Fall has turned to winter and as hunting season comes to a close, those successful with their hunt will have a freezer full of meat.

As a young professional with my college days six months behind me, I cook on a small budget, relying on meat I harvest myself to help with the cost of groceries. It might take extra time and energy, but the reward of eating a meal I harvested myself is a feeling every hunter enjoys.

I primarily hunt deer in the Black Hills outside of the small community of Aladdin. I process the deer myself, leaving the backstraps in one piece — assuming I aimed properly — and will turn the rest of the animal into stew meat and ground venison.

With the meat processed and in my freezer, I am able to keep myself in supply for a good portion of the year without relying on going to the store.

The nice thing about ground venison and other game meats is they can be a substitute for ground beef in many recipes, and I have turned my version into the basic meals of hamburgers, tacos and chili. Those are easy meals to make on my own. I added to my range of choices by receiving recipes from my mom and substituting venison for beef.

Each game meat has its own unique taste. I learned what spices and recipes best compliment the taste of venison.

A go-to meal for me is my mom’s taco salad. It is a simple recipe the includes a pound of meat, one small block of Velveeta Mexican mild cheese, a can of kidney beans and a bag of Doritos chips.

It is pretty easy to make: simply defrost and brown the ground meat, then add the cheese to the meat. Mix it together until the cheese melts. Add in the kidney beans — I usually like to drain the beans first then add them in. Let everything heat/cook together.

To serve, I crush up a few of the Doritos and mix with everything else on a plate or in a bowl. I do not suggest mixing the chips with everything else until serving, that way the chips still have a good crunch to them. You can also add lettuce, tomatoes and other taco toppings if you want. This was an easy recipe for me as a college student and was a meal that reheated well. I refrigerate the meat, cheese and bean mixture by itself and added the other toppings after reheating.

Expanding range

I wanted to expand my range of what I cooked and my mom’s recipes did not include one for the backstrap of the deer. The backstrap is one of the best cuts of meat you can harvest from a game animal. I surfed the web to find something special to do with the backstrap.

I found a recipe from the ‘Game On’ series found on the Food Channel’s website. In this recipe, you cut the backstrap into steaks about an inch thick and butterfly fillet the steaks. Fold open the steaks and season them with salt, pepper and freshly chopped garlic.

You then stuff the inside of the steak with thin slices of jalapeno peppers and a Red Delicious apple. Fold everything back together and wrap it with bacon.

To cook, you simply use a frying pan, cooking the meat on four sides. Once the bacon is cooked on all four sides, the meat should be cooked to medium.

Hunting provides an opportunity to fill the freezer full of meat and expand culinary skills in experimenting with new recipes.