I read with interest my friend Mark Davis’ informative account about Wyoming’s contemplation of dining on roadkill or, to the squeamish, instituting a large animal salvage …
I read with interest my friend Mark Davis’ informative account about Wyoming’s contemplation of dining on roadkill or, to the squeamish, instituting a large animal salvage system.
Under such a plan, when edible creatures fall victim to traffic mishaps, as they so often do in your wonderful state, motorists could at least gain permission to lawfully possess, process and consume the meat.
Resulting vehicle repairs, one assumes, would remain beyond the purview of Game and Fish and, instead, remain in the realm of insurance company haggling, where such matters presently lie.
I am writing in enthusiastic support of any strategy that will avoid the waste of at least some of these unfortunate ungulates. I speak to this issue from a position of experience.
Decades ago, long before we arrived at Powell’s doorstep, our daughter, Tiffany, and the family’s designated college ride, an oldie-but-goodie Toyota Celica, shared a nerve- and front-end-shattering experience.
Driving along a two-lane highway at night, returning to college from our home on an early fall evening, she was suddenly confronted by a vision in huge wild eyeballs, hide, ears and antlers. A young buck (a right tasty one as we came to learn) found itself boxed into a road ditch between the highway and adjacent railroad tracks. The train blew its whistle as it approached the rural crossing at that spot and the deer — understandably, but nonetheless fatally — bolted away from the blast of noise. As my daughter tells it, the buck fell as from the sky, smack-dab in front of the faithful Celica’s grill.
First word of this dilemma came to me when the phone rang. It was Tiff sharing the bad news. It was soon clear the critter and the Celica had perished there together in the middle of the road.
Then Tiff asked a puzzling question.
“The deputy,” she said, “needs to know if you want a salvage permit?”
After pondering the question a few seconds, I had to ask, “What in the H-E-Double Toothpicks is a salvage permit?”
“Do you want the dang deer or not?” she asked, a hint of annoyance in her already stressed voice.
Knowing this deer had done us out of our college car (liability coverage only, of course, for a cheapskate like me), I figured, “What the hey? Might as well eat the damn thing. At least we’ll gain a measure of revenge that way.”
And thus did her big brother Aaron and I come to make a quick stop at the local farm supply store for a heavy duty tow strap and a plastic tarp — tools to deal with our double cadavers. Then we set off to the scene of the carnage.
Aaron, who even in those days was a younger man than me, climbed atop the hood and jumped violently up and down, the better to smash the dents flat enough so that he might see over them to steer on the tow back to town. We lashed the vehicles together with the strap, loaded the deer (tarped, of course), into the back of the 1986 Ford Bronco that was another in our fleet of beaters.
Along a side road, a couple miles off the beaten path, under cover of darkness and out of view, we dragged the thing out into a road ditch, field dressed it, slung it back into the Bronco and closed the hatch. The gut pile? We left that to the scavengers. Coyotes and eagles and turkey buzzards gotta eat too, am I right?
Once back to town we dropped the Celica on his employer’s large lot and made our way home with our cargo, as messy as it would prove meaty.
Hanging it by the antlers in the garage over several layers of cardboard, we pulled the hide down, removed all the damaged tissue, blood clots and sundry other gore, went over it carefully with a small propane torch to vaporize any remaining hairs, then set to work.
I, a meat cutter in one of my former lives, muscle seamed the animal in three steps to start — a front leg, then a hind leg followed by the second hind leg. The second front leg? Pulverized.
Once finished, the end result was a corner of the garage freezer filled with fresh, clean, tasty venison roasts, butterfly-cut steaks from the back straps, pristine stew meat and a brace of whole tenderloins.
Ironically, the ill-fated Celica was sold for salvage. The salvaged deer, on the other hand, was enjoyed the winter long.
So there you have it. One Nebraskan’s advice on the culinary potential of road kill. Use it or don’t, Wyoming, as you will.
(Steve Moseley is the occasionally retired managing editor and lead photographer for the five-day York News-Times, hard by I-80 in southeast Nebraska. He also served the Powell Tribune as sports editor/photographer more than 15 years ago, plus a temporary stint as sports editor in 2020. He receives guests at email@example.com.)