Serving up a lavish spread of roast venison and all the trimmings for his family's Christmas dinner, a biologist revealed how he keeps costs down by using roadkill.
Calling himself a “game scavenger" Rafe Carroll, 47, regularly collects, disembowels, cooks and eats roadkill – which can be anything from turkeys to bears – from the highways near his home in Wenatchee, Washington, USA.
Insisting the meat from animals killed by motorists tastes delicious, the dad-of-three, whose wife, Kirstin, 46, is an insurance specialist, said:
“Most people's reaction to my scavenging is shock and surprise, because they tend to think of roadkill as being squirrels and raccoons."
Rafe's youngest daughter Emily skinning a white-tailed deer (Collect/PA Real Life)
“But when we have people over – say at Christmas or big family gatherings – and we eat something that I took from the road, they can't believe it when I tell them it's roadkill because it tastes so good!"
Finding around five bits of big game each year, Rafe is able to feed himself and his family for months on end, with one deer providing around 66 pounds of meat and months' worth of meals.
But his biggest haul came when he found a two-year-old black bear carcass a mile from his home.
Rafe with a black bear that he found by the side of the road and ate (Collect/PA Real Life)
“We got about 121 pounds of meat from that," recalled Rafe, who says the bears, which roam freely across north-west America, taste much like pork.
“There are lots of uses for its fat too, and I gave some of it away to friends for making soap and frying doughnuts with."
“The way I see it is, if I don't take something then it's just going to go to waste – so I pretty much will take anything that is fresh and doesn't look too mangled."
Rafe's passion for roadside foraging was first inspired by his father, recalling him bringing home a roadkill deer, when he was 10, and and carving it up for his family's dinner that evening.
Years later, as a newlywed, after his 1993 marriage to Kirstin, hard-up, he decided to follow in his father's footsteps.
“We were very short on money," explained Rafe, then a laborer. “This meant I wasn't going to turn my nose up at free food."
A roadkill mule deer that Rafe picked up while out duck hunting (Collect/PA Real Life)
Back then, scavengers risked more than just being run over themselves, as taking and using roadkill was illegal in the state of Washington.
Luckily, never caught, Rafe spent the next few years helping bring up his daughters – Dawn, 27, Katie, 25, and Emily 18, – on a diet of deer, elk, turkey and grouse that he had found dead by the side of the road.
“I take great pride in the meat I bring home for my family," he said. “I wouldn't bring anything back that wasn't of the same quality as food that you would buy in a shop."
A roadkill venison dinner (Collect/PA Real Life)
“I have been doing this for so long now that I know very quickly whether or not something is ok to take."
“In the same way that you'd smell prepackaged chicken in your fridge before you eat it, the first thing I always do is give the carcass a sniff and then see if it isn't too damaged by the impact of the car."
Bringing home the dead animal in the back of his truck, Rafe then skins and disembowels his finds out in the woods by his house, as his wife is not keen on him taking something covered in blood and gore inside.
A roadkill white-tailed deer vacuum sealed and ready for Rafe's freezer (Collect/PA Real Life)
Proud of his frugality, Rafe, who includes elk burgers, venison meatloaf, and well-done bear steak among his favorite roadkill recipes, likes to feed his guests with the meat he scavenges, seeing it as an “educational opportunity" to teach people there is nothing wrong with his prudent practice.
But he saves his venison sirloin showstopper for Christmas, when he roasts the deer meat on a spit for family and friends.
“One year, a friend of mine's son asked me whose deer we were eating, and I replied, 'The road's deer,'" he said.
A roadkill venison sirloin that Rafe fed his family for Christmas (Collect/PA Real Life)
“He was very shocked, but more shocked at how good it was."
“Some people make jokes about it, saying I'm a hillbilly for dining out on the road."
“But it's only sensible and, as long as you know what you're doing, there's really no reason why you wouldn't."
A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.