There’s no shortage of experienced hunters and fishers in south Louisiana. This is, after all, the country’s self-proclaimed Sportsman’s Paradise.
But even among those who willingly forego tailgating parties or football games for the pleasures of bundling up in a duck blind on a frosty fall morning, Jim LaCour stands tall.
He’s the state’s wildlife veterinarian at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and is a bona fide expert on wild game - how to care for it, how to kill it and how to cook it.
He’s been a hunter and fisherman most of his life and by his own estimation cooks the wild game he hunts in his native East Feliciana Parish five or six nights a week.
“I’ve hunted all my life,” LaCour said. “Everything - turkey, deer, dove, duck, squirrel, rabbit and feral hog.”
The latter of which, by the way, is really popular these days, thanks to an explosion in the feral hog population and the need of those who live in rural areas to do something about it.
“They are very ferocious breeders, and they’re very common,” he explained. “As such, people shoot them and use them as table fare or mix them with deer meat for sausage.”
Feral hogs will be among the many subjects that will be addressed in displays and
demonstrations at this weekend’s National Hunting and Fishing Day at Waddill Wildlife Refuge on Flannery Road. The event is sponsored by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
It’s an opportunity to kick off the fall hunting season and educate those who may not be regular hunters or fishers about the many options in south Louisiana.
There will also be a cooking demonstration and tasting of wild Louisiana game, prepared by chefs from the Louisiana Culinary Institute.
“The overall goal is to give those who don’t get a chance to hunt and fish on a regular basis the options they have in Louisiana,” said Gabe Giffen, a public information officer with the department. “It’s really a great way to get people involved in the outdoors.”
It’s also a great way to learn some tips on how to prepare wild game.
In recognition of the daylong event, LaCour shared some of his suggestions for handling and preparing wild game:
•A quick humane kill results in better table fare. Always be mindful of shot placement and the type of weapon you use.
•Cool meat promptly after killing in a ready ice chest, unless the outdoor temperature is below 50 degrees. It decreases the chance of any food-borne illness and increases the meat’s palatability.
•If the outdoor temperature is below 50 degrees, let the meat cool outdoors by hanging. This is especially important for large game, and will make the meat much more tender.
•When handling feral hogs - including wild boar, or any sort of wild pig or hog - always use rubber gloves. They carry disease.
•When cooking deer, make sure not to overcook it. It’s best medium rare or medium.
•Always marinate deer to increase its tenderness. LaCour’s favorites are bottled Italian salad dressing and Tabasco Garlic Marinade.
•When cooking wild boar or feral hogs, cook to a minimum of 160 degrees, whether you’re roasting the meat or using it ground up with deer sausage. This will reduce the risk of any food-borne illness.
•When cooking duck or geese, render the fat out first by browning the meat in a skillet or in the oven then pouring out the melted fat. This will make the meat more tender - and more healthful.
•When cooking squirrel, boil the meat until it pulls easily from the bone then use the stock to make jambalaya. LaCour said squirrel is “the most flavorful meat you will ever eat.”