When is game in season? Hunting and closed seasons

In Switzerland, there are clear regulations in place to determine which game may be hunted and when. Hunting seasons alternate with closed seasons so that the game population can recover. This is laid down in the Federal Law on Hunting and Protection of Wild Mammals and Birds (Bundesgesetz über die Jagd und den Schutz wildlebender Säugetiere und Vögel) and in the hunting laws of the individual cantons. The time and duration of the hunting seasons are determined by the natural game populations, which should be kept as constant as possible. The animals may not be hunted during the closed seasons. According to hunting law, the closed seasons are the following:

  • Wild boar: 1 February to 30 June
  • Red deer: 1 February to 31 July
  • Fallow deer, sika deer: 1 February to 31 July
  • Roe deer: 1 February to 30 April
  • Chamois: 1 January to 31 July
  • Hares and wild rabbits: 1 January to 30 September
  • Pheasant: 1 February to 31 August
  • Partridge: 1 December to 15 October
  • Wild duck: 1 February to 31 August

Definition: What is game meat exactly?

The term "game" is used to describe all animals that live in the wild and are hunted (terrestrial vertebrates), thus distinguishing them from the term "wild animal", which includes all animals that live in the wild. Game is hunted for two reasons: to keep the population of animals in the domestic cultural landscape at a healthy, environmentally compatible level and, of course, for meat production.

Game is divided into so-called furred game – i.e. hunted mammals such as roe deer, red deer, fallow deer, moose, chamois, wild boar, hares and wild rabbits – and feathered game – i.e. hunted birds such as pheasants, wild pigeons, wild ducks, wild geese and partridges. Some game may also be kept in enclosures for the purpose of meat production.

Common types of furred game: Common types of furred game:

Roe deer:
The smallest deer species, reaching a shoulder height of 54 to 84 centimetres, is widespread in Europe.

Fallow deer:
Medium-sized deer, reaching a shoulder height of 80 to 100 centimetres, is widespread in Europe.

Red deer:
The largest deer species. The various subspecies vary greatly in size, however. Central European red deer are among the largest animals living in the wild.

Sika deer:
Medium-sized deer, reaching a shoulder height of 64 to 100 centimetres. Originally native to East Asia, it is now also native to parts of Switzerland.

Chamois:
Counts among the goat species, reaches a height at the withers of 70 to 85 centimetres and is widespread in the Alpine region.

Wild boar:
With several varieties widespread in Europe, very adaptable and increasingly observed near human settlements and in cities.

European hare:
One of the largest hare-types in Europe, reaching a head and body length of 42 to 68 centimetres. Since the hare is an endangered species, hunting is strictly regulated.

Wild rabbits:
Much more delicate than the hare, it reaches a head and body length of 35 to 45 centimetres. Widespread in Europe, but in some cases with significantly declining populations.

Common types of feathered game: Common types of feathered game:

Pheasant:
A medium-sized bird belonging to the Galliformes order. Colourful plumage and long tail feathers are characteristic of the male, while the females are brownish coloured. The pheasant is common in Central Europe.

Partridge:
A smaller gallinaceous bird, reaching a body length of about 30 centimetres. It is native to the whole of Europe and its population is classified as endangered.

Wild duck:
Large family of birds with many subspecies, some of which are protected in Switzerland. The mallard, pochard and tufted duck, for example, can be hunted.

Wildbret or Wildfleisch? A definition of terms

Not all game meat is the same. The terms Wildbret or Wildfleisch are usually used synonymously, but there is a fine but important difference: While the term Wildfleisch is generally used for meat of game suitable for human consumption – including farmed game – Wildbret refers only to meat of wild animals that are subject to hunting law.

Wild game feeds exclusively on the plants found in the surrounding nature, while farmed game is partially fed. The meat of farmed and wild game can vary due to differing nutrition and living conditions. While the meat of hunted game usually has a stronger flavour and is more aromatic than that of farmed game, farming provides a more consistent meat quality.

Where does the characteristic game taste come from?

