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Road Kill Sausage

Permalink: Road Kill Sausage
by , Posted to on 02/13/2007 4:05 PM | "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |

Joined: 11/19/2002
Location: ND
MMM, very tasty.

A new meaning for 'road food'
When a deer is hit by a car, west-metro police can call a contractor to dispose of the remains -- or contact a handful of volunteers who have something else in mind.
By Jenna Ross, Star Tribune
Last update: February 13, 2007 ? 1:41 PM
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Mark and Sophia Johnson of Minnetonka

Jennifer Simonson , Star Tribune

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Ask Sophia Johnson for her baked orzo recipe and she'll give a coy smile. "First," she'll say, "some car has to hit a deer."
One morning in January, some car did. At 7:20 a.m., Mark Johnson got the call: A young doe had been killed on Hwy. 62 in southwest Minnetonka. Did he want it?

Mark Johnson is one of 25 Minnetonka residents who have signed up to get these calls -- any day, any time. When he first joined the police department's "dead deer list" about eight years ago, the calls made him anxious.

"Late at night or early morning, from the Minnetonka Police Department, three kids out of the house," he said. "You think a kid has done something awful."

Now the calls excite him.

For his January deer, he was on the scene within minutes. By 7:36 a.m., an officer had issued him a DNR deer-possession permit. An hour later, the deer was strung up by its hind legs in his garage.

He affectionately calls his garage "the crime scene." Before opening its door, he looks both ways for neighborhood kids. Seeing none, he pushes it open. A small doe hangs wide, dripping blood on the concrete floor.

Had Johnson not picked up the deer, it might have ended up in another resident's garage.

The deer was in good shape -- "I would venture to say that it was hit on its rump," Johnson allowed -- and police first try to give such roadkill to volunteers. If the carcass had been more badly beat up, they'd have called a contractor to pick it up at a cost of $95.

But giving the deer to the person who hit it or a resident who has volunteered to pick it up is the best and cheapest option, said Jeff Sebenaler, Minnetonka's captain of patrol services.

Others do the same

In 2006, the department issued nine deer-possession permits to residents for deer hit by vehicles. One of those deer was also picked up by the Johnsons.

Two were collected by Ernest DeBoer. The retired Wayzata resident once hunted to bag his deer, but after two replaced knees, "now I have to stick to roadkill," he said.

Few people know how long Minnetonka has offered deer to residents, but DeBoer offers the best guess: more than 19 years, which is how long he's been on the list.

DeBoer processes each deer himself, dressing it in his back yard. He makes venison hamburgers for his kids, and jerky for his grandkids. "It's important that people like me take these deer and do something with them," he said. "It'd be a shame to waste all that good meat."

Plymouth, Orono and Maple Grove have similar, if less formal, deer-pickup programs. Some cities, such as White Bear Lake, bring dead deer to a nearby game preserve instead, where wolves eat them. And each county handles the animals that die on their county roads differently.

Most other cities don't have a formal system.

Chaska had only two deer killed on its city streets in 2006, and it was able to pass the deer off to "somebody we know or somebody at work," said Tim Wiebe, public works superintendent. "It's very informal when it does happen."

The cities that have lists don't have a name for them, nor do they advertise their existence. People sign up through word of mouth.

DeBoer got on the Minnetonka list after seeing a deer on the road near his house and asking a police officer if he could help out the department by picking it up. Mark Johnson heard about the list from DeBoer -- or maybe it was someone at church; he's not sure.

An informal network

Choosing whom to call on the list can also be a pretty informal process. Mark Johnson is almost superstitious about it. He's never said no to taking a deer, afraid that if he does, he'll be moved down on the list. And he always hurries to the scene, afraid that if an officer has to wait too long, he'll be passed over next time.

And deciding whether to call a volunteer is also a less-than-scientific process.

Plymouth Community Service Officer Supervisor James Long asked two of his officers and found that one very seldom calls volunteers from the list, while the other, Corrine Birkholz, calls 90 percent of the time.

Birkholz's family hunts deer, so that helps her to "know which carcasses will be picked up and which will not," she said.

When one person can't take a deer, he or she might have an idea of who else to call. "It becomes this little group of people who you kind of get to know," she said.

DeBoer and Mark Johnson see each other three times a week at their health club. They talk about their latest roast, remember that year when DeBoer got 10 deer, and "reminisce over sausages," DeBoer said.

Like DeBoer, Mark and Sophia Johnson process the meat themselves. But unlike DeBoer, they were never hunters.

"I'm an instinctive fish cleaner, as I think all people of Swedish descent are, but when I first joined the list, I had never done a deer," Mark Johnson said.

His first attempts were bloody.

So he and Sophia found a video at the library, asked friends for advice, and became experts. The January deer was so young that they were able to get some meat from the bones using just a spoon.

The word "roadkill" is deceiving, they say. Actually the deer they process can be preferable to those shot in the woods.

Deer that have been killed in the north woods and harnessed to a truck for hours cannot beat deer that have fed on "rosebuds and corn" in Minnetonka, Mark Johnson said.

"Yeah, you might have to deal with a dent in the rump roast," he said. "But beyond that, it's the finest meat you'll find."


Jenna Ross ? 612-673-7168 ? jross@startribune.com
Re: Road Kill Sausage
by on 02/13/2007 5:17 PM | Reply #1 | "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |

Joined: 12/16/2001
Location: ND
Suppose there's no reason not not eat a fresh deer kill, although I sure prefer to shoot my own - after Tonts1 misses it, of course! LOL!
I've been dragging a half dozen each year with the 4 wheeler out into CRP fields and pastures from the 1/2 mile in front of our place so they don't stink the place up. Well fed yotes around here!
You wonder though, if the meat is all bloodshot and mashed up after losing an argument with a Mack truck! I suppose they take what they can and chuck the rest.
Re: Road Kill Sausage
by on 02/13/2007 5:47 PM | Reply #2 | "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |

Joined: 10/23/2005
Location: ND
I think it's a pretty good idea. If the deer wasn't hit all that hard I'd prolly take it if i knew about it the night of.
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Posted On: 02/13/2007 4:05 PM
1076 Views, 2 Comments

Tags: deer, police, road, sausage, kill, volunteers, something, car, 'road, new
More Tags: Mark Johnson, Ernest DeBoer, Sophia Johnson, Corrine Birkholz, Minnetonka Police Department, Jeff Sebenaler, Star Tribune, Minnetonka, road food, Jenna Ross, James Long, Like DeBoer, Plymouth, USD, jross@startribune.com, Spring Park, informal network, patrol services, White Bear Lake, Tim Wiebe, Jennifer Simonson, 612-673-7168, Maple,
Region: Minnesota

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