|Common Pheasant, widely introduced and hunted as game|
The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This is influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted views about what can or cannot be legitimately hunted. Sometimes a distinction is also made between varieties and species of a particular animal, such as wild or domestic turkey. Fish are excluded from the term game, and fish caught for sport are referred to as game fish.
In some countries, game is classified, including legal classification with respect to licenses required, as either 'small game' or 'large game'. Small game includes small animals, such as rabbits, pheasants, geese or ducks. A single small game license may cover all small game species and be subject to yearly bag limits. Large game includes animals like deer, bear, and elk and are often subject to individual licensing where a separate license is required for each individual animal taken (tags). Big game is a term sometimes used interchangeably with large game although in other contexts it refers to large, usually African, mammals (like elephants) which are hunted mainly for trophies, not for food.
In the U.S., Mexico and Canada, deer are the most commonly hunted big game. Game species in North America include:
* American Bison
*American Black Bear
*Common Snapping Turtle
*Deer (mule deer, white-tailed deer,Columbian Blacktail)
*Wild boar (feral pig)
Once obtained, game meat must be processed. The method of processing varies by game species and size. Small game and fowl may simply be carried home to be butchered. Large game such as deer is quickly field-dressed by removing the viscera in the field, while very large animals like moose may be partially butchered in the field because of the difficulty of removing them intact from their habitat. Commercial processors often handle deer taken during deer seasons, sometimes even at supermarket meat counters. Otherwise the hunter handles butchering. The carcass is kept cool to minimize spoilage.
Traditionally, game meat used to be hung until "high", i.e. approaching a state of decomposition. The term 'gamey', 'gamy' refers to this usually desirable taste (haut goût). However, this adds to the risk of contamination. Small game can be processed essentially intact; after gutting and skinning or defeathering (by species), small animals are ready for cooking although they may be disjointed first. Large game must be processed by techniques commonly practiced by commercial butchers.
Generally game is cooked in the same ways as farmed meat. Because some game meat is leaner than store-bought beef, overcooking is a common mishap which can be avoided if properly prepared. It is sometimes grilled or cooked longer or by slow cooking or moist-heat methods to make it more tender, since some game tends to be tougher than farm-raised meat. Other methods of tenderizing include marinating as in the dish Hasenpfeffer, cooking in a game pie or as a stew such as Burgoo.