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Food and Cooking

How to clean an elk heart and make fajitas from it

How to clean an elk heart and make fajitas from it

When it comes to comfort foods, Mexican-style is one of my favorites. Here’s how to make one of my go-to dishes, using elk heart.

by Leon Pantenburg

To say you’re making fajitas is more of a statement of purpose than a firm commitment to a recipe.

Basically, a fajita is a a stir fry recipe, where the meat is cooked quickly, mixed with vegetables, then served over rice. Or you can roll it up in a tortilla.

One reason the dish is so popular is because a premium cut of meat isn’t needed. In fact, you can use some of the tougher pieces, or an organ you wouldn’t normally think to use.

This bull elk carcass was boned out with a Sportsman. It never needed sharpening

This bull elk carcass was boned out to get every usable shred of meat.

Like elk heart.

It’s been a long time since I recovered a heart from a deer or elk, since that is my target of choice. When hit through the heart, the animal may drop in its tracks or run for a short distance before dying. The last two deer I shot were hit through the heart and lungs, leaving a bloody slurry in the ribcage.

I finally recovered an intact heart from the elk I killed last year. I didn’t hit exactly where I aimed, but the bullet still took out both lungs and part of the liver. The bull dropped in its tracks.

Everything is used, so I packed the liver and heart in large plastic bags and hauled them out. If nothing, else my two Labs would love them.

To make fajitas, slice the meat thinly, then marinade it for a while. Sear it in a hot cast iron pan, then add vegetables. The dish is fast, east to make and it really hits the spot at home or in the hunting camp.

Here is a good fajita recipe from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

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Food and Cooking

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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