The Time Of Year When Venison Tastes The Best

Wild game meat has a certain charm that sets it apart from your typical store-bought beef and chicken. Knowing that it's hunted and prepared by hand adds to its appeal. Among wild game meats, venison — wild deer's meat — stands out as a favorite due to its leanness and distinctive flavor. Venison's flavor is often compared to beef but with earthy hints of grass, sage, and acorns from the deer's natural diet.

However, the time of year affects the freshness and taste of the venison more than you'd think. For the best-tasting and freshest venison, begin your shopping anytime between August and late October, which will coincide with the early deer hunting season around the country. During this period, not only will you have access to the freshest cuts of meat, but the quality of the meat itself will be at its peak. The warmer weather means that deer have less fat and tallow in their meat compared to late-season venison when the deer have had ample time to build up fat to keep warm. Deer fat tastes bitter and is not what you want to have in your venison meatballs.

Additionally, purchasing venison during the early season lets you steer clear of the mating season. When the deer are rutting, their meat can taste very strong due to the abundance of hormones. Opting for venison from the early season will give you meat with a far milder and more palatable taste.

Can't get wild venison? Try farmed venison

The kind of venison we've talked about so far is wild venison, which is hunted and manually processed. If you want to buy this kind of venison then the best time is during the early hunting season. But, if it's not hunting season or you can't find a spot where you can source freshly hunted meat to make your venison stew, you can go for farmed venison, instead.

Similar to how cattle and poultry are raised on farms for meat, deer are raised in controlled environments with a regulated diet to produce farmed venison. Most farmed deer eat a diet similar to cattle, which includes grains and corn. As a result, farmed venison has a milder taste compared to wild venison, with most people describing it as tasting very close to beef. The unique musky flavor of venison is still there, but it's muted compared to the wild venison. Texture-wise, because farmed deer don't move around as much, their meat tends to be more tender, too.

Wild venison is mostly only available during hunting seasons, but farmed venison is available year-long. For the tastiest and freshest farmed venison, the fall season remains your best bet. Farmers plan their venison harvests to match the deer's natural life cycles during this season, so, really, wild or farmed, there's no better time to get venison than in the fall!