Black bear meat can be used to make smokies for outdoor eating. PHOTO: Pixabay
Sadly, black bears have an undeserved reputation of not being very good to eat. A number of Yukon hunters, including me, will dispute that thought as black bear is just as delicious any other animal hunted for meat in the Yukon. As with any hunted species, the quality of the meat will deteriorate very quickly if it is handled poorly right from the start. This includes killing the animal quickly and humanely, getting the carcass skinned and broken down into manageable pieces and getting it cooled down.
This is no different than with any other big – or even small – game animal. In either spring or fall, the nights are certainly cool enough to chill the meat to keep it in good shape. A couple of coolers with ice-packs or frozen water-filled family sized pop bottles will keep the meat cool during the warmth of and spring day. Ice cubes or block ice will work, but you have to keep the meat from sitting in the melt-water. Even chilling it well at night and keeping it tarped and out of the sun during the day will keep it well.
You can always head for home if the days are warm and your cooling capability is weak.
I have not noticed a taste difference between spring and fall harvested black bears. The fall bears are often fatter, but all the spring bears I have dealt with have had a generous amount of fat on them. Also, since having the hide is an additional goal of most hunters, the spring bear, fresh from hibernation has a very thick, glossy hide.
I am not a grizzly bear hunter, but if I was put into a position where I had no choice but to kill a grizzly bear, I would eat all of it, as well. I have eaten grizzly bear on a few occasions and it was fine, but for some reason it has an even worse reputation as far as edibility than does the black bear. Yukon black bears are generally not as big as their counterparts in the south and this results in a smaller amount of meat to deal with.
My usual routine over the years was to remove the sirloin tip roasts (the large muscle group that looks like a football) from the hind legs and having everything else made into smokies.
There is certainly enough meat for a couple of different flavoured batches of smokies. (A “smokie” is a cured sausage, like a salami, that requires no further cooking to eat.) Smokies are delicious as is, cooked on a stick over a fire or nuked for 2 minutes just to get them warm.
Unlike other wild-game, bear meat must be cooked to the well-done stage in order to prevent any problems due to trichinosis. Freezing does not prevent this rare situation, only cooking to well-done does.
The Yukon Department of Environment produces an excellent brochure, called “Bear, Bacon and Boot Grease,” which contains recipes, uses for bear fat (pastry and boot waterproofing,) and other tips for full utilization.
Visualize the tanned hide on the wall, the floor or over the back of the couch and then go to the freezer and get some more smokies ‘cause everybody loves them.