Processing Your Own Deer

Posted: December 26, 2014 by gamegetterII in hunting
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The first thing you absolutely must do to insure great tasting venison is to quickly field dress your deer,being careful not to puncture the stomach or intestines,and prop the chest cavity open to help speed cooling. Do this even in cold weather,as the faster you cool the meat,the better the end product will be. Also be sure to remove the deers anal canal-they make a tool called Butt-Out that greatly simplifies the task-or just cut it out with your knife.

Carry a few gallon sized ziploc bags with you if you like the liver or heart,and place those in the bags,along with the two tenderloins that run along the deers backbone on the inside of the body cavity you made when you gutted the critter.

The second thing is you must either allow the deer to hang in a cold place-below 38 degrees,or skin and quarter the deer,and age it in a couple of coolers by placing the deer quarter in a plastic trash bag,filling the cooler part way with ice,then placing the bag of meat on the ice. You can also use game bags to age your venison, but most of us hunt deer close enough to home and/or a hunting camp that there is no need for game bags unless you live in the south,where flies and other insects are an issue. The only time I use game bags is when hunting the mountain west,where it can be several days before I get back to “civilization” and the meat must be hung in a tree to keep it away from bears,coyotes etc.

Having hunted and processed my own game for over 40 years,I have found that as long as the weather cooperates,I let my deer hang for 7 days,then skin and process it.

When I have to use the coolers and ice method-I give it 10 days before processing.

The third thing,and I’m only putting it as third,because it’s the third step-is at least as important as allowing the meat to cool quickly.

The third thing is you must remove every bit of fat from the venison,venison fat is one of,if not the nastiest tasting things I have ever tasted-and I have tasted some things that are pretty gross to most people-Haggis comes to mind,tripe,”mountain oysters”,raw clam cocktail that I demanded to order in a restaurant as a kid-and was told in no uncertain terms by my dad that if he was paying for it I was damn sure gonna eat it-almost puked on the table it was so nasty!

I’m not going to get into the hang your deer head up or head down argument-I hang mine head up,because I find it easier to butcher the deer that way, as I start with the neck and shoulders,which take more time to bone out than the hind quarters.

Skin the deer carefully,being careful not to cut through it except to split it at the neck and legs,and remove the meat from the tail. If you plan on tanning the hide-be extra careful to not leave any meat attached to it,as you will just have to remove it later.

If you shot a trophy that you plan on having mounted-leave about 6″ more hide on the head/neck, or neck shoulders if getting a shoulder mount than you think the taxidermist will need.

I start at the neck,removing the larger muscles ,saving them to grind. Next,I remove the “backstraps” which are really the loins that run along  and on either side of the spine-this is prime meat,use it for steaks. Start at the top of the backstrap just above the shoulder,run your knife along the backbone,going around each vertebrae,when you reach the end of the backstrap,take your knife,and run it along the bone from the other side of the loin-or you can cut so far on one side,then cut the same length on the other,and the loin will just peel away from the bone as you go, with minimal knife work. Either way works,just a matter of preference.

Next,I bone the shoulders out,separating the muscle groups,after that,the hind quarters,same thing,just remove the meat by muscle groups,there’s really nothing to it,it’s very easy to do.

Once I am at this point,I rinse all the meat to remove any stray hairs from it,then sit at a table to start cutting it into roasts,and chunks for stew and grinding.

You will notice as you begin to separate the muscles into roasts that there is a clear membrane-get all that off and toss it in the trash bucket you have next to the cutting table.

You will also notice a silvery colored “skin” covering parts of the muscles-this is called siverskin and is what makes the clumps of “gristle” you sometimes get in ground beef.Remove this with a boning knife or filet knife-carefully cut under it,then take your knife blade pointing away from the meat,and run it along the silverskin-repeat this until you have removed all of it.

As you trim your roasts,toss the larger chunks into a pile for stew meat,the smaller into another pile for ground meat. I sometimes grind one shoulder into ground meat,and will also grind the smaller roasts from the hindquarters as well-depends on how much ground meat you want to end up with.

One piece of advice-buy a good grinder-I have both a hand-crank that’s so old my great grandmother used it,and a 1 1/2 hp electric grinder I bought from Cabelas years ago.

The grinders will come with at least 2 plates that have holes in them-these determrine the size of the grind you get when you grind the meat.

Whichever type of grinder you use,always grind the meat,grind the fat,then mix the two together,then grind a second time. Ground venison is best when ground to a medium or coarse grind-we prefer coarse grind,so I use the same plate for all 3 steps. If you prefer a smaller grind,grind meaqt and fat with the larger plate,mix the two,then grind using a plate with smaller holes.

The roasts from the hindquarters are more tender,and look just like the same roasts cut from a beef cow. I’ll use the shoulder roasts for crockpot roasts,and the roasts from the hindquarters get treated the same as a high quality beef roast.

My wife likes to use the bags with the seasonings already in them,she puts potatoes,carrots a little celery and onion in the bag with the roast-cooks according to directions on package-and venison roasts made like that rock! Just had one for Christmas dinner.

I make jerky from a couple of the roasts,and all the trimmings from the hindquarters are used for stew meat if big enough pieces,or get tossed into the grind pile if small pieces.

To make the best tasting ground venison,you have to add some fat,what kind is up to you,some use pork fat,some use beef fat,some grind bacon into their ground venison.

I use beef fat,it’s readily available,even from today’s grocery stores that don’t really butcher meat,they just cut up boxed large cuts,and it’s inexpensive-I just paid $4.99 for 5# a couple weeks ago.

Beef fat makes ground venison taste more like ground beef-and it makes ass-kickin good burgers-just be careful not to overcook it!

Venison is best cooked to medium rare-if making your burgers inside-I use a cast iron skillet,get it nice and hot,then cook the ground venison burgers,lightly seasoned with just salt and pepper for about 3 minutes per side,flipping only once. Let the cooked burgers rest for a few minutes as you get your fixin’s ready,put it on the bun and enjoy-best burgers you’ll ever eat.

Those of you who like liver-yuck-venison liver cooks way faster than beef or calf liver-so you have to cook your onions halfway first. I’ll start the onions in one skillet,then dredge the liver pieces in flour that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper,and cook in a cast iron skillet that’s good and hot and has a 50/50 mix of butter and cooking oil in it-lightly brown the liver,when you turn the pieces over,add the onions from the other pan,the onions will finish cooking as the liver cooks-remove the liver pieces when browned,place on paper towels to drain any oil,then put on plates,and top with the now fully cooked onions-enjoy-the wife and kids won’t eat beef liver any more-they can’t wait for fall and that first venison liver now.

Hope that helps…

One other thing-expect to get about half of what your deer weighs after field dressed in meat when you process it-make sure you have freezer space already cleared when you start processing.

Any questions-just ask in the comments-or e-mail me




Do More PT !

It’s the holidays and you’re eating and drinking way more than you should-do some extra PT !

  1. gamegetterII says:

    Reblogged this on Starvin Larry and commented:

    Deer season’s coming soon-this is just basic info on butchering your own deer.


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