Chef Talk | Deer Stalking

Chef Talk | Deer Stalking

Mike Robinson, co-founder of The Wild Fork and one of the UK’s most prominent game chefs has long seen the need for top quality provenanced wild venison in our restaurants. With an ever-growing passion for wild food, The Wild Fork’s chefs were thrilled by an invitation to stalk deer, and have been doing so regularly since.

Deer stalking is the pursuit of deer by foot with the intention of using the animal for its low fat, high protein meat and durable, versatile hide or to control sky-rocketing numbers. In the UK, the beautiful deer have no natural predators, and so controlled culling is required to maintain a healthy population of the animal, as well as to reduce crop damage caused by deer in the UK. Deer culling is not a random act, but chosen deer are selectively culled based on age and gene pools in the correct season, resulting in a population of younger, healthier animals. Not all stalks are successful, however; at the forefront of every deer stalkers mind is the safe and humane way in which deer are culled; if a humane shot cannot be taken, the stalker will not shoot.

With wild food being the ultimate organic produce, the meat from the deer; venison, has many proven health benefits. Unlike other red meats and due to it’s active lifestyle, venison is low fat, high in protein and has a low cholesterol content making it a healthier choice of meat. Being very rich in Vitamin B12 and B6, venison has also been linked to preventing homocysteine, which can be responsible for damaging blood vessels, contributing to many conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart disease. Iron content in venison is found to be higher than in beef, which aids the prevention of anaemia and promotes the growth of red blood cells. Finally, because of to the wild food that deer graze on, the small amount of fat in venison is likely to contain high levels of conjugated linoleic acid, which is thought to protect against heart disease and cancer. Our menus are hugely influenced by the wild food available to us:

With deer stalking, there are many misconceptions which often leave people feeling unsure about the process. Social media generates a lot of negative connotations surrounding the topic, which often are unreasonable, as well as untrue. Although there is a small part of deer stalking which involves generating income for the managements process through selecting deer with impressive antlers as part of a purchased package, this is a minute part of deer stalking and the majority of stalked deer are shot for the table, and to control numbers/reduce damage to the environment. There are many differences between trophy hunting and deer managing, and the blanket which covers both should be lifted to allow people to see the benefits of deer stalking and culling. Due to lack of information, people often don’t see the careful selection of animals, care to ensure deer are treated humanely as well as benefits to our environment and healthy diet.

All deer/stalking images are copyright | Sasha Hitchcock Photography: Sasha is based in West Berkshire and since graduating from the University for the Creative Arts in 2012, has been documenting the English landscape, and in particular the politics of food. Sasha’s work has been awarded a finalist position in Pink Lady Food Photographer of The Year.

Food images are copyright | Shannon Robinson at SLR Photography