How to Make Venison Jerky Sticks


Wild Game Jerky Sticks Recipe

Now that the holidays are over I can sit back, relax, and chew on some good ol’ fashioned, homemade jerky. That’s right folks, I’ve been making my own jerky for almost fifteen years now. It didn’t start out so well, but through lots of trial and error–and a literal ton of wild meat–I believe I’ve perfected the art of making wild game jerky sticks.

For that last several years, I’ve been giving the stuff away to family and friends at Christmas. Since it’s illegal to sell wild game meat, it does me no good to just sit on the recipe. So, for all you hunters out there with way too much meat and time on your hands, here’s my famous, perfected recipe:

Wild Game Jerky Sticks

Materials Needed:

  • Food Dehydrator w/ extra Trays (You’ll need 8 total trays). I recommend the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster available at amazon at this link Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro
  • Jerky Gun w/ Attachments (here’s a another link at amazon for the Nesco Jerky Gun/Kit)
  • Jerky Cure & Seasoning (I’m using the Hi Mountain brand available at, outdoor suppliers, and supermarkets).
  • Electric Smoker: mine is the Big Chief front-load smoker. It’s a simple and inexpensive smoker. See here at amazon: Big Chief.)
  • Meat Grinder
  • Kitchen Scale
  • Disposable Rubber Gloves
  • Scissors
  • Fillet knife and cutting board
  • Wood chips
  • Measuring cups & spoons.
  • Extra Spices: Salt, Sugar, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper, fresh jalapeno, etc.
  • A pound of lean ground beef

The Jerky Method

  1. Remove all sinew, fat, hair, dirt, etc. from wild game.
  2. Cut meat into smaller chunks for grinding.
  3. Grind meat using smaller grinder plate.
  4. Make 4 – 5 pounds at a time to maximize dehydrator space.
  5. If you are grinding your own lean, muscle meat, then you’ll want to mix in some ground beef to add fat/moisture at a ratio of about 1:4 beef-to-wild-game. If you are making jerky from pre-packaged wild game then skip this step.
  6. Thoroughly mix meat, seasoning, cure, and water according to ground meat instructions included with seasoning packet. Measure spices carefully. Add extra black and/or red pepper, jalapeno, and/or other seasonings if desired.
  7. Do not sit overnight or the cure will make it stiff and hard to form.
  8. Start soaking a pan-full of wood chips for two hours.
  9. Use jerky gun and large round or large flat attachment to form long sticks across trays. You’ll cut them into smaller sections later.
  10. Dehydration takes 7 – 8 hours depending on temperature and humidity. Dehydrate indoors at room temperature to avoid over- or under-cooking.
  11. Dehydrate for two hours to firm up jerky sticks a little.
  12. After two hours, remove jerky sticks and place in the smoker for two hours or however long it takes to burn through a single tray of damp wood chips. In hot weather keep your smoker out of direct sun or it will over-cook your meat. Remember, you are dehydrating not cooking!
  13. If it’s too cold outside, it won’t smoke well. So leave the dehydrator in the sunlight so it stays warm and moist inside.
  14. After smoking for two hours in the smoker, put the jerky sticks back in dehydrator. You are halfway there!
  15. Rotate jerky trays every 1 – 2 hours for evenness.
  16. On the sixth hour, remove jerky from dehydrator. Use scissors to cut jerky into desired lengths and then stack them on layered paper towels on a plate for 30 minutes. This will soak up extra oil that accumulates on the surface.
  17. After 30 minutes on the plate, place back in dehydrator for 1 – 2 hours. Taste-test occasionally for consistency. It’s best not to over-dehydrate the sticks.
  18. After 8 hours (dehydrated 2 hours, smoked hours, and dehydrated 4 more hours) the jerky is done. Put jerky back on plate layered with paper towels and let cool for an hour. Once cool, put jerky and some new paper towels in a one gallon Ziploc bag and place in freezer or fridge.

Final Notes:

  • The jerky process takes all day, so be prepared to babysit your meat.
  • Jerky meat dries down to about 50% original weight.
  • The best way to ruin your jerky is to over- or under-season it. Use extra spices sparingly. Jerky that’s too salty sux!
  • The second best way ruin your jerky is to over- or under-cook it. Under-cooked jerky is mushy and prone to mold. Over-cooked jerky is tough and flavorless. Also, don’t over-smoke your jerky—it becomes bitter and stinks up your hands when you eat it. Plus the deer can smell your pack a mile away.
  • The Hi Mountain seasoning is the best I’ve used. However, it isn’t very hot/spicy. This is where extra pepper comes in. A little extra black and red pepper is usually required. You can also add Tabasco sauce to the mix for extra kick.
  • Your homemade jerky will last one week in your pack, two months in the fridge, and two years in the freezer. But most likely it won’t last two days, especially if you have kids around.
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