Whether you cart your venison home on the roof of your car, or pick up a half-dozen frozen quail from the specialty section in your supermarket, you may need a wider choice of game recipes than standard cookbooks offer. Therefore, we've described a few of the more interesting game cookbooks.
Most bookstores don't sell game cookbooks ("game books don't sell"), so you may have to phone around or send for some of the game cookbooks described below, which make excellent gifts for the families of hunters and provide fascinating reading for those of us who prefer the warmth of the hearth to the cold dampness of the duck blinds.
* Brief and to the point, "Easy Game Cookery" contains recipes for large and small game (porcupine stuffed with sauerkraut and apple, in particular, caught our eye) as well as game birds and fish. Garden Way Bulletin, A-56, $1.50, is available on Garden Way racks or from Garden Way, Charlotte, Vt. 05445.
* L&L Pheasantry, which raises many of the game birds sold locally, publishes a sensible 36-page booklet of recipes for pheasant, bobwhite and coturnix quail, wild turkey and partridge; $1 plus 65 cents postage from L&L Pheasantry, Hegins R.D. 2, Pa. 17936. Among the tempting recipe ideas: Sugar-Shack Partridge, Quail With Grapes and Hazelnuts, Pheasant Mulligan With Dumplings.
* An extremely good value in game cookbooks is "Wildlife Chef," a collection of 366 fish and game recipes prepared by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, which includes eight recipes for beaver ("beaver meat is dark red, tender, moist, and tastes like roast pork"), four for muskrat ("tastes much like turkey"), and four for woodchuck, or groundhog, which is best eaten in autumn ("The meat is fine-grained and dark and tastes like beaver. Can be cooked like rabbit, but is not quite as tender"); $3.95 plus 95 cents postage from Michigan Out-of-Doors, P.O. Box 30235, Lansing, Mich. 48909.
* One of the best-selling game cookbooks is "Easy Game Cooking," by Joan Cone (EPM Publications, $4.95), which contains 124 homey, uncomplicated recipes, the basic principles of which are worth knowing (i.e., game birds that tend to dry out often benefit from steam-roasting in a brown-in-bag with sauce or vegetables). Cone also has expanded the repertoire with her more recent "Fish and Game Cooking" (EPM, $7.95).
For more urbane dishes, skim the 20 pages of game recipes in "Dominique's Famous Fish, Game & Meat Recipes" (Acropolis, $8.95), which range from rabbit with pernod to coot stew and rattlesnake salad. Of two wild duck recipes we tried, the Marinated Wild Duck was only so-so, but the Roasted Wild Duck (which is reprinted on page E18) was excellent.
* "Wilderness Cookery," by Bradford Angier (Stackpole, $9.95), has a ring of authenticity that makes for fascinating reading. Game is only part of Angier's repertoire, but he provides insights into game dishes most of us are unlikely to experience, as in this passage: "Just as muskrat is more successfully merchandised as musquash and swamp rabbit, crow finds more takers when sold as rook. However, the dark meat is well worth cooking under any name. Tasting like chicken with appetizing overtones of duck, young crow is excellent either broiled or saute'ed. Older varieties respond better to fricasseeing. If you've too many . . . and deep-freeze, then concentrate on the breasts."
Southern hunters who long to re-experience the game dishes prepared at the Cedar Creek Hunting Lodge in Georgia may recreate them at home, thanks to "The Great Southern Wild Game Cookbook" by Sam Goolsby (Pelican, $13.95), which includes such unlikely dishes as baked armadillo and smoked alligator, plus more common animals, fowl and fish indigenous to the inland areas of the South.
* "James Beard's Fowl and Game Bird Cookery" (Harcourt, $4.95) contains relatively few game recipes, but those are classically simple, and Beard is, as always, reliable.
* Recipes in "How to Cook His Goose (and Other Wild Games)" by Karen Green and Betty Black (Winchester Press, $8.95) range from exotic (Dove Gumbo calls for 12 to 18 dove breasts to a cup of okra) to the super-humble (quail cooked in crushed Corn Chex).
* "The Venison Book: How to Dress, Cut Up and Cook Your Deer," by Audrey Alley Gorton (Stephen Greene Press, $2.95), is a feisty little book by a former Britisher turned Vermonter. Instructions, plus such recipes as venison and kidney pie, venison goulash, and a sauerbraten sauce made with four gingersnaps. A nice little gift for a deer hunter.
* If you foresee many deer in your future, you also might send for the useful eight-page pamphlet "Prepare to Enjoy Venison," leaflet 2418, available free from Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of California, Berkeley, Calif. 94720. For a broader, more detailed, and very well-illustrated explanation of how to field-dress and clean all kinds of game and fish, look up Robert Candy's "Getting the Most From Your Game and Fish" (Garden Way, $9.95).
* Carrying how-to a step further, you may be interested in "Home Book of Smoke-Cooking Meat, Fish and Game," by Jack Sleight and Raymond Hull (Stackpole, $10.95) and "The Canning, Freezing, Curing & Smoking of Meat, Fish & Game" by Wilbur F. Eastman Jr. (Garden Way, $5.95). The Eastman book is well-illustrated, long on how-to and short on recipes. Recipes in the Sleight book include kippered and red herring, yarmouth bloater, smoked frog's legs, and even smoked blueberries, an interesting though not necessarily mouthwatering concept.
You can order the slim, but well-focused, "Buffalo Cook Book" by Toots Marquiss and Nellie Houck for $2.50 from the National Buffalo Association, P.O. Box 706, Custer, S.D. 57730.