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Cooking gone wild
Muehleck serves up flavorful game
Jason Muehleck, president of the Martinsville-Henry County chapter of Ducks Unlimited, batters pheasant tenders for frying. Muehleck has been a hunter most of his life and especially enjoys hunting duck, quail and pheasant. â€œIt gets in your blood. Itâ€™s fun,â€� he said of the sport. Muehleck will show his love of wild game along with other organization members at the annual Martinsville-Henry County Ducks Unlimited Banquet from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. See story for ticket information. (Contributed photos)
After growing up hunting with his father, Jim Muehleck, Jason Muehleck is carrying on the family tradition - which includes preparing wild game in tasty ways.
Muehleck, 29, of Martinsville, is chairman of the Martinsville-Henry County chapter of Ducks Unlimited. He likes to cook waterfowl and also deer, which was one of the first wild game meats he learned to prepare, he said. "Anything you can do with beef you can do with deer," such as ribs, steaks and lasagna, he added.
Muehleck even likes to prepare game for holiday meals at Ameristaff, where he is the vice-president. He said he has prepared venison chili, summer sausage (with venison) and pheasant for the events. He is a 1999 graduate of Martinsville High School and a 2003 graduate of Bridgewater College with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
In the past, Muehleck has prepared deep-fried wild turkey and pheasant Wellington for Thanksgiving at home. He cautioned that when serving wild game in meals for company, the host also should serve dishes made with farm-raised meats (such as pork or chicken) because some people don't eat wild game.
His wife, Kate, is "not a wild game fan," Muehleck added.
Muehleck's mother is Susan Muehleck of Henry County, and his grandparents are Dr. William and Janet Muehleck of Martinsville. His brother is Matthew Muehleck of Henry County.
Hunting "gets in your blood. It's fun," Muehleck said. He has been an avid duck hunter for about 18 years and one day hopes to teach his son Samuel, 7 months, how to hunt.
As Jason Muehleck grew older, he cooked more game, expanding from deer and turkey into dove, quail and duck. He has learned that some people who don't eat processed or farm-raised meats like wild game, whether for the taste or moral reasons such as the animal having a better and more free life.
"When harvesting an animal you want to use it to the best of the ability," he said, adding that he only kills animals he or someone else would be able to eat. He added that in addition giving game meat to friends and relatives, many hunters donate extra meat to Hunters for the Hungry, which distributes wild game meats to families in need.
Many people think meat from hunting has a "wild, gamey taste," which Muehleck said is not the case if prepared properly.
When Muehleck finds a recipe he likes to use with beef or chicken, he saves it and experiments with substituting deer or pheasant. Wild turkey is interchangeable with the pen-raised variety, he added. "Find a recipe that works for you and go for it," he said.
Muehleck and members of Ducks Unlimited will continue their efforts to spread their love of hunting as well as promote the organization's emphasis on conservation at the annual Martinsville-Henry County Ducks Unlimited Banquet, to be held from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at Virginia Museum of Natural History.
Tickets cost $25 for the meal, beverages and participation in the auctions and games. A $50 ticket also includes a single membership to the organization, with a $75 ticket providing membership for two people. The $250 sponsor-level tickets include everything the $75 ticket offers along with an entry into a gun giveaway and an invitation to the club's annual thank-you dinner, to be held later in the year.
Tickets may be purchased by calling Muehleck at 632-5061, or at the door.
Proceeds will benefit Ducks Unlimited at the local and national levels. The dinner has "continued as long as the chapter has been around," and this is the second year the banquet has been held at the museum, Muehleck said.
In addition to the two dinners, the organization teams with the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to hosts a free Greenwing event for youth each year. Greenwing includes hunting demonstrations, hunting safety, outdoor activities, paintball, food and more.
Muehleck said that Ducks Unlimited works to advocate conservation and combat the decline in hunting. He said he believes there are three factors that contribute to the decline:
"¢ Cost of hunting, including licenses and fees;
"¢ Video games and television being substituted for outdoor activities; and
"¢ The family unit becoming weaker. Hunting is a tradition that is passed down through families and if the families aren't doing that, the younger generation won't take it up, he said.
He added that the organization works to preserve the wetlands which are home to many types of waterfowl.