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Processing Your Own Deer

Posted on September 10, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Butchering Your Deer: 

The majority of hunters leave butchering deer up to the “experts” but we believe, that with some instruction, anyone can butcher their own deer. Butchering deer can be intimidating but after the first couple of times, it gets easier and easier. Let’s look at the proper steps to ensuring your harvested animal goes through the right process before ending up in your freezer. 

Field Preparation 

After killing a deer, it is important to field dress the harvested animal as soon as possible. Removing the entrails properly will ensure the meat does not become gamy and will allow the animal to start the cooling process. When the temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat will spoil quickly so it is important to dress the deer and get it to cooler temperatures as quick as you can. 

*This is where some folks like to skin deer while still warm. It is easier to do and it helps cool the meat down faster. 

While some other hunters like to keep the hide on to protect the meat while it hangs. 

Removing the Inner Loins 

When field dressing is complete, now is the time to remove the inner loins if you desire to eat them. This is the deer’s filet mignon and is the tenderest piece of meat you will get from the deer. The inner loin is around 12 inches in length and runs along the inside of the deer’s back bone, ending at the hips. Remove these loins in the field or they will dry out due to being exposed to the air.

 *Place them directly into freezer bags to protect them


The Aging Process 

After killing and field dressing the deer, it is time to age the meat. After a deer is killed, it goes into a rigor mortis state in which the muscles are contracted and stiff. Butchering deer while in this state will result in tough meat. After 24 hours or so, rigor mortis stops and the aging process begins. 

What temperature should you age meat in? 

Before butchering deer, the deer should be aged in temperatures between 32 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. This will let the deer’s natural enzymes break down the collagen while keeping rot causing bacteria dormant. If you do not have a walk in cooler, you can age deer by keeping it cool with ice or by quartering the deer and storing it in the refrigerator. You should age young deer at least two days while older deer should be aged between 5 and 7 days. Remember, the most important thing is to keep the meat between 32 and 42 degrees. Once aged, it’s time to start butchering deer. 

* We use and old refrigerator and put the quartered deer in there to age a bit. We have also used a large cooler and put frozen 2ltr bottles of water in with the quartered meat. Using bags of ice will water-down the meat and it will become saturated. 

“From: Shooting Time https://shootingtime.com/hunting/butchering-deer

 Boning Your Deer: 

Step 1: Get two large, clean pans or buckets. One is for meat we'll categorize as Good—the tougher, fattier, more sinewy portions that will become burger, sausage, jerky, stew meat, and pot roast. (See "The Cut Chart" above.) And the second for Best—the larger, leaner, tenderer cuts that make tasty steaks, dry roasts, and kabobs. 

Step 2: Detach the front legs: Grab a shank, pull it slightly away from the body, and start slicing between the leg and the rib cage. Continue cutting around the leg, eventually between the shoulder blade and the back. If your knife is sharp, you'll be shocked at how little attaches the front leg to the body. Repeat on the other side, and set both front legs aside. 

Step 3: Remove neck meat, brisket, and flank and toss into the Good pan. Since this will all be scrap meat, it's not important that you get it off in one nice piece. Hack it off as best as you can. (I know people who like neck roast. I just don't know what's wrong with them.) 

Step 4: Next, remove the backstraps. For each, cut two long slits from the rump to the base of the neck—one tight along the backbone, the other tight along the top of the ribs. Make a horizontal cut across these two slits at the base of the neck, and lift the backstrap while scraping along the bone beneath with your knife to collect as much meat as possible. Toss into the Best pan. 

Step 5: Take off the shank meat on each hind leg and add to the Good pan. On the rest of the hindquarter, natural seams of silver-skin run between large muscles. I find it easiest to first separate these muscles as much as possible by working wetted fingers into the seams. Then just cut the muscles off the bone to get clean, largely seamless hunks of meat, all of which goes in the Best pan. 

Step 6: Cut the shank meat from the front legs and toss into the Good pan. The upper portion of each front shoulder does have some reasonably ­sinew-​free meat that can be used for roasts or even steaks—just not very good roasts or steaks. I put this, as well as any remaining edible meat on the carcass, into the Good pan and use the best of it for stew meat and jerky 

“From Field and Stream https://www.fieldandstream.com/how-to-butcher-your-own-deer



*****************My Personal Preference of Processing Wild Game************** 

I use: 

3 or 4 Large Bins/ Bowls To sort the different cuts of meat. 

3 or 4 Cutting Boards -Plastic boards are cleaner and healthier for the meat but dulls your knife faster. I prefer wood cutting boards and clean with hot soapy water while letting them dry thoroughly before putting them away. Occasionally I spray the boards down with bleach water and let them air dry as well. 

3 or 4 boxes of Freezer Bags -Quart size works the best for our sized family. While we do use some gallon size freezer bags for the roasts. 

3 or 4 Different types of sharp knives different handles- I find that after a while using the same size knife handle tends to cause some stiffness and discomfort. So I switch it up. Also include a fillet knife for flexibility around bones, silver-skin and fat trimming. 

Knife Sharpener- Keep one handy as you will be needing to re-sharpen from time to time. We have the fancy electric one for the initial sharpening but also use the knife sharpening steel for in between touch ups.

 Bowl of hot soapy water- I don't use plastic gloves all though some folks do. I prefer to wash my hands throughout the process using lots of paper towels or old clean rags.

 To get started I make myself a drink or two and turn on some music to make the process a little more enjoyable. Hey, who says it has to be boring? 

Generally I do process a quarter of deer at a time. If it is slightly frozen, I like that the best. It makes a more firm easy cut. I try to read the meat and figure out which way the grain of the meat goes cutting in the opposite direction. That way the meat will be less tough. 

I try to make as many steak as possible while also saving a roast or two. I like the steaks thin for easier defrosting and quicker cooking.

Get out as much of the air as possible, no matter what you use for packaging. Like I mentioned earlier I use freezer bags. Trapped air is a key ingredient for having freezer burnt meat. 

I always cook a meal at the same time I am processing up the meat as well. A bite or two of fresh cooked venison while cutting up the meat, just goes together so nicely. Plus you are working up an appetite. 

Clean-up is a lot of hot soapy water on everything that can’t fit into the dishwasher. Reminder: Let wooden cutting boards dry thoroughly before putting them away.




Categories: Women Hunt Too, Country Life

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