely the gun counter – and talk to people.

    you could always learn to hunt, too. πŸ˜‰ women are the quickest-growing population of firearm owners and we’re slowly getting into the sporting world, as well.

  6. You could try consulting your local yellow pages/the Interwebs for butchers. My dad was a hunter but wasn’t skilled enough to butcher his own meat, so we took it to a local butcher to have it cut and sometimes even made into bologna or jerky. I’m sure a local butcher could either sell you some cuts of meat or put you in touch with a hunter willing to share.

    If you do make a hunter friend, consider asking if they would give or sell you one of their deer. My dad would “go hunting” almost every morning, but unless we had room in the freezer or he knew someone would take the meat, he would just sit in the woods and not shoot anything (he just liked being out there). Point being, other hunters might be similarly inclined to do your hunting for you if they know the meat’s not gonna go to waste. And getting the meat from one whole deer is a good amount of meat (and if you have it butchered, you can specify if you want steaks, ground chuck, bologna, etc. etc.)

    • This was my advice completely.
      A butcher who handles deer and elk for hunters will almost always buy and sell game meat.
      And hunters are always happy to work out trade for their “extra” meat.

  7. I like localharvest.org. It’s a great way to find local farmers’ markets, CSA’s, and the like. Even if you can’t find someone who does what you’re looking for there, they might be able to point you in the right direction.

  8. Just as an FYI, in most states it is technically illegal to sell wild game. Most places selling venison have farmed it. However, it is generally not illegal to give meat to others. Your best bet is to befriend a hunter and be aware of your local laws.

    • This is very true. I realized this recently in my own quest for wild game.

      In addition, although I am not against it, I believe it is also illegal to fill someone else’s tag. So be discreet and careful if you’re having someone else do your hunting for you. Giving you meat from their animal is fine, but if you obtained a hunting permit and then someone else shot the animal, that is not okay in the eyes of most wildlife management law enforcement agencies.

  9. Our butcher sells organically farmed exotic meat (Like elk, venison, ostrich, etc) All you have to do is call ahead of time, and the nice thing is you aren’t limited by hunting season.

    But like everyone else said, strike up a relationship with some hunters during season, also check out the deer weigh in stations, butchers, and taxidermy shops.

  10. I’ll echo everyone else and say see if you can find a local hunter, or get your hunting liscence and go hunting then preserve what you get (you can find old recipes for smoking or preserving) If your not comfortable with a gun you could always try bow hunting.
    I think it’s sad that eating packaged meat from who knows where and hunting is looked down on.
    Also I just have to say that moose tacos are delicious!

  11. I will never understand why hunting is frowned upon as severely as it is. I once had a (meat-eating) friend tell me it was “mean”. Um, how is hunting less mean to raise an animal, usually in horrid conditions, solely to slaughter it later? But I digress.

    If you find a local hunter and aren’t allowed to buy game off him or her, offer to help process their kills in exchange for some meat. Some extra help butchering (or, if that’s not your thing, packaging or preserving) would certainly not go astray. πŸ™‚

    While my dad only hunted birds (and fish, if you count that), he had lots of hunting friends, so I grew up eating venison in so many delicious forms (venison sausage… mmmmm).

  12. I’m veggie and I much prefer the idea of hunting and eating your kill to eating something pumped full of chemicals and hormones which was slaughtered inhumanely.

    For a lot of people hunting reminds them what they’re eating was an actual living creature that was killed to get on their plate, and for some reason they prefer to ‘forget’ that bit. My step mum does this and I find it weird. I mean, chicken is chicken you know, it was obviously alive once!

  13. I usually tell people when they have questions or reactions on my eating wild, that the animal I’m eating had a happy, natural, animalane (I find humane such a weird word for animals) life, until on one day, it suddenly got shot. In my opinion that’s far better than living in crowded animal housing, never seeing the light of day and then being slaugthered with hundreds of their own kind. People usually agree or shut up… And I explain that (trained!) hunters do their best to kill the animal with one bullet, and otherwise kill it as fast as possible after it is shot.

  14. I don’t know if you’re willing to have animals off a ranch instead of hunted (or even what’s available in your area) but you might want to look at http://www.eatwild.com/products/index.html
    I know here in Colorado there were several places listed on this site I wouldn’t mind getting my meat from if I had the funds to buy half an animal… and a large freezer πŸ™‚

  15. I’m not sure where you live, but I’m in Lake County and the best way is probably to go hunting for yourself. It’ll be super easy to get deer and fish, but not so much on the elk. I know Antioch has a meat-packing plant that hunters take their kills to for processing where you might be able to get unclaimed deer from, but it’s illegal to sell here. Oh also, I’m a vegetarian but am willing to eat meet if I or my fiance kills it and cleans it, so you’re not alone in having conditions on meat eating. CAFOs are way more barberic than hunting for meat! (bleck to trophy hunting though)

  16. Totally agree with everyone on hunting vs buying packaged meat. Really though, has anyone seen what Tyson does with their chickens?! I’m not eating that. Yuck.

    But a deer that lived a good life? Sure. I’d eat it. Sorry, no good advice, but I figure knowing people agree has to count for something.

  17. I’m a deer hunterette in Wisconsin and there are always hunters looking to unload venison. I really suggest checking with a local (meaning in hunting land, north of Madison is good) deer processor. Or signage in a Cabela’s or Gander Mountain. Wisconsin has Hunt For the Hungry so a lot of deer get donated.

    • Hey,

      I would love to have a deer, I live in Montello, WI and have never hunted. I don’t think at almost 60 it’s time for me to take it up or buy the equipment required to do it. If someone has a deer to give away, I’ll sure take it and pay for the tag.

  18. Another deer hunter, here. If you know anybody who hunts, feel free to ask if you can buy some of their meat. Hunters are almost always happy to share or barter, at least in my experience.

    As for explaining to people … just explain that animals that live in the wild are living the ultimate free range/organic-fed awesome experience, and a good hunters keep suffering to a minimum (and slaughterhouses don’t provide the stress-free deaths they claim, most of the time). If your pals show even the slightest preference toward organic/free-range foods this ought to do the trick. If they don’t care a whit then there’s no hope, just shrug it off.

    If you really can’t find any meat around, though … would you consider hunting yourself? I know a lot of hunter-types (especially my fellow lady hunters) are into mentorship, and lots of Fish & Game organizations help promote/organize it. It’s mostly for kids but I’ve heard about a fair number of older folks getting a start that way.

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