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This is why marinating is so important for wild game. In fact, skimping on marinade can make eating game more like chewing through leather.

Ms. Kagan recommends marinating wild game for up to 24 hours in an acidic preparation - to break down the muscle fiber - that might include red wine, juniper berries, rosemary and allspice.

“They balance out the flavor,” she says.

Yet even wild game can be marinated too long, she cautions.

“It can break down to the point of getting mushy,” she says. “You don’t want that.”

Store-bought game, such as venison, on the other hand, needs less time marinating (a few hours) and can be treated more like regular beef in terms of cooking time and temperature as well as preparation, she says.

Whole Foods usually carries some game, such as venison, buffalo, quail, duck and pheasant, says store spokeswoman Kristin Gross.

“We’re more likely to have it in the winter, particularly duck and pheasant,” Ms. Gross says, “but customers can special order our game meats any time of year.”

The one game meat Whole Foods doesn’t sell is rabbit, she says. “It’s just too expensive to raise and process,” she explains.

Aside from the flavor - which many people associate with the holiday season in late fall and early winter - game meats, including venison and buffalo, often have lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fats - and are leaner overall.

“Even farmed venison is definitely leaner than beef,” Ms. Kagan says.

Another appeal for many people is to “broaden their culinary horizons and try something a little different,” she says.

To hunters like Mr. Nugent, though, it’s not just about the flavorful meat and its healthy properties. It’s also about the hunt and its environmental effects.

“It’s the last perfect, 100 percent natural environmental responsibility that keeps the earth and wildlife balanced and healthy while providing the finest health food known to mankind; plus, it is both physically and spiritually invigorating,” he says.

Sources for various game meats (if you’re not a hunter):

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