This Big Sky Roasted Venison Head recipe was inspired by the classic western novel The Big Sky, by A. B. Guthrie. It calls for a skinned-out deer’s head to be buried beneath the coals of a fire, which is fun, rugged, and surprisingly effective.
The meat comes off the bone easily, and it’s super succulent. You can eat it with nothing but salt, but it’s even better when you use it to build a taco. I like mine made with corn tortillas, crumbled cheese, green salsa, cilantro, and scallions.
It makes a perfect hunter’s snack, and your friends will never forget it.
- 1 deer head, skinned out
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For serving: small corn tortillas, crumbled queso fresco or fresh goat cheese, green salsa, thinly sliced seal lions, cilantro sprigs, and lime wedges
- Build a big fire and let it burn vigorously for a good 45-60 minutes in order to build up a strong bed of coals. Really let it rip. You can use about any wood, but a dense hardwood will produce hotter, longer-lasting coals. An ideal choice would be mesquite, but oak is also great. While the fire is burning, you can prep your head.
- Salt and pepper the head heavily and triple- or quadruple-wrap it in foil.
- Take a burlap or game bag and soak it in a creek or with a hose until it’s fully saturated with water.
- Wrap your foil-covered head tightly in the wet burlap or game bag to make a neat package.
- When a good crop of coals has collected, use a spade to scrape out a trench in the center of your fire, deep enough and large enough around for your venison head.
- Put about a gallon of coals in the hole. Cover it with 3 inches of dirt. Then set the head in the trench.
- Cover the head with another 3 inches of dirt and build the fire back on top of the head. Cooking time may vary from fire to fire, but in general 3-4 hours is a pretty good amount of time to let it cook.
- Pull the roasted head out with the spade and put it on a stone to cool down. If you’re concerned, insert an instant-read thermometer through the foil into the flesh in the head (aiming for the brain is a good idea). It should be at least 160° but 170°-180° is ideal.
- Unwrap the burlap and the foil. Don’t remove the meat from the head until it has rested 10-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wrap the corn tortillas in foil and warm on the dying embers.
- Begin shredding the meat. There’s all kinds of good stuff on the head, particularly the tongue and the jowl meat, which tastes a bit like pulled pork. And it’s easy to remove with a knife and fork. Season the meat with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. And then get your fixings ready.Assemble the tacos, crack open some beers, and check out the stars. You’ve earned it.