Warning! This post may contain some graphic and delicious images. Proceed at your own risk.
This story begins on Christmas night. Erin and I had been in town to watch The Hobbit and have dinner with friends who didn’t leave town. After dinner and a game of Apples to Apples, we headed home. The drive was slow as it had been snowing, and the roads were covered with a fine layer of powder. As we left Deary and headed for the house, we saw two Elk on the side of the road. Since I had my camera and my new flash with me in the car, I thought I might stop and try to photograph them, but as I backed the car up, the elk ran away. We kept driving, and not more than a mile further, I saw two more elk along the side of the road. Hot damn! I had Erin grab my camera while I slowly backed up, but again, these elk were spooked by my presence. While I may have been bummed that I lost both photo opportunities, it’s still cool that I saw four elk right near my house.
Erin had mentioned that she had seen a herd of five elk along this stretch of road several times in the past weeks, so I was hopeful that there would be more. As I kept driving, I noticed what looked like a dead deer (or elk) in the snow on the side of the road. Erin asked me to stop, so I pulled over for a look. Someone had hit an elk on the road, killing it and sending its body sliding off into a snow pile. The body looked like it was in fairly good condition. I don’t know if I can say the same for the other guy’s car. There were pieces of bumper and headlight on the road.
In these parts, elk meat is a coveted delicacy, so when you come across a free find, you don’t just pass it up. As I mentioned before, the body was in fairly good condition. The body was also still warm, which meant this was a fresh kill. Erin had me continue home to grab a rope and a sled so that we could haul the carcass back home and salvage the meat. Erin called our friend Colleen, an avid hunter, and had her talk my wife through removing the viscera. The next day, she came out with her knives and bone saw and, for the price of half the meat, helped Erin to butcher the elk.
We had found a young male, not even a year old. The poor guy never reached maturity to have the chance to sire an offspring. But therein lies our advantage. This meat should still be tender and not gamey. It’s amazing how much meat a young elk can provide. We estimate this one provided us with at least 100 pounds. It took Erin and Colleen all day to skin, quarter, clean, butcher, and package the meat, and we now have a freezer full of food to last us through the next year. We can only imagine how long it would have taken had this been a full-grown adult.
I never would have thought I’d be the kind of person to take roadkill. The very thought of it seems disgusting, but then again, most roadkill that we see is. Small game along the road is generally too damaged to salvage, and unless you hit it, you don’t know how long it’s been dead. Larger animals still suffer damage, and the damaged tissue often has to be discarded, but the rest of the animal can still provide good fresh meat as long as it is harvested quickly. Luckily, on this frozen snowy night, we had time on our side.