Game lovers swear by the characteristically strong, aromatic and complex flavour of Wildbret. But why does game taste so different from meat from breeding animals? The food the animal eats is primarily what determines the flavour. Wild game feeds on what nature has to offer, and this varies according to the season: furred game eat fresh herbs in spring, clover, young leaves and cereals in summer and wild berries, mushrooms, acorns and beechnuts in autumn. Wild feathered game also has a more varied diet than farmed poultry.

The meat from the various game species varies greatly in terms of taste. While rabbit and pheasant offer a relatively mild taste, and venison fillets are light and aromatic, wild boar has quite an intense gamey note.

Storage and shelf life

Wild game can be kept for a few days when well refrigerated. When placed in the zero-degree compartment in the refrigerator for short-term storage, the following storage times should not be exceeded:

  • Red deer, roe deer, chamois, mouflon, ibex, fallow deer, sika deer, and hare and rabbit: 7 days
  • Wild boar: 5 days
  • Feathered game: 4 days

Important: The cold chain may not be interrupted and the storage time may not be exceeded. In contrast to meat from breeding animals, game meat is not subject to official medical control. Although it is the duty of every hunter to strictly adhere to the guidelines for meat hygiene during hunting and game processing, there are no controls. Overaged meat, or meat that has not been continuously cooled, can therefore be heavily contaminated with germs. The risk associated with farmed game is much lower.

Game from the freezer: Is it any good?

Deep-frozen game can be stored for between six and twelve months, depending on the type of game. It’s important that the meat is cut up and free of bones, skin, tendons, cartilage and fatty tissue. Germs have no chance to spread at these temperatures. However, a continuous cold chain must be maintained in this case as well.

What is so special about game meat?

Game meat is in vogue. That’s not surprising, since it has so much to offer – and not only in terms of taste. It is characterised above all by its strong, aromatic flavour, the intensity and complexity of which is determined by the food available to the animal. Wild game therefore tastes more intense and complex than farmed game, whose food supply is more limited.

Versatile game: Tips for preparation

Game can be prepared in a variety of ways. Depending on the type of game and the cut, it is particularly suitable for roasts, juicy steaks, goulash, terrines and sausages.

These spices and flavours go well with game

Game meat is strong, so powerful spices are needed. Allspice, juniper berries, cloves and laurel are popular options for refining game dishes. Lovage, marjoram, thyme and rosemary also taste good with game.

A good red wine is a must. Strong wines pair well with the equally strong meat. Alternatively, a fruity wine can provide a nice contrasting flavour and soften the intensity of the meat.

Popular side dishes

The classic side dishes for game meat are mashed potatoes, dumplings, Schupfnudeln and spaetzle. They are served with red cabbage or savoy cabbage, or cranberries. A fine mushroom risotto is also a good accompaniment.

Cooking tips: How to get the best out of game

Game meat is very lean and tends to become dry if cooked incorrectly. It should therefore always first be fried in margarine or mild vegetable oil, but not as much as with beef. Then, gently cook it in the oven. This makes it juicy and tender.

Roast meat becomes particularly tender after browning in the roaster or in foil with broth, root vegetables and spices. The temperature should be kept rather low at around 120 degrees and the roast cooked slowly.

For those that like it extra tender, the meat can be marinated in red wine, root vegetables and spices, or in buttermilk before cooking.

Complete the game dish with a tasty sauce. The roast stock serves as the ideal base, which should be seasoned with red wine if it is not already contained in the stock. Beer lovers can use strong dark lager as an alternative. The taste of game meat is particularly good when the sauce contains a fruity-sweet component, such as cranberries, plums or oranges. Chocolate also complements the strong gamey taste.

Cooking knowledge: Cooking knowledge:

What to keep in mind during preparation

When preparing game, it is important to ensure the meat is always cooked through. It should reach an internal temperature of around 80 degrees and maintain this heat for at least two minutes. Not for too long, however, otherwise the meat will dry out.

Game tastes best when served with something sweet. Roast game is traditionally served with cranberry jam, but it can be equally delicious with rather unusual creations such as a dark chocolate sauce.

Game is trending! Its aromatic taste and fine, tender texture are making increasing numbers of diners enthusiastic about it. With game, you can simply taste the fullness of nature.

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