A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.

Eating the heart of your first deer is a tradition that many hunters chose to honor.
Eating the heart of your first deer is a tradition that many hunters chose to honor.

With hunting season just around the corner, it’s time to sharpen your knives and dig deep into the heart of controversy. There are a number of long-held—and sometimes odd—rites of passage hunters partake in when killing their first deer. In September 2016, a New Zealand father was ruthlessly attacked by internet haters for letting his daughter take a bite out of a raw deer heart. The dad, Johnny Yuile, posted the pictures on the NZ Woman Hunters Facebook page of his daughter and him over a freshly killed young stag. The young girl had recently taken her first stag after a tricky approach and they commemorated with the age-old practice of eating the raw heart. For many non-hunters, this was a form of barbarism. They criticized the dad for letting the daughter eat the raw heart due to the dangers of uncooked meat—demanding the dad be criminally charged

According to evidence, eating extremely fresh raw meat carries little danger. “There’s risks anytime you eat meat period,” says ER physician Dr. Travis Stork a host on the tv show The Doctors. “That’s just the reality. But there’s also a big difference if that heart had been sitting out for 48 hours. It’s different than coming across roadkill.”

For many non-hunters, it’s difficult to understand the timeless traditions passed down through generations of hunters. For Yuile and his daughter, the pair camped overnight in the woods and made the kill the next morning. When the young girl was asked about it she said, “I saw my uncle bite the heart, so I thought I might bite it too. It tasted quite nice.”

Camille partaking in the rite of "blooding" and takes a bite of the heart of her first axis deer.
Camille partaking in the rite of “blooding” and takes a bite of the heart of her first axis deer.

While some hunters take a bite of the raw heart, others have adapted that tradition a bit. In an article published in Peterson’s Hunting Magazine, outdoor writer, Brian McCombie, states,“In Wisconsin, after a hunter makes a kill, they simmer the heart in water with celery, onion and beer, then slice and eat it.” While some hunters eat the heart, others don’t quite take it so far.

After I killed my first axis deer, I decided I wanted to take it further by not only wiping the blood on my face but taking a bite from its heart. I had heard that Native American hunters would eat the heart of the animal to embody the qualities of the animal. Although I did not eat the axis heart to embody the characteristics of the deer, I did take a bite to commemorate my hunt and to symbolize the joining of the small ranks of other axis deer hunters who have come before me.

Did you eat or take a bite of the heart of your first deer? Why or why not? What do you think about this tradition? Tell us in the comment section.

About the Author

Hey, Y’all! My name is Camille and I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I’m currently a senior psychology major at TCU. After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in the outdoors industry. I grew up hunting, shooting, and fishing whenever I could with my dad and grandpa. Any time I’m not working or studying you can find me in the woods hunting or on a boat fishing.  

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