I received the text from Deerslayer shortly after 7:00 a.m. He wanted to know if I wanted to get some snapshots of a Nilgai for my blog. It was short and to the point but it spoke volumes.
The unwritten meaning behind the text was: “Oh, my gosh! I got a nilgai. I’ve been stalking them for two years and I finally got one. Whoop, whoop! Let’s fill the freezers. I think we should buy another one and dedicate it to the keeping of my nilgai, exclusively. Perhaps a shrine should be erected!”
I hadn’t headed out to the hunting camp with Deerslayer on this particular weekend. It’s only about an hour and a half from door to door. Deerslayer headed out after work. Over the past year and a half, he’d decided that one of these creatures would fill the freezer nicely. At 500 to 750 lbs. of lean, flavorful meat, I had to agree.
These creatures have been around South Texas since the 1920’s, when the King Ranch imported them from India to keep as exotics and have available for hunters. They are members of the antelope family. The males are sometimes called “blue bulls” because of their coloration. Escaping through breaks in fences and roaming the area without natural predators, the nilgai population has continued to grow in the region. While they are unique looking animals, (not much to look at if you ask me), they are really big and skittish. Getting a glimpse of one is a rarity.
As I’m sure you know by now, I’d never processed or prepared the meat of a nilgai. My first experience came on the night of the big celebration. It’s gonna take some time for me to wrap my head around how large the muscles are on this beast. I’m not complaining, mind you. But when Deerslayer (nay, Nilgaislayer) said he was bringing the tenderloin into the camper for me to prepare, I wasn’t expecting this:
I liberally seasoned the meat with salt and pepper mix and seared it in a cast iron skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. There is practically no fat on the meat which means that it can either be prepared quite rare or cooked all day in the oven or on the stove. After letting the meat rest for 15 minutes, I cut the seared tenderloin into bite-sized pieces and served it up as an appetizer to the nine hunters who had gathered around the fire. It was hugely popular. I’m gonna call it a success.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be learning the nuances of nilgai vs. venison. How will it cook up? How’s the taste? It’s gonna be fun.