6 Smoked Game Meat Recipes

6 Smoked Game Meat Recipes

In a very primitive sense, cooking over an open flame was an early iteration of smoking meat and barbecue.

While hunting and the corresponding cooking of game meat have certainly come a long, long, way from prehistoric times, there's still something to be said for going back to the roots of cooking meat.

With the autumn hunting season ahead, smoking your game meats from last year's harvest is an easy – and delicious – way to clear out some space in your freezer. And suffice it to say, it's a great way to enjoy the game meats you'll bring home this season to enjoy fresh.

To help you enjoy your game meat, we’ve curated several recipes for cooking them in an ugly drum smoker:

  • Venison
    • Smoked backstraps
    • Smoked jerky
  • Bear
  • Rabbit
  • Pheasant
  • Wild Turkey 


Synonymous with hunting, deer represent one of the most harvested animals. In addition to their abundance in most areas of the world, deer have a variety of cuts of meat that can be prepared in many different ways. We'll look at two:

Smoked Venison Backstraps

Considered one of the finer cuts of venison, backstraps are tender and flavorful with subtle hints of sweetness.


  • 2 lbs venison backstrap
  • 1½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • ½ tsp coarse black pepper
  • ¾ tsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Smoker Wood Recommendation: With a delicate and sweet flavor profile that compliments the meat, we recommend using apple wood for smoking venison backstraps.


  1. Combine the sea salt, black pepper, and granulated garlic together in a small bowl.
  2. Rub the seasoning mixture into the venison backstrap, covering the entire piece of meat.
  3. Allow the seasoned venison backstrap to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before smoking.
  4. Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
  5. Once preheated, place the venison backstrap on the smoker grate and add smoker wood chunks to the smoker box.
  6. Smoke the venison backstrap for approximately 2-3 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 130-135°F for medium-rare.
  7. Remove the smoked venison backstrap from the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
  8. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the sliced venison backstrap for 1-2 minutes per side until browned.

Smoked Venison Jerky

One of the most popular ways to prepare and preserve venison, smoked jerky is a fan favorite to enjoy year-round.


  • 2-3 lbs of venison roast, sliced against the grain into thin strips
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp curing salt
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp onion powder


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, curing salt, brown sugar, black pepper, minced garlic, and onion powder. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the ingredients are well combined.
  2. Place the venison strips into the marinade, making sure they are fully coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the mixture to a sealable bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Immediately Before Smoking

  1. Preheat your smoker to 160°F or the lowest temperature possible.
  2. Remove the venison strips from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  3. Arrange the venison strips on the smoker racks, leaving space between them for proper air circulation.
  4. Place the racks in the smoker or oven and let the venison dry for 1-2 hours. This will create a tacky surface called a pellicle, which helps the smoke adhere to the meat.
  5. After the drying period, start smoking the venison. Add your smoking wood to the smoker and smoke the venison at 160°F  for 4-6 hours.
  6. Check the jerky periodically for desired texture. It should be firm and dry but still slightly pliable. Once it reaches this consistency, remove it from the smoker or oven.
  7. Allow the jerky to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container or resealable bags.

Smoked Bear Meat

From one of the alpha predators in many ecosystems, bear meat is prized by hunters for its rich and gamey flavor. Marinating and later smoking, however, adds a whole new level of complexity to the taste. The intense smokiness complements the bold flavors of wild game, creating a dish that is both unique and satisfying.


  • 2 lbs of bear meat (preferably shoulder or hindquarter)
  • 1 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 2 tsp of onion powder
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (optional, for some heat)

Smoker Wood Recommendation: For its robust and distinct flavor profile, which is strong yet not overpowering, we recommend hickory wood for smoking bear meat.


  1. Trim any excess fat off the bear meat and cut it into manageable-sized pieces (and yes, your pieces may vary in size, though it's best to have them as identical as possible for even cooking).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients.
  3. Place the bear meat in a resealable plastic bag or a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the meat and refrigerate for at least four hours (we suggest marinating overnight for maximum flavor) or overnight for maximum flavor.

