Call it fate or serendipity. Roadkill is for dinner when animal and car converge in a perfect storm of speed, angle and impact, resulting in a lightly killed (as in not creamed) animal, and moments later a canny scavenger haps along. Take, for example, the tale of Jeff Potter. He was on his way to his trailer hideaway Up North, near Baldwin, when he spied a dead but beautiful ring-neck pheasant on the side of U.S. 27 near Clare. Finding it still warm and limp when he stopped to show it to his children, Potter stashed the bird in a plastic bag and shortly thereafter, while his fam feasted on burgers at Mickie D’s, he gutted it and deposited the bagged entrails in Ronald McDonald’s dumpster.
Up at the cabin, Potter skinned the pheasant and double-wrapped it in foil with potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, salt and pepper, then set it in the bonfire coals. A half-hour later he opened the foil. “What it smelled like was the best thing we’d ever smelled,” he says. “It was ranked No. 1. Holy Smokes, the kids were like little seals barking for a piece.”
Potter’s road-kill repertoire isn’t limited to pheasant-under-foil. Deer are a staple, and he’s thinking of expanding into squirrel (“A lot of them get just lightly clipped, and I’ve heard that squirrel is super-fine eating.”)
Squirrel, deer, pheasant, partridge or rabbit, Potter can’t wax enough about the wonders of eating fresh and for free: “It’s better meat than you can buy. I’ve never been disappointed. I even find the organ meats to be fascinating—the heart and liver. So I just keep my eyes peeled for something tasty, dead and in good shape.
Rules of the Roadkill: In Michigan, it is legal to take road-killed game animals (except for a spotted fawn, cub bear or migratory birds) if the hunting or trapping season is open for that species and you have a license for hunting the animal.
The Exception to the Rule: If you happen upon an adult bear or deer and don’t have a hunting license, call a DNR officer or a member of a local or state police department and they can issue you an on-demand permit.