Preserving Wild Game Meat

Preserving Wild Game Meat

We live in a world where we have instant access to tons of useful information.  If we want to learn something, we just ask our favorite search engine or social media platform.  However, some of the information floating around can be incorrect and sometimes dangerous.  When it comes to preserving my wild game meat, I look to the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  I do this because I want to preserve my wild game meat and keep my friends and family safe from food borne pathogens.  This resource has science-based recommendations for freezing, drying, canning, curing, and smoking meats.

This week, I am canning some venison.  Let’s walk through the steps for canning venison chunks which is my favorite.  The first step is choosing the right canner.  Meats must be canned using a pressure canner.  Boiling water canners are not safe for meats.  The Center has a great article on using a pressure canner if you have never used one before. 

I debone my venison and cut it into approximately 1-inch chunks.  I like to use the raw pack method but you can use the hot pack method.  I do not soak my venison but you can if the gaminess bothers you. 

Raw Pack Method – Add up to 2 teaspoons of salt if desired.  Pack raw chunks of meat into the jars leaving 1-inch headspace.  Do not add any liquid.

 Hot Pack Method – Pre-cook meats to rare by browning, stewing, or roasting in a small amount of fat.  Add up to 1 teaspoon of salt if desired.  Pack meat into the jars.  Fill jars with boiling broth, tomato juice, meat droppings, or water.  Leave 1-inch headspace.

Place these in the pressure canner and follow the instructions for your canner.  Processing time will depend on your altitude and jar size.  Follow processing times in the tables found in this article.

The Center has the same resources for other ways to preserve your wild game.  This is a research-based resource so you can be confident that your meats will be preserved safely for you and your family to enjoy. 

The Okaloosa County Extension Office will be hosting a Wild Game Food Processing Class on February 1, 2024 at 5:30pm.  For more information on this class, contact bearden@ufl.eduRegister via Eventbrite.

Preserved Wild Game Meat – Jennifer Bearden
Poor Food Plot Performance – 3 Simple Solutions to Common Problems

Poor Food Plot Performance – 3 Simple Solutions to Common Problems

For many of us in the Florida Panhandle, managing land for and hunting deer are two of the pastimes that we’ll spend the most time and money on each year.  I greatly enjoy spending time in the woods and value the opportunity to fill the freezer with high-quality protein and occasionally hang a trophy rack on the wall.  Managing a deer herd isn’t without its annoyances though.  One of the main complaints I hear each winter from hunters is regarding their food plots not performing as well as they’d like.  While all manner of things could be at fault, there are three common reasons for poor food plot performance and a few possible solutions to each – let’s take a look.

  1. Not doing your soil homework.  Crops of all kinds, winter food plot forages like small grains, clovers, and ryegrass included, perform best when their pH and nutrition needs are met.  The only way to ensure that your food plot plants’ needs are being met is to perform a soil test well before planting.  Soil tests show the actual levels of various nutrients (N, P, K, and other essential elements) and pH in your food plots.  It is important to remember that even if your soil fertility is adequate or you plan to get it there through fertilizer applications, those nutrients are only available for plants to uptake if your pH is correct (a pH of around 6.5 is ideal for winter grasses and legumes).  If your pH is low and needs adjusting, make sure to apply lime several months in advance as it takes time to change your soil’s chemistry.
  • Not harvesting enough deer.  Even when hunters do all the above correctly, forage performance sometimes lags.  This can be a strong indication that too many deer are using the food plot.  Stocking rates for deer are difficult to determine because there are many variables involved (native vegetation in your area, hunting pressure around you, etc.).  However, if exclusionary cages show quality forage growth, food plots are adequately large, and your forage still struggles, it is likely as simple as too many deer using the forage available. Harvesting only a buck or two a year and no does isn’t going to solve the problem either.  In this situation, the solution is often as simple as taking advantage of Florida’s anterless deer harvest periods (doe weekends) to harvest some does, applying for antlerless deer permits if your property meets the qualifications for that program, and filling your freezer with more tasty, nutritious venison. 