Immediately Before Smoking

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225°F 
  2. Place the smoker wood in a smoker box or directly on the coals to generate smoke.
  3. Arrange the bear meat on the smoker racks, leaving space between each piece for the smoke to circulate. Close the smoker and let the meat smoke for approximately 4 to 6 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F
  4. Once the bear meat is ready, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Curious about the fuel source you should use in your ugly drum smoker? Our article, “Comparing Lump Charcoal Vs. Briquettes,” has the answers! 
And what about the types of smoker wood? Check out our article, “Smoker Wood Showdown & The Decisions You’ll Make.”

Smoked Rabbit 

Small game, rabbit meat has a delicate profile. Boasting a slightly sweet flavor that's often compared to chicken but with a slightly gamier undertone, rabbit meat is tender and lean. Smoked, it takes on a whole new level of flavor and texture.


  • 1 whole rabbit, cleaned and dressed
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Smoker Wood Recommendation: A delicate meat needs a delicate wood. For smoking rabbit, we recommend alder wood. With a mild flavor and sweet undertones, alder wood smoke won't overpower the meat's natural flavor.

The Day Before

  1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, minced garlic, paprika, dried thyme, dried rosemary, salt, and pepper. Mix well to create a marinade.
  2. Place the rabbit in a large dish or resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the rabbit, making sure it is evenly coated. Allow the rabbit to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight for more pronounced flavor (we recommend overnight).

The Day of

  1. Remove the rabbit from the marinade and let it come to room temperature while you prepare the smoker.
  2. Preheat your smoker to 225°F 
  3. Once the smoker has reached temperature, place the rabbit directly on the smoker grates. Add smoker wood and close the lid and let it smoke for approximately 3-4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the rabbit reaches 160°F
  4. Once the rabbit is fully cooked, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Smoked Pheasant

Another member of the small game family, pheasant is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world for its unique flavor and tenderness.


  • 1 whole pheasant, plucked and cleaned
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 apple, cored and quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • Fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme

Smoker Wood Recommendation: Cherry wood produces a mild and subtly sweet smoke that complements the gamey flavor of pheasant without overwhelming it. Additionally, it imparts a beautiful reddish-brown hue to the meat, enhancing its visual appeal.


  1. Rub the pheasant with olive oil or melted butter.
  2. In a bowl, combine salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried thyme to make a rub.
  3. Season the pheasant inside and out with the rub mixture.
  4. Stuff the cavity with quartered apple, onion, and fresh herbs.
  5. Preheat your smoker to 225°F 
  6. Once the smoker is at temp, place the pheasant on the grill grate, breast side up.
  7. Smoke the pheasant for 2.5 to 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast.
  8. Once done, remove the pheasant from the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.


Smoked Wild Turkey

For those who take a forest-to-table approach to their Thanksgiving meal, smoking a harvested wild turkey is a must-try. With its naturally lean and flavorful meat, wild turkey is perfect for smoking, as it will absorb the smoky flavors while retaining its moisture.


  • 1 (12-14 lbs) wild turkey, dressed
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 apple
  • 1 onion
  • 1 lemon

Smoker Wood Recommendation: Apple wood provides a gentle, fruity smoke that accentuates the natural flavors of turkey without overpowering it. Its mild and sweet profile complements poultry, making the smoked turkey both aromatic and delicious.


  1. Preheat your smoker to a temperature of 225°F 
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper, and generously brush the seasoned butter mixture all over the turkey, ensuring that it is fully coated.
  3. Quarter the apple, onion, and lemon, and place them inside the cavity of the turkey. Tie the turkey's legs closed with butcher string.
  4. Place the turkey on the smoker grates and smoke it for approximately 30 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the meat.
  5. Once the turkey is fully cooked, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.


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