The dirt two track was dusty and headed southeast toward a rock out-cropping known as the Rooster Comb. Under the shade of a few junipers and desert sage, we saw the flicker of ears. Dad and I froze. We had been gabbing it up for most of the walk and now we were busted. This was an unexpected place to find a group of four does feeding in the middle of the day, but hunting is all about broken expectations.

The does pulled the classic mule deer move — if I don’t move they won’t see me. Well, it wasn’t working out for them. We both nocked an arrow and began to position ourselves for a shot. Keeping one eye on the deer and the other on the dusty road, I placed each step carefully, to limit any sound and to keep the deer as calm as possible. Dad found a shot before I did. I watched him pull back on a large doe, and with a quick aim he let fly. An audible crack came after the shot. I wasn’t sure if it was deer bone or a stick. I was focused on my animals: a yearling and a doe had started to circle back on our position. I shadowed them through the head-high sage. The deer finally took note of me and stopped — they were at 12 yards.

I pulled up my longbow looking for a shot, but all the deer gave me were butts and heads. I momentarily considered a Texas Heart Shot on the big doe, wondering just how far my arrow would travel. Hunting ethics took over, a blessing from my father and other hunting role models in my life. I didn’t shoot, but my hands were shaking like a 13 year old boy at a Jr. High dance, just hoping and waiting for things to work out in my favor.

I let my bow down and watched as the deer wandered out to 35 yards before turning broadside. At that range, I just stood and admired the pair. My effective range is 25 yards. Then the deer simply vanished into the cover.

My dad had cleanly killed a small juniper with his arrow. I found him with his Leatherman in hand, digging his broadhead out of the tree, and his wooden arrow shaft was in several pieces on the ground. Apparently, the cracking noise was a broken arrow shaft. We laughed, sat down in the shade and began to glass the hill for more deer.

A few draws over, my older brother had arrowed a little forked horn buck and was making his way back to camp. His 6 year old daughter had spotted the deer off the trail and selected the one for my brother to shoot. “That one, Daddy!” she whispered. We had the deer tracked, gutted and hung in an hour.

That archery season I never flung an arrow, but I still felt successful — we all had meat to share.

Pan Roasted Venison Steak with Watermelon, Corn and Zucchini Salad and Brown Butter Sage Vinaigrette

Brown Butter and Sage Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 20 sage leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper

Add the cold butter to a medium sized saute pan. Heat the pan on medium until all of the butter is melted. Add the sage and turn the heat to medium high. The pan will spit a little oil, so be careful it doesn’t burn you.

Wait and watch the butter, it should turn brown in about a minute. Add the crushed garlic when the butter is brown in color and has a nutty smell. Next, add the balsamic vinegar and the canola oil to the hot pan. This will cause some aggressive boiling. DO NOT inhale the fumes, it will be a vinegar bomb like none other. Add the Parmesan cheese to the pan, then pour the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth (about one minute). Season and reserve, but do not chill.

Meat and Veggies

  • 2 large venison steaks, about 8 oz. each
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into large chunks
  • 1.5 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 ear of corn, removed from cob
  • 2 cups lambs quarter or spinach

Rinse and wipe out the same medium pan you used for the brown butter dressing. Season the venison steaks with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and return to medium heat. When the butter is melted but not yet brown, add the steaks to the pan. Cook until dark brown on one side, then flip the steaks over and cook until blood begins to rise to the surface of the steaks. They should be about medium rare.

Remove the meat from the pan and add the zucchini chunks. Cook until golden on one side, then flip the zucchini and add the watermelon and corn.

While those are cooking, put the lambs quarter or spinach into a medium salad bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of brown butter sage dressing. Cook the watermelon and corn for one more minute, then add the mixture to the salad bowl and toss well.

Slice the steak. Pile the salad and gently dump it onto a plate. Place the sliced steak on the top. Eat and enjoy!