The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 5, 2012

ARLENE JOHNS | A distaste for venison

JOHNSTOWN — It’s high holy time at the Johns house. Hunting season for archers started in early October and, once again, happiness reigns supreme.

OK, I’m going to go ahead and admit it – I don’t much like anything to do with hunting.

I don’t like it that I can’t take long walks in the woods for three months without running the very real risk that some ambitious hunter will mistake me for wild game. (This despite the bright orange hat.)

I don’t like the fact that my devoted husband would like to spend every daylight hour (and a few hours of night) in the woods – with the exception of the time he HAS to be at work.

I don’t like it when he brings home a dead deer and I have to go outside and “Oooh” and “Awww” over it. AND take photos of him holding up the head of the poor deceased animal.

I’m not crazy about the fact that no matter what the decor at my house – animal heads and horns figure prominently.

I really don’t like venison either – truth be told. While I admit it tastes pretty good when cooked correctly, and I agree that it is probably healthier for me than ham or beef, there is something about the whole idea that gives me the willies.

Joe has tried his best to turn me into a fan. When I complained about the less-than-sanitary conditions at “processing” locations, he started doing his own butchering. He created an elaborate setup in the basement garage – complete with an upright freezer made from insulation boards and an air conditioner.

Everything is meticulously wiped down with bleach and water. And the meat is kept to the temperatures I insist on. “That meat can’t be at room temperature for more than two hours, Joe, or I will not eat it,” I warn.

He wraps each piece, marking the paper with the date and type of cut.

Best of all, he does all the cooking whenever we have venison.

Normally he can’t manage to get his cereal bowl and spoon in the dishwasher in the morning, but come time for venison stew and he turns into the Galloping Gourmet.

He browns the meat and chops the vegetables. Side dishes appear out of nowhere. The table is set. Candles are lit and Joe even says a prayer, thanking God for allowing him to “harvest” the deer that now graces our table.

And THEN he does all the dishes and cleans the kitchen.

Still I’m not a fan.

Perhaps the thing I dislike the most about hunting is the whole Bambi thing.

When I tell Joe my concerns about killing one of the graceful creatures, he points to my hamburger and asks if I care to know what the poor cow went through. No, I do not. But then I am not required to take photos of the poor dead cow now am I?

I thought I nearly had him swayed to my way of thinking last week when we passed a beautiful doe laying on a hillside near a road we travel on our way to work.

Standing close by her side was a majestic buck.

Joe braked of course, busily counting the tines. That was when we noticed that the doe had been apparently hit by a car.

I was furious.

“See that,” I practically screamed. “How can you look at that and still want to kill one of those beautiful things? He’s obviously in love with her and will not leave her side.”

I was nearly in tears and Joe, being a wise husband, did not argue with me.

Later that day I relayed the event to Frank, a reporter who also happens to be a hunter.

Frank quickly set the record straight.

“No, Arlene, he isn’t in love with her. It’s the rut. He was just hanging around waiting to see if she would stand up,” he sagely informed me.

Have I mentioned that men are pigs?

 Arlene Johns is The Tribune-Democrat’s city editor.

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