How To Butcher A Deer

Venison is very healthy meat; it is lower in fat and higher in protein than beef, and it's free if you are a hunter. After successfully harvesting a deer, many hunters take it to professional butcher shops, but if you know how to butcher a deer, it's not that difficult to do it yourself. Most hunters can properly butcher a deer themselves at home by following the right steps. By processing the deer yourself, you know that you are putting the freshest, highest quality meat in your freezer.

Once you know how to butcher a deer, you can process the meat into a variety of cuts. Steaks, roasts, hamburger, and even filet mignon can be prepared from the deer. We are going to take you through how to butcher a deer step-by-step so that you can enjoy the freshest venison possible.

How to Prepare a Deer for Butchering

Field DressingPreparing your deer for butchering begins in the field before you even bring it home. After harvesting your deer, the first thing you will need to do, after tagging it, is to field dress it. Field dressing should be done as soon as possible after shooting the deer to reduce any chance of bacteria spreading from any damaged internal organs. Also, be careful when cutting the belly skin. You don't want to accidentally puncture any of the guts since this will release bacteria from the stomach and intestines which will wind up on the meat.

Hanging the Deer

After you get your field dressed deer home, you need to hang it in an area where it can be raised high enough that the body isn't dragging on the ground. Using your knife, cut slits through the hide just below the back part of the knee of the hind legs, between the bone and the tendon. You are then able to hook the legs onto a gambrel, or a pole, making sure to securely fasten them with rope.

Let it Age

Then, using a pulley or another rope, pull your deer up high enough so that just the nose is touching the ground. This allows the blood to drain down out of the meat. Now, let the deer age at a temperature between 32 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 5 days, depending on the age of the deer. Older deer take longer to age than young ones. This is an excellent time to cut the tenderloin off the deer.

Why Butcher a Deer?

a plate of venison dish

Image Source: Pixabay.com

The fresher your deer is when it is butchered, the better it will taste. Professional butchers may need to process quite a few deer before they get to yours, and that means that the meat will lose flavor as it ages. While some aging is necessary, venison processed by a professional may wait in cold storage for a week or more. If you've never eaten venison that has just been cut, you are missing out on the best deer meat you'll ever taste.

Another reason to learn how to butcher a deer yourself is that you will be able to trim the meat as lean as you like. While venison is naturally lean, you can trim it to be nearly fat-free without sacrificing any of the flavor. Professional butchers do not have the time to trim your meat in that way. They have to get through yours so that they can get on to the next one.

How to Butcher a Deer

a plain brown deer skin

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Field DressingPreparing your deer for butchering begins in the field before you even bring it home. After harvesting your deer, the first thing you will need to do, after tagging it, is to field dress it. Field dressing should be done as soon as possible after shooting the deer to reduce any chance of bacteria spreading from any damaged internal organs. Also, be careful when cutting the belly skin. You don't want to accidentally puncture any of the guts since this will release bacteria from the stomach and intestines which will wind up on the meat.

Skinning the Deer

Starting on the inner thighs, cut up through the hide just until you reach the knees. Then, cut through the hide in a circle the whole way around both hind legs and pull the skin away from the meat. Be careful not to cut through the tendon, or your deer will fall. Once the skin is loosened, you can slowly pull it down toward the body.

Once the hind legs are skinned out, you will need to cut through the backbone at the tail. Continue pulling the hide down until you reach the front shoulders. Next, cut through the hide on the inside of the front legs from the shin up to the torso. You are then able to pull the hide the rest of the way off of the deer to the head. Once you reach the head, you can cut it off with a hacksaw.

Shoulders First

To begin cutting the meat, you first remove the front legs and shoulders. Pull the front leg away from the torso and use your knife to cut through the meat in the area where the leg meets the rib cage. Cut through and remove the leg, then do the same on the other side. Set the shoulders aside in a clean pan or on a piece of plastic to keep them from getting dirty. After you finish butchering the rest of the deer, you can cut the meat off the shoulders by cutting and pulling it away from the bone.

Neck and Flanks

After removing the shoulders, you can cut the meat off the neck, brisket, and flanks. Usually, this meat is turned into hamburger, so you don't have to worry about precise cutting. On the neck, work from the top of the neck down around the side to the windpipe. The brisket is the meat on the rib cage and can be cut off the bone. It's up to you how much to cut from between the rib bones. However, this meat is good for grinding into hamburger.

Back Straps

The back straps are the thick pieces of meat along the top edges of the backbone. To cut these off, you first need to cut the meat just in front of the hip bone down to the backbone on both sides. Then, cut the meat off the length of the backbone on either side all the way up to the neck. After you make this lengthwise cut, slowly pull the back strap away from the bone, using your knife to loosen it at as you go. This is some of the best meat on the deer, so try not to leave any behind.

Once the back straps are removed, and you've cleaned up the front end, saw the deer in half through the backbone just in front of the hind legs. You are now left with the hindquarters.

Hind Quarters

Start on the front of the leg at the knee and cut along the bone up to and along the hip. This section will give you excellent sirloin tips to enjoy. Make a similar cut from the rear portion of the leg to get roasts. The roasts are easily divided by the three distinct groups of muscle. Any smaller pieces of meat that are left can be used however you like. We recommend cubing the meat into chunks to make soup or stew.

Wrap and Freeze

Wrap your venison in freezer paper, or place in freezer bags. Be sure to clearly mark each package with the type of cut and the year. Wrapped properly, venison can last a year in the freezer. Don't forget to enjoy some for dinner, after all, it doesn't get any fresher than right when you butcher.

Conclusion

So, there you have it — a step-by-step guide on how to butcher a deer. It may not be the finest job the first time or two, but you will become more skilled at the process with practice. It's well worth the time, to know exactly where your meat is coming from and how it's been handled.

Now that you know how to butcher a deer, you will soon be enjoying the best tasting venison. And, let's not forget about the money you will save in professional butcher fees. Have a safe, successful hunt, and take the time to butcher your deer yourself. It really does taste better when you do.

Featured Image Source: Unsplash.com

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