Some hunters think the worst thing about their favorite sport is that after you shoot something you're supposed to take it home and eat it.

And attitude like that does not square with the origins and justifications of hunting. In addition, it is a stupid attitude.

Chances are the folks who don't like to eat game simply don't know how to cook it. They may be applying store-bought food techniques to meat from the wild. The two are as different as the Safeway is from the forest.

The first difference is that wild meat has natural flavor. It comes from the natural things wild animals eat and is alarming to most Americans, who regard meat as tasteless, chewy stuff upon which to glop ketchup, relish, pickles, salt, pepper, gravy, Woreestershire, cheese and onions.

The taste dictators have hung the gloomy pejorative "gamey" on wild meats, and contend that the first step in preparing it is to soak it in salt water or some other substance to draw out the gamey taste. In most cases this is ridiculous.

The second difference is that game is tough. Wild animals do not spend their days idling around the pen and gorging themselves on commercial feeds. They run, fly, hop and climb, and that builds muscles and tendons. The general rule is that game, particularly small game, needs to be cooked longer - in dutch ovens, brown-in bags, stews - to tenderize it.

The third difference is that game lacks fat. Most commercial meat is marbled with fat, which adds to its weight and means a better price for the farmer. It makes for easy cooking and makes the people who eat it fat, And lazy.

Joan Cone has been hunting for 20 years. When she and her husband. Art, first brought game home in the '50s she went straight to the library and began looking up recipes. She was not impressed, and immediately began researching on her own.

The result is four cookbooks in print and a fifth tour de force on game and fish in the works. She has hunted across the United States and abroad and plucked from her experience some basic principles and hundreds of recipes. Some hints from Joan Cone:

BIG GAME: Always field dress deer and other big game immedaitely, particularly if the animal has run a distance after it was shot. Cool the meat immediately and never throw away the liver, heart of kidneys.

Because there is almost no fat in deer meat, steaks and chops should be sauteed in very hot butter, never beyond medium rare or they will dry out. If you insist on welldone meat, pot it like a swiss steak or pot roast.

Treat vension roasts like beef rump roast. Never cook uncovered in an oven. Use a brown-in bag, aluminum foil or a dutch oven or crock pot to keep moisture in.

SMALL GAME: Again, field-dress immediately. Always use gloves when skinning disease tularemia through an open cut.

Halve squirrels, cut rabbits into four or six pieces. These animals are tough, and cannot be fried or roasted without parboiling first.

Says Cone: "I see recipes all the time for fried or grilled rabbit or squirrel. It just will not work." Options are pressure cooking, crock pot or stewing. No parboiling is needed for these techniques.

BIRDS: Always split small birds like woodcock and dove up the backbone to clean out the lungs. Never cook these birds uncovered in an oven.They can be sauteed in butter in an open pan, but only for a short time before they dry out.

Crock pots or casseroles are best. Cone has even cooked wild pigeon in casseroles and got them tender.

For ducks, pheasant and geese, keep in mind that store-bought and wild are entirely different. The fatty ducks you buy in the store bear little relation to their wild cousins.

Again, brown-in bags, foil or some other covering are best for baking, except for fatty ducks, which can be cooked open in the oven.

Cone also has little use for hanging game to age the meat. In almost all cases, she contends, it's best to butcher and freeze or cook immediately.

Cone's recipes are pleasant to read informative in a folksy, informal way. As a hunter herself, Cone gives game its due. She knows the sacrifice that can go into bringing home a pair of rabbits or a single duck. She figures a little sacrifice in the kitchen can make the circle complete.