While there can be many causes for poor winter food plot performance, most hunters can improve their forage situation by simply soil testing and amending accordingly ahead of planting, enlarging food plots where possible, and harvesting a few more deer than they have previously.  For more information about winter food plots and any other wildlife management topic, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.  Happy Hunting!

Hunting Doves Over Crops: What’s Legal? What’s Not? – Clarification on Baiting

Hunting Doves Over Crops: What’s Legal? What’s Not? – Clarification on Baiting

Some young Washington County hunters with a nice bag of doves.
Photo Credit: Andrew Fleener

In the past my colleagues and I have written several articles about the establishment and management of dove fields (linked below). These articles tend to focus on what and when to plant to successfully attract doves. The focus has been on the field, not on the hunting. Conversely, this document will focus on the hunting. The following guidelines and explanations are intended to help provide clarity and prevent misunderstandings regarding what is and is not permissible where agricultural practices and dove hunting intersect in Florida.

Mourning Dove are a favorite game species in NW Florida. Before you hunt, be sure you understand all of the regulations. Especially those relating to baiting.
Photo Credit: Brett Marshall, Sault College,

First, as it relates to dove, it is permissible to plant any crop you like, by any means you like, with the intention of hunting in the vicinity of the crop. The issue is not with planting – it is with hunting. UF/IFAS provides specific recommendations (planting dates & techniques, seeding rates, varieties, etc.) for a wide variety of crops. While growers are encouraged to follow these recommendations to maximize their chances of having as successful crop, following these recommendations (or not) does not dictate the legality of hunting.

It is commonly understood that baiting doves (and other migratory birds) with the intent to harvest is not permissible. However, when agricultural practices are involved what constitutes baiting may not always be as readily understood. Let’s start the explanation with excerpts from Title 50, Chapter 1, Subchapter B, Part 20 and 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (the federal law that pertains to the hunting of migratory birds).

(j) Baited area means any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for ten days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.

(k) Baiting means the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

20.21 What hunting methods are illegal? … (i) By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. However nothing in this paragraph prohibits: … (2) The taking of any migratory game bird, except waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.

Note: Bolding in the above text was inserted by the author for illustrative purposes.

All of this boils down to a few simple concepts. In Florida…

1) The only seed (grain) you can legally hunt over is that coming from the crop grown in the field where the grain is found. The grain must have grown in the field and have never left the field. If you place, expose, deposit, distribute, or scatter any new/additional grain including grain that may have been harvested from that field and then returned after cleaning, storing, processing, etc. you are baiting.

2) Any seed or grain placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered in the field must be completely removed for 10 days prior to hunting the field. In this context, completely removed can mean physical removal (ie. buried/planted under the ground) or germination (after a seed germinates it becomes a plant – plants are legal).

For a field to be legal to hunt, no seed, other than that grown in the field, can be visible on the soil surface for at least 10 days prior to hunting.  Put very plainly, if there is any seed visible at the time of hunting there should be plants (or plant residue) present that match the seed. If you want to hunt dove over grain/seed of any kind you must have grown the grain crop to maturity and produced the grain on-site. You cannot hunt over any grain/seed that has been transported to the field. Again, you may plant any crop you like by whatever means you like but if your planting practices result in seed being visible on top of the ground you may not legally hunt over the field until all seed has been gone/covered for 10 days.


Further Reading:

Get Started Dove Hunting

Dove Hunting Resources

Dove Hunting Regulations

Planning Ahead for Dove Season

Timing is Crucial for Successful Dove Fields 

Don’t Forget About Wildlife Habitat Projects This Spring

Keeping an Eye Out for African Swine Fever 

Keeping an Eye Out for African Swine Fever 

Despite efforts by public and private land managers, feral hog populations continue to rise in many areas in Florida.  Feral hogs damage crop fields, lawns, wetlands, and forests.  They can negatively impact native species of plants and animals.  Their rooting leads to erosion and decreased water quality.  Feral swine can also harbor and infect domestic swine with diseases such as African Swine Fever, foot-and-mouth disease, pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, and others.  

