DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — Hundreds of hunters headed to north Alabama's hills last weekend for the opening of bow and arrow deer hunting season. With deer, rabbit, squirrel and dove seasons under way, time has come to make a game plan for preparing safe and delicious meals.

Locals offered a glimpse of the flavor possibilities for wild game dishes at the Alabama Wildlife Federation's cook-off in Morgan County. Teams served turkey tacos, elk fajitas, glazed catfish, duck lettuce wraps, deer wontons, pronghorn roll-ups and venison meatloaf.

Out of the dozens of offerings, judges determined the Rib Ticklers, led by Murrell Frazier, brought the best game to the cook-off. The Hartselle-based team won best overall dish for Cherries Jubilee Turkey Roll-Ups.

"What we make is determined a lot on what is available. I haven't hunted in years, so I have to rely on my friends who hunt. If they have deer, we cook deer. If they have wild turkey, we cook wild turkey," Frazier said.

The win earned Rib Ticklers a spot in the state finals next year. Frazier said the team will prepare for state by participating in regional wild game competitions and preparing the Cherries Jubilee Turkey Roll-Ups. The dish features thinly sliced turkey breast with dried cherries, finely diced and rehydrated, on a bed of rice.

The Jr. Rib Ticklers, headed by Frazier's granddaughter Arianna Frazier and Monroe Howse, placed second with turkey macaroni.

The key to a successful wild game dish, especially a deer dish, rests with cleaning the meat properly, Murrell Frazier said.

Matt Brock, a biologist with Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, offered advice on dressing and processing deer carcasses.

Make sure to bring latex gloves to wear while handling any tools used to clean the deer, a sharp knife, a handsaw or electric saw if removing the hindquarters and front shoulders, gardening shears to cut through the chest cavity and a cooler to store the meat.

"The meat should be iced down as soon as possible until delivered to a processor, or frozen," Brock said. "Some (hunters) choose to field dress or gut the deer in the field, especially in warm temperatures like what we typically see in the early part of the season. If transporting for several hours in warm weather, it would be a good idea to place bagged ice in the chest cavity until the carcass can be processed."

If processed and sealed correctly, venison will last eight months to a year before becoming freeze-dried.

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml