Antelope Kefta

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It was a windy Saturday in November when I gathered my two older boys, my nephew and my buddy for a road trip to the happy antelope grounds. We had drawn the not that coveted doe tag for the area and were looking to make meat. I had filled my freezer already with an elk, two deer and one antelope and was not in a meat crisis. However, one of my buddies had failed to get his deer that year. I was on a mission to fill his freezer.

I’ve read before, in one of those “Outdoor” magazines, that using a flag can attract antelope. Yeah, not for me or my son. The herd we were stalking was feeding in an unapproachable patch of knee high grass. Chances were slim anyway, why not take a gamble? So I stuck my hunters orange cap on top of my shooting stick and gave it a wave in the air. This group, a doe filled meat market, was not having any of it. The only thing my flagging did was give them a focal point.

A doe noticed it first, then a small buck. Before I knew it thirty sets of binocular powered eyeballs were trained in on me at 600 yards. The lead doe then fluffed her but hair out and took off like a squirrel from a Labrador at the park. The remainder of the group promptly turned and ran as fast as possible, and that is stupid fast, away from me. My son, Middleman, was not impressed. He knows his shot range, and those antelope were well out of it.

“Wouldn’t work, told you I did” he said, channeling his Yoda wisdom at only ten years old.

I gave him a cockeyed look, not really appreciating the smack talk from a pre-teen, but understanding why he would remind me. We would never have flagged down a deer, an elk, a bear, a turkey or any other animal for that matter. So why the hell did I think it could work on an antelope. No matter, this stalk was busted, our second bust that day.

We walked back to the truck, parked on a rocky knob, to keep glassing for critters. Eventually we glassed up another herd of antelope, these ones about a mile off. Luckily, they had chosen a location that was “accessible” for a stalk. A single row of sagebrush obstructed there view from the valley floor. If we got to sagebrush and we might have a shot. We grabbed some more water, a granola bar and hit the trail.

After an hour of careful wind checks, slow and quite walking and some serious self-doubt about the antelopes still being in their beds we came to our little patch of sage. We belly crawled to our chosen location, not daring to expose ourselves over the top of the sage. And there they were, a dozen or so sleeping antelope at 200 yards. A chip shot for most adults but a solid 50 yards past my boys’ effective range.

We decided to risk getting in closer and crawled slowly in the grass toward the animals. At about 160 yards the first doe rose to her feet. Five more yards had three does standing. It was shoot now time. I propped up my shooting stick, my son took a kneeling shooting position. He waited for his breath to come under control and fired. The shot making a puff of dust right over the top of the nearest doe’s back. A clean miss. Perfect stalk, blown shot.

As the doe’s ran off I looked at the boy. I expected to see a frown or a grimace. Instead it was an ear to ear smile. He got it. He understood that the hunt was a goal in and of itself. He understood that shooting and killing was not always what was best.  “Well” he said “That was fun!”

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Over a mile away

We picked ourselves up, dusted off and called it a day. Back at the truck we stashed the guns and drove out toward the highway. That is until the herd of antelope wandered in across the two track in front of us at about 100 yards. Then we quickly hopped out, set Cameron up and watched as he let lead fly at a doe. Filling his tag, and my buddies’ freezer, after all.

Some hunting involves looking and looking for animals. Antelope are fairly easy to spot – their sides being bright white against the yellow of the plains and dessert. Some hunting is just about finding the animals. Our location has them by the hundreds, almost making it harder to hunt them. Some hunting involves a methodical and patent stalking. This is the definitive way to hunt antelope.

That or just have them stand off the side of the road and let you shoot them. Either way.

Antelope and the Myth of “Game” Flavor

If you are skim reading this section here is the lead – antelope don’t taste like beef, they taste like antelope. AND THAT IS OK.

The number of times I have heard that antelope are bad to eat is borderline depressing. But you also here, from a fewer number of folk, that antelope is the lobster of the prairie. The meat is bordering on sweet. Personally I don’t buy either claim. I think antelope taste just like antelope. And I love them.

Unfortunately, most households have a limited range of proteins that they consume. Beef, Pork, Turkey and Chicken are about the only non-fish meat consumed. Sure a little lamb is eaten, maybe some goat, a hint of rabbit – but honestly flavors outside those aforementioned meats are “gamey” to a lot of folk.

That is not a product of them having a poor pallet, or of the meat being bad (most times). The “gamey” flavor is the only description most people have to describe meat that is not “normal” to them. The best way to get past the gamey flavor is to reframe your mind around the issue. Antelope is not beef, so thinking it tastes funny because it does not taste like beef is silly.

With properly treated animals “gamey meat” is not a thing. Deer tastes like deer, elk like elk and antelope tastes like antelope.

History of Kefta/ Kofta

A generalized “meatball” dish from the Middle East kefta is traditionally served with yogurt or curry of some kind. The goal with the sauce it to provide a “fat” to the often lean meat that is used in the skewer. This recipe harkens to the more Moroccan and Egyptian flavors of North Africa with the addition of the cinnamon and allspice.

Traditions vary on these meatballs being on a skewer or not. The idea or ground meat on a stick gets some people hung up. It is not as hard as you might think. First make a roughly two ounce meatball. Then channel your inner preschooler and roll that meatball into a finger length “snake”.  Then run the skewer into the center of the snake and set the skewer onto a plate. Chill the skewers before cooking to keep them from falling apart.

Antelope Kefta Kebabs with Greek Yogurt

Serves 2-3, depending on how hungry you are…

 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/3 cup onion, fine diced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ginger, minced
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground venison, antelope in this picture

1/3 cup currents, rehydrated, optional

½ cup Greek yogurt, plain

1 bunch watercress

Add all ingredients, except the yogurt, to a mixing bowl. With your gloved hand stir to incorporate. Mix until the meat starts to become “tacky” or sticky. About one minute. This will give the skewer a sausage like texture. Roll 2 ounces of meat into finger lengths and skewer them. Refrigerate them before grilling to your desired doneness. About 3 minutes on both sides for medium well. Serve the skewers with a side of watercress and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

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