Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Venison Grind

Over the Christmas holidays, Pam Schwartz and I went to her parents' house in Iowa. Deer hunting season started September 15, 2018 and ends January 27, 2019. A local TV news story was about the problem of deer causing damage to cars and people on the roadways. Iowa in one of the top 5 states where you are most likely to hit a deer. It is estimated deer, elk, moose, and caribou collisions dropped slightly to 1.33 million in the U.S. between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 — down from 1.34 million in 2017, despite the fact that there are nearly four million more licensed drivers.

The family has a large shed with an automotive lift and a huge refrigeration unit for storing the season's meat. We went shopping before Christmas at a local sporting shop. Ron had blown off the sight on one of his trusted hunting rifles and needed to get it fixed. We also shopped for casings and the associated spices needed for preparation of the meat.

Before Christmas, fellow hunters and neighbors came over to the house to grind deer meat in the shed. I decided it might be a sketch opportunity. On the floor was this collection of deer heads on a plastic sheet. I got right to work on the sketch. The actual grinding was happening behind me. I could hear folks chatting as work commenced. This felt like a friendly community activity.

Ron Schwartz explained that one of the skulls had been dug up on a trail, only a small bit of antler had been visible. Ron threw the one tiny antler on the floor as I was sketching saying, "That's all that's left of that one." I was left with the impression that the skull had been blown apart.

One hunter, looking over my shoulder spoke with some reverence about the deer head on the upper right. He pointed out that the antlers on one side were much more developed than the antlers on the other side. He also said, "He was one hell of a fighter." The eyes were open and wet.

There is a nice collection of deer themed prints in the Schwartz home. One that I particularly like is of a deer wandering out onto a field of cut corn with her fawn after dark as it snows. A single light shining from a far farm window was the only sign that humans might inhabit this gorgeous landscape.

Meat was ground into sausage and smoked. That night, we all tried some and it was delicious.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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