At this moment around the state, bear hunters and outfitters are erecting treestands and servicing their bait sites.

The bear season opens officially the last week in August. Bears are about as plentiful as they have ever been. First-time bear hunters, and those they share their wild game with, invariably ask the question: “What does bear meat taste like?”

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

If you google the question, you’ll get a variety of answers: “It can be gamy and greasy.” … “Hard to describe.” … “It tastes a little like beef and a little like pork.”

My experience with bear meat has been positive.

My wife Diane killed a small sow bear a few years back. We cooled the meat quickly and butchered it meticulously, making sure to trim all fat from the cuts. The roasts were excellent table fare and the burger made wonderful lasagna. We once served a bear lasagna to an unsuspecting dinner guest who had always refused adamantly to ever consume wild game. She swooned over the lasagna and, to this day, is none the wiser.

Bear meat’s bad rap no doubt stems from improper meat-handling. Or, perhaps, in a few isolated cases, the “bad” bear was the product of a poor diet. As omnivores, bears are opportunistic feeders.

A few years ago at deer camp, the Skulkers of Seboeis’ head chef, Dana Young, prepared a bear meat loaf as one of the main courses served up at our annual game dinner. It was a big hit. In fact, I can recall no other wild game dish that has evoked so many bug-eyed superlatives from the skulker huntsmen. If you’re a bear hunter, this is one for your recipe book.

The recipe follows. Since it has never before been written down, and was “extracted” from the cook’s next-day recollection of how he assembled this culinary lashup, you’ll have to wing it on some of the amounts. Play around with it. I tried it last week using 2 lbs of elk burger and three store-bought sweet Italian sausage. It was very good, but not as good as the Real McCoy (too much sausage).

Dana’s Bear Meat Loaf

2 lbs ground bear meat

1/2 lb sweet bear sausage

Garlic powder

Ketchup

Lightly sauteed onions and mushrooms

Bread crumbs

Milk-soaked white bread (squeeze out the milk and break up the bread)

Pepper and salt

worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice

2 eggs

1/4 package of Lipton Onion Soup mix

Mix all of the ingredients (estimated amounts), except the Lipton Onion soup mix, in a bowl and form into a large ball. Dust the outside of the ball with flour. In a large cast iron skillet, partially flatten the ball of meat and then brown on both sides in oil. Keeping the meat ball in the skillet, sprinkle with the 1/4 package of Lipton Onion soup mix. Add a quarter cup of water and a few carrots, potatoes and pieces of raw onions along side the meat loaf in the skillet. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake for an hour-plus in a 350 degree oven. Remove the foil after an hour of cooking to check the doneness of the vegetables. If more cooking is required, remove the foil and put dish back in the oven for desired amount of cooking time.

(This recipe also ideal for bear meatballs. Eliminate the flouring.)

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.


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