You never knew wild game burgers could taste this good!

by Heath Wood

“Do you have any cold weather camouflage I can borrow?”

That was the question posed to me when I answered a late-night phone call from a cousin of mine. He was heading to Alaska to hunt caribou and needed some gear. I gathered a couple of sets and gave them to him the night before flying out.

I must admit I was jealous that he was getting to hunt one of my bucket list animals. Adding salt to the wound, a few days later I received a text message containing a photo of him with a nice bull caribou.

Since we are giving up confessions, I must say I used his borrowing of my camouflage clothing as a bribe to get a few packages of ground caribou burger upon his return. Through my obsession with cooking wild game on my Traeger pellet grill, I knew this would make a great meal to share with others.

Granted, relatively few people in the Lower 48 will have access to caribou. Not to worry! Any venison will substitute and is guaranteed to be delicious.

Smoked Jalapeño Caribou Burger Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground caribou
  • 3 medium-sized jalapeños
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons of Traeger Big Game Rub
  • Sliced provolone cheese
  • Jalapeño butter
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Large hamburger buns

For this cook, I elected to use the Traeger Grills Portable Ranger Grill. The Ranger is small enough to use at home, camping, or on-site at hunting camp, yet will still add incredible wood-fired smoke flavor to any meal.


Preheat the pellet smoker to 275 degrees using Traeger Big Game Blend pellets—a blend of natural flavors that pair perfectly with wild game. While the smoker is heating to the desired temperature, mix ingredients for the burgers.

In a large mixing bowl, mix ground meat with three medium-sized jalapeños that have been diced into small pieces. With glove hands or a wooden spoon, thoroughly mix the ground meat and jalapeños.

Mix in one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of ground black pepper, and three teaspoons of Traeger Big Game Rub in the same manner as the meat and jalapeños. (Traeger Big Game Rub is a mixture of chipotle, ginger, and lemongrass.)

After the ground meat, jalapeños, and seasonings are mixed thoroughly, form the desired size of patties. Place the patties onto the grill and cook for approximately an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal meat temperature reaches 140 degrees for a well-done burger. If you like burger medium, cook until the internal temperature is 130 degrees.

When the meat has reached the desired internal temperature, place one slice of provolone cheese on each patty. Once the cheese has melted, remove the cooked patties from the grill.

How to Serve

After the burgers have been cooked, it is time to assemble a burger that is full of flavor. I took a larger hamburger bun and spread each side with homemade jalapeño butter. This is a spread that consists of jalapenos, vinegar, sugar, flour, mustard, and water and it makes for a great sandwich spread that has a sweet jalapeño taste. After covering each bun, I toasted them in a hot skillet. This can also be accomplished on the pellet smoker.

Next, place two patties with the melted provolone cheese onto the bottom side of the hamburger bun. Then place one or two leaves of lettuce and two slices of tomato on top of the patties. Finally, spread one more teaspoon of jalapeño butter onto the top side of the bun, then top off the stack with the top bun and serve!

Caribou has a slight naturally sweet taste. When adding the diced jalapeños along with the sweet-tasting jalapeño butter (and any other condiments you may like), you will discover an incredible sweet heat taste that will please your wild game taste buds like no other.

Heath Wood has been published in many major hunting magazines, websites, and blogs for over the last 15 years. His favorite topics include deer, turkey, and predator hunting. Wood has also appeared on Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World TV, Hunters Specialties' The Stuff of Legends and the popular DVD series Cuttin' and Struttin', as well as the NWTF's Turkey Call TV. Heath enjoys helping introduce newcomers to hunting.

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