USDA APHIS conducts feral swine monitoring for diseases to help safeguard our pork production here in the US.  More than 6,000 samples are taken annually to test for diseases of concern.  This monitoring effort not only keeps our domestic swine safe but also keeps humans safe from diseases that can infect us.  African Swine Fever (ASF) is the main disease of concern right now for the state of Florida, especially those counties bordering the Gulf of Mexico. 

ASF is a deadly disease of both feral and domestic hogs.  It is not transmitted to humans so it is not a health or food safety concern.  It is, however, highly contagious and would likely have a catastrophic effect on our domestic pork industry.  Although it has not been found in the US, this disease has recently been detected in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. 

This concern has led to a new monitoring program in Florida specifically for ASF in counties bordering the Gulf.  USDA APHIS will begin trapping wild hogs in these counties in order to monitor populations for ASF.  Landowners, both public and private, can benefit from this monitoring program.  Professional trappers will be employed to remove wild hogs for this monitoring effort.  For more information on this program, contact Buddy Welch, North Florida Assistant District Supervisor, USDA Wildlife Services, ASF Surveillance at

CWD Update: New Regulations for Hunting Season

CWD Update: New Regulations for Hunting Season

As hunters we are all concerned and want to understand what is going on with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). With the cool in the air, hunting season is defiantly on everyone’s mind. With that there has been a lot of information that has come out recently to clarify and update the public on new regulations and  to provide guidance for the hunting season regarding Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) including Executive Order EO 23-30. As a hunter myself, I have attended the meetings and read the executive orders but that doesn’t always make it super clear. So here is a breakdown of the information I have gained from visiting with law enforcement officers and officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).


No baiting (feeding) is allowed within the CWD management Zone, including baiting with corn or other grains/feed and the placement of salt/mineral products. This includes feeders or feeding on the ground, but this does not include food plots. If you are illegally baiting deer, it will be considered a 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable up to a $500 fine and 6 months in jail. There are no current or future plans to charge a fee for a baiting permit. According to the comments at the public meeting on 9/19/23, baiting is something we can control. Deer are social animals that will naturally interact in the wild, and hunters cannot control that natural interaction. Yes, deer are still interacting at food plots, but the interaction is less concentrated than at a feeder for example. Not baiting is a useful tool for the early stages of CWD management. Food plots are not perfect, but it is a reduced risk and a compromise. This baiting rules only applies to the Management Zone above, not to the expanded monitoring zone seen below.

Bag Limits

There were no changes made to total bag limits. Each hunter is still allowed 5 total deer, two of which can be antlerless. Deer that test positive do not count toward an individual’s bag limit. If you harvest a deer, decide to get it tested, and it comes back positive, you can surrender the positive deer the harvest to FWC, and that deer will not count toward your bag limits.

Movement of Harvested Deer

Deer that were harvested in Florida outside the CWD management zone can be brought into the zone without being deboned/processed. They can also come in and go back out of the zone after harvest (example: I kill a deer outside the zone, then I travel into the zone. I can then take the whole, harvested deer back out of the zone). Deer harvested within the CWD management zone CAN NOT leave the zone without being deboned and all soft tissue removed from the hide and skull. If you harvest a deer in the management zone and it comes back negative for CWD, you still can not move the deer out of the zone. Only deboned meat, cleaned hides, or skulls/skull caps with soft tissue removed can leave the CWD management zone.


Currently the only mandatory deer harvest check is planned for December 9-10, 2023 in Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties. This is during the added antlerless deer weekend for those counties. If you harvest a deer during this weekend, you will need to take it to one of the multiple check stations. For testing you will bring the whole deer (maybe field dressed) to the check station. They will collect additional information about the deer (age, etc.), as well as the needed sample for CWD testing.  FWC will be posting the locations of those check stations later. Currently, testing time is expected to be approximately 30 days. FWC understands that 30 days is a long time to hold meat before processing and are working on ways to shorten that turnaround. There will be voluntary testing opportunities available within the CWD management zone throughout the entire hunting season. Current sampling goals call for an estimated 1000+ samples from the CWD Management Zone to determine an approximate prevalence of the disease in the area.

