Warning: if you cried watching “Bambi,” you may want to skip this article.

I made a phone call to help out a friend, and after things worked out, he texted me: “My buddy has kids that are excellent shots LOL. Would you be interested in a deer?” Sure, I said, not really hip to the terminology. “I’ll take a hunk.”

Two weeks later, I had two grocery bags stuffed with fully processed venison meat, packaged as ground meat and steaks. It barely fit in my freezer and I didn’t know what to do with it. I gave some to my daughter and some to the neighbor and some to another neighbor. I made five pounds of chili and took it to a potluck and took the leftovers to another potluck the next night. I made sure to explain that it was venison, in case anyone was squeamish about that. It was excellent, especially topped with cheddar and oyster crackers.

I confess I thought of Bambi. I even watched a scene from the movie on You Tube, where the young fawn meets Thumper for the first time and all the forest animals laugh good-naturedly as Bambi tries to cross a frozen pond and ends up in a dizzy sprawl. I got a little teary, but I like to know where my food comes from.

The venison was delicious. It was lean and sweet - thanks to a clean shot, swift transport, and excellent processing. I’ve had venison that was gamey, and that’s usually because of some flaw in one of those three steps. I used the ground meat in my chili just like beef, except maybe a touch more olive oil before I browned it. The steaks were fabulous, especially the buttery inner loin.

I’ve had venison before. I worked in a restaurant forty years ago that was way ahead of its time, featuring local Michigan products like venison, pheasant and whitefish. We served the venison steaks with a bordelaise sauce and dauphine potatoes. We snared extras from the chefs every chance we could.

On the other hand, I’ve never been hunting. But I’m glad to have friends, who have friends with kids, who were willing to part with their bounty to help out a guy they’d never met.

Here’s a rough approximation of the recipe I used.

1 TBS olive oil
1 lb. good ground chuck
½ large yellow onion, diced
½ green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 minced jalapeno
1 14 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 TBS tomato paste
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground chile’ powder
½ tsp Mexican oregano
½ tsp seasoning salt (Cajun, Lawry’s)
Salt and pepper to taste
Frank’s hot sauce to taste
½ can kidney beans

Cook venison in ½ the olive oil over medium heat. Remove when just cooked through and drain. Add remaining olive oil and cook onion and green peppers for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add garlic, jalapeno and briefly stir. Return venison to pot and add diced tomato, tomato paste, and sufficient water to make a good consistency. Add the spices and turn up heat until it just begins to bubble, then turn down to a low simmer. After the chili is heated through, add the beans and cook another 15 minutes. Eat plain or top with shredded cheddar, diced onions, diced jalapenos, and/or oyster crackers.

And if you don’t want to cook it yourself, I still have a couple pounds in my freezer from the potlucks!
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights litigation. He has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann