If you’ve ever spotted a dead deer on the side of the road and your first thought was, Dang, there’s some good eatin’ just going to waste, take heart. Your state lawmakers have heard you, and they have taken up your cause. State Representatives Tommy Burchett (R-Knoxville) and Tommy Head (D-Clarksville) have introduced a bill that will let you chow down on road kill without fear of legal reprisals.
A couple of disclaimers: The law would apply only to accidentally-killed wild animals. Unfortunate pets are excepted. No poodle stew, no kitties-and-cabbage. Also, the wildlife management people are going to put up a fuss if they catch folks intentionally running over bears, or other rare or valuable species.
”Of course I know everybody’s going to call it the Road Kill Bill, but it’s common sense legislation,“ Burchett told the Associated Press. He added that he sees ”half a dozen deer carcasses“ on the road every week, and he considers it a waste.
”If you’ve messed up your car hitting a deer, at least you ought to be able to take it home and eat it,“ Head said.
I must admit, I fully support Burchett and Head on this one. Not because I’ve got an urge to gnaw on pavement pizza, but because it’s about damn time a couple of our legislators got an urge to pass a law that wasn’t spoon-fed to them by some weasel lobbyist. Until and unless these two fine Tennesseans abandon their People’s Crusade and bow down to the usual bunch of conniving, back-slapping ne’er-do-wells, Burchett and Head are my personal political heroes.
Give these guys credit, too, for getting out in front of the issue. It’s not as if any Tennesseans have actually been arrested for eating road kill.
”It would not have been a presentable case in most jurisdictions,“ said Fred Funte, law enforcement training supervisor for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). No wildlife officer would have charged a citizen, Funte said, ”with possession of road kill with intent to eat.“
When I heard about the Road Kill Bill, my first thought was, ”Assuming this bill passes, how could a citizen avail himself of his new privileges?“ So I called avid-hunter pal, John Brittle, of the prestigious French Clayton Johnson real estate firm.
”I have personally field-dressed more than 50 deer,“ Brittle said. ”But I’m not saying how many of ’em were road kill.“
What tools and skills, I asked, would be necessary for the average Tennessee driver to have should they come across a freshly-killed deer?
”The first thing your average rookie needs to know is that the best meat is in the backstraps, on either side of the spine. It’s the filet mignon of the deer. There’s also some good meat in the hams. You can take all this without field-dressing the deer. If you’re handy with a knife, you can get the backstraps in less than a minute.“
So, there’s no need to hoist the unfortunate deer up into a tree, and bleed him and gut him?
”Nope,“ Brittle said. ”You can do the job right there on the side of the road, with nothing more than a Swiss Army Knife. In fact, if you come up on a road-killed deer, and find the backstraps already missing, that means you’re taking seconds.“
I asked him how fresh the deer needed to be.
”You can take the backstraps and hams even if he’s a little bloated, long after you’d decide not to open the body cavity,“ Brittle said. ”Some Eastern European cultures prefer naturally-aged game meat. They leave it outside for a few days. Of course, a lot depends on whether we’re talking about summer or winter.“
Brittle offered another tip for rookie butchers: ”When you’re taking the hams, watch out for those little dark tufts of hair near the knees. The musk glands are in that area. If you cut them open, the juice that flows out will just ruin the meat.“
And then there’s the matter of leftovers? Does today’s discriminating gourmet de highway take ’em home, or leave ’em on the side of the road?
”I guess that’s an individual decision. But here’s what I think: The raccoon is the state animal. Raccoons make a good bit of their living eating dead things on the side of the road. Out of respect for the state animal’s way of life, I say leave the carcass where you found it.“
I can’t argue with Brittle’s logic, and I can’t question his experience. If Burchett and Head get their bill passed, it shouldn’t be long before Burchett sees those half-dozen deer carcasses on the road between Knoxville and Nashville, all stripped for parts and surrounded by fat, happy raccoons. It’ll be a fine day to be alive in Tennessee. To celebrate, I say we ought to make up some new road signs for the state lines: Welcome to Tennessee. Road kill from grille to grill.
We could even change the words to ”Rocky Top.“
I hate it when I bend my fender up
On the butt of some deer
But now I know that I can eat it up
Without any undue fear
Road Kill, you’ll always be
Dang fine fare to me
Good old Road Kill
Road Kill in Tennessee....
Visit Walter’s Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense, or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org