Changes to Antlerless Deer Harvest


Doe harvest has been extended to encompass the entire hunting general gun season. Meaning you may harvest a doe or antlerless deer during the dates where antlerless harvest was previously allowed in archery season (Oct. 21 – Nov. 22) and in muzzleloader season (Dec. 2-3) as well as during the entirety of the general gun season (Nov. 23-26, Dec. 9 – Feb. 18)  However, THIS DOES NOT CHANGE BAG LIMIT. Each hunter is still only allowed to harvest two antlerless deer this season. Antlerless deer season dates have not changed for Wildlife Management Areas (public land) because those have their own regulations. DMU-D2 is the western and northern boundary is the Florida/Alabama line.  The eastern boundary is U.S. 27.  The southern boundary is Interstate 10.


The only change to antlerless deer or does during the season for D1 is that they can be harvested during the check station weekend on Dec. 9-10, but only in Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties. This does not include Wildlife  Management Areas. DMU-D1 is the western boundary is the Florida/Alabama line.  The northern boundary is Interstate 10.  The eastern boundary is Hwy 61 south to U.S. 319 to U.S Hwy 98, east along U.S. 98 to the Wakulla River, south along the river to St. Marks River and on to the Gulf of Mexico.  The southern boundary is the Gulf of Mexico.


Deer harvested within the CWD management zone cannot be taken out of the management zone without proper cleaning. Deer should be caped out with a clean cape and the head or skull cap must be free of soft tissue before leaving the CWD management zone. Deer harvested outside the CWD management zone do not have to be handled differently from past seasons.


Deer harvested within the CWD management zone cannot be taken to a processor outside the management zone without being fully cleaned and deboned. Deer harvested outside the CWD management zone can be brought into the zone for processing without being cleaned or deboned.

The FWC is asking anyone who sees a sick, abnormally thin deer or finds a deer dead from unknown causes to call the CWD hotline, 866-CWD-WATCH (866-293-9282) and report the animal’s location. If you need any clarification for the rule changes, bag limit updates or other matters related to the upcoming hunting season please feel free to reach out.

Resources for more information on this subject:
Recording of the 9/19/23 Meeting in Holmes County
Updated Season Dates
Frequently Asked Questions about CWD in Florida
A New Camera Trap Monitoring Program for Private Landowners

A New Camera Trap Monitoring Program for Private Landowners

A deer darting across a path, a bobwhite calling at sunrise, or the tracks of a coyote in the mud are all fascinating examples of how we enjoy our natural areas. Have you ever wished you could watch wildlife all day to understand the intricate relationships they have with one another? What if you could learn more about their behavior? And their habitat and daily activities?

Deer captured on a digital game camera. Image: Dr. Carolina Barzzui.

Dr. Carolina Baruzzi at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center and Dr. Corey Callaghan at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center are launching “ConservationCam”, a new extension program to help you monitor wildlife on your property using camera traps.

Camera traps are a valuable tool for wildlife monitoring. When an animal moves in front of a camera, they trigger a motion sensor to take a picture or video. Camera traps can be set up in multiple ways to target a species or habitat of interest, such as a forest opening or a wildlife burrow. Thanks to their versatility and relative low cost, camera traps are being used in a variety of contexts, for example, understanding the effects of wildlife or habitat management on target species.

Images of turkeys captured on a digital game cam. Image: Dr. Carolina Barzzui.

The primary goal of ConservationCam is to provide private landowners with access to camera traps, and expert guidance about monitoring wildlife and managing natural resources for biodiversity based on camera trap observations. Armed with this knowledge, landowners can make informed decisions about land management practices that positively impact biodiversity on their property. If you live in the Florida Panhandle, and are interested in using camera traps to monitor wildlife on your property, while learning how to answer different ecological questions, we are gathering expressions of interest through this online form.

Rabbit near a burrow on a digital game came. Image: Dr. Carolina Barzzui.