Skip to main content

The Lost Art of Wild Game Sausage

The Lost Art of Wild Game Sausage
(David Draper photo)
Print Recipe

Tubed meat gets a bad rap. Consider the much-maligned hot dog and its vile reputation as the endgame for pig lips and ani. The truth is, the craft of turning ground meat into a sublime sausage is high art, even when it comes to the lowly wiener. And while it may be art, making sausage is not difficult.

With a little equipment and some basic knowledge, hunters can turn deer, elk, and other venison into something so much more than the usual steaks and burgers.

Not Suspect

First, let's tackle the misconception that sausage is made from suspect ingredients. Like any worthwhile endeavor, you get out what you put in — or put more simply: quality in equals quality out.

tips-for-wild-game-sausage-making
The craft of turning ground meat into a sublime sausage is high art. (Tess Rousey photo)

While sausage is a great use for butcher scraps and tougher cuts like shoulders and the neck, it pays dividends to trim judiciously, removing any bloodshot material, stringy sinew, or otherwise poor or damaged meat. As for the deer's intake and output ports? Best leave them for the dogs.


Another ingredient that can't be skimped on is some type of fat, and that goes double for sausages made from otherwise lean game meat. We all know fat adds flavor, but it's also essential for creating the proper texture.


The No. 1 complaint when it comes to sausage made from deer is that it is often too dry, and biting into a game sausage without enough fat added will feel a lot like getting a mouthful of sand. To prevent that, plan on adding as much as 30 percent fat, which can come in the form of ground pork fat, beef tallow, or even bacon.

Sausage Types

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different types of sausages from around the world, but they all fall into one of three categories: fresh (think loose breakfast sausage or links of Italian sausage), smoked, or dry-cured (generally in the form of hard salami).

The borders between these types are often blurred, especially the line between smoked and cured, but there are a couple of rules. Fresh sausage, either cased or loose, is left uncooked until it comes time to prepare it for the table. Dried sausages are always made with some type of curing agent, generally a variation of sodium nitrate, to prevent bacteria growth during the weeks (or months or years) it takes them to cure.

There is a singular rule covering all types of sausages, and that's keeping everything cold. Abundant fat and the primary bind (more on this later) are essential to creating the perfect sausage, and each of these elements is threatened when the meat temperature gets too warm. The slightest amount of heat during the sausage-making process will cause the proteins and fats to separate.


This is called breaking, and it results in a sausage that will dry out when cooked or cured. To prevent it, place the meat — along with the grinder throat, auger, and blade — in the freezer for 30 minutes before grinding. It also helps to grind the meat into a bowl placed inside another bowl or tub filled with ice.


"The No. 1 complaint when it comes to sausage made from deer is that it is often too dry, and biting into a game sausage without enough fat added will feel a lot like getting a mouthful of sand. To prevent that, plan on adding as much as 30 percent fat, which can come in the form of ground pork fat, beef tallow, or even bacon."

Once the meat and fat are ground and the seasonings added, it's time to mix everything together. This seems like a simple step, but it's actually one of the most important — right up there with keeping your ingredients cold.

Better Binder

Mixing is more than just incorporating the ingredients; it also creates what is called the primary bind, a complex network of proteins that holds the meat together during the cooking and curing process. You'll know you've achieved a primary bind when the sausage mix becomes sticky to the touch and has a shaggy appearance.


While some sausage can be left loose, it's when the meat is stuffed into a casing that it transcends mere burgers. There are a number of casing types available, but natural — those made from (cleaned and sterilized) animal intestines — are by far superior, with that distinctive snap they make when you bite into them. The style of casing will also depend on the sausage.

tips-for-wild-game-sausage-making

Whichever you choose, be sure to prep them according to their directions, including soaking them in warm water for at least 30 minutes. Also, keep everything wet — the stuffer tube, the counter, your hands — to ease the stuffing process and reduce the chance of blowouts. Getting it just right takes some skill, but with practice, you'll be creating perfectly stuffed links in no time.

These steps may seem basic, and to some extent, they are. There's a bit more to it, such as the blend of seasonings and salt, but at its core, sausage making is simple, even if what comes out is not. Like any type of cooking, creating sausage is partly alchemy, where meat, fat, and flavor all come together to create something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Venison Jalapeño Country Sausage Recipe
Venison Jalapeño Country Sausage Recipe (David Draper photo)

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

B&C Typical Mule Deer

B&C Typical Mule Deer

Doug Burris Jr's typical mule deer taken in 1969, could just be one record that will never be broken.

Moon Phase Rut Tips

Moon Phase Rut Tips

John Dudley, technical writer and host of Nock On TV discusses why it's imporant to follow moon phases for the rut.

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

Top Ten Hunts

Top Ten Hunts

Here at Petersen's Hunting we have compiled the 10 best hunts caught on camera from the last 2 years of Petersen's Hunting TV. Enjoy!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are redefining remote and low-impact scouting. Here's why and how one or a network of them can help you.Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You? Accessories

Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You?

Josh Honeycutt - September 15, 2020

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are...

Crossbow technology, accuracy and power continue to advance with demand, and this year's crop is the most impressive yet; here's a look at the top five that caught our eye.Ranking the 5 Best Crossbows for 2020 Bowhunting

Ranking the 5 Best Crossbows for 2020

Chris Larsen - September 21, 2020

Crossbow technology, accuracy and power continue to advance with demand, and this year's crop...

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study. Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber? Ammo

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.2020 ATV Buyer's Guide Wheels Afield

2020 ATV Buyer's Guide

Rick Sosebee - June 23, 2020

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.

See More Trending Articles

More Recipes

Learn how to grill the perfect medium-rare venison steak with these tips and tricks.Venison Grilling Tips Recipes

Venison Grilling Tips

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Learn how to grill the perfect medium-rare venison steak with these tips and tricks.

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair. Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat? Recipes

Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat?

David Draper - October 19, 2020

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair.

This is an adaptation of a wonderful Italian short ribs recipe in a wonderful book, Paul Bertolli'sWild Game Recipe: Italian Short Ribs Recipes

Wild Game Recipe: Italian Short Ribs

Hank Shaw

This is an adaptation of a wonderful Italian short ribs recipe in a wonderful book, Paul...

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.Why Freezer Burn Matters Recipes

Why Freezer Burn Matters

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.

See More Recipes

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now