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[12/08/08]

Is it bad to age the deer after it is skinned? What would be the negative effects of this and how long can I leave it. It has consistently been ~37 degrees in my garage... The doe is this years and has been well fed on corn, among other browse. Thanks for the response! [Dave]

I know that some people like to age their deer with the hide removed. They claim that the hide imparts a 'gamey' flavor. I don't subscribe to this belief. If the temperature stays low at all times, there shouldn't be a problem with aging without the hide, but read on.

One of the best things the hide does is it insulates the carcass, so when temperatures fluctuate throughout the day - say 15 F. to 50 F. - the meat stays cool but won't freeze. Without the hide, you are subjecting the meat to uncomfortably high temperatures during the day and freezing at night.

Without the hide, the meat will dry out a little. The hide also protects the carcass from dirt, bacteria, smoke, auto fumes, etc., and from any hungry animals that might get in the garage or barn. Sometimes when aging meat, any meat, it can form mold on the outside. Country-cured hams do this all the time. The mold is not a problem because it forms only on those areas exposed to the air, so it is easy to remove. With no hide, the mold could form over the entire animal. You will loose a LOT of meat from cleaning off that much mold. To me, there is only one advantage to taking the hide off early, and that is that is it physically easier to do. But, this only works while the animal is still warm, which means that you'd pretty much have to skin it immediately after field dressing it. Then, you risk contaminating the meat during transport.

No, BY FAR, it is best to keep the hide on until you are ready to butcher the animal, With a clean chest shot and a clean field dress, and at 37 deg. F., I'd probably age the carcass 10-14 days, but if the hide has already been removed, I'd butcher the animal at my earliest convenience.

 

[12/06/08]

I've just butchered 2 deer with the help of your site. I only have a couple of questions regarding Jerky. I've read and heard that you should freeze the meat for a period of time before making jerky. I've heard anywhere's from 30 days to a year to kill any parasites that may be in the meat and/or make it more tender. What's your opinion? I'm using solid strips, not chopped meat. I use different recipe's for beef jerky, one of them includes marinating overnight with 4 shots of Crown Royal and misc. spices per lb of meat. I figure at least this recipe should kill whatever parasites are present. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. [Brent]

Short of CWD or some other bizarre disease, you shouldn't have to worry at all about parasites (e.g.. trichinosis), etc. I have been eating medium rare and rare venison for 40 years. Your biggest concern would be e-coli or fecal coli forms, and that's only if you breached the intestines, and then got it all over the meat - not too easy to do. If I had to, I'd have no problems eating my venison raw, yes raw. I just like it better somewhat cooked.

I went to a cooking class today, and the chef/instructor told us that any nasties such as salmonella, etc. are killed somewhere in the 140-150 deg. F. range. This affirms by long-time understanding that everything will be killed at 147 deg. F. Because it's best, I try never to cook any venison beyond 150 deg. F., preferably 145 deg. F.

I make jerky in my dehydrator. It has a setting for meats that is at 155 deg. F. After a few hours this is more than sufficient to kill any bugs, which probably are not there in the first place.

Freezing won't kill bacteria or parasites. I make jerky from both fresh and frozen meat. I've never made jerky from ground meat, always whole strips. I don't have the equipment.

Your recipe sounds good. I wouldn't worry about such "biological hazards." Just make your jerky as you see fit, and enjoy God's manna from heaven.

 

[12/06/08]

I'm aging three deer and have a concern about temperature. The deer are hanging in my barn and the temperature is getting down below freezing and staying there. The longest deer has been hanging for 5 days now and I can still tell it is not frozen yet. Can I still use the deer if it freezes?

Great site! Much Thanks [Mark] from Ohio

Yes, you can still use the deer. A problem with temperatures below freezing is that the bio-chemical processes (i.e. decay) on which we rely for proper aging, are dramatically slowed. You want the cell structures to break down. If the meat is not frozen yet, aging will still take place, it just may be very slow.

There is one practical advantage to such cold temperatures. When you have three animals, that's a lot of work. You don't have to rush rush rush to butcher them all in a timely manner. Near freezing temps are much more forgiving of waiting to butcher. I suggest you butcher the smallest animal now. Hopefully, it's very small. Then next weekend, butcher the next largest, and if the temps remain cold, butcher the largest in two weeks from now. That's a long time to wait, but if it's as cold as you say it is, it should be just fine. Of course with such long hanging times, you'll want to age the deer with the hide on to prevent excessive desiccation.

The problem will be if any of the animals freeze. This has happened to me more than once, and I had to drape the animal in a tarp, then place a space heater inside. It took a full day to thaw, allowing me to butcher it.

Be careful if temps take a sudden and prolonged jump upward. You may have to do a marathon butchering session. Good job on the three deer, and good luck.

 

[11/26/08]

What should I have for butchering the deer. Like, what kind of knives, saws, cutting boards, etc. I have just got my first deer and I'm learning how to butcher it and plan on making something out of the hide. So please give me any advice if you want. Thank you, Nicholas

I like two use two knives when butchering a deer. I use my hunting knife (which is about 4 inches long) for cutting the tough tissue and for doing rough work. I use a Chicago Cutlery steak knife for the fine detail work.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a SHARP KNIFE, especially for the detail work. A sharp knife speeds the job of butchering and is safer because it gives you more control. You will need to periodically touch-up the edge on your knives while butchering. If you don't know how to sharpen a knife on a whetstone, ceramic or leather strap, you might be able to find a sharpening system that makes it easier. I know there are some electric ones, but they are pretty expensive for the ones that do a good job.

I like to use a circular saw to cut off the legs at the joints. This makes the legs easier to handle. I've also used band saws and hack saws to cut the legs. My cutting board is glass, but glass is very hard on your knives. I like wood the best. Plastic is best for controlling cross-contamination, which I don't worry about because my venison is not contaminated. Coated butcher paper is way better than non-coated.

I send my hides to WB Place in Hartford, WI to be tanned. They send them back to me several months later. It's pretty expensive. If you have more motivation than I, you might consider buying a home tanning kit, and doing it yourself.  Hope this helps.

 

[11/17/08]

Your site is top notch! I have it bookmarked and each year, just before the hunt, I review the field dressing section. It helps me center my thoughts when I'm out in the cold and wet. I just finished a small doe my husband shot this afternoon. I realized, again, that I just have to get a smaller knife for the smaller animals. You can't safely stick your Buck knife in the chest cavity to cut away the diaphragm and connective tissue.
I like to harvest young, small deer. We hunt for the freezer, not the wall. On a young, tender doe, every cut is steak! I don't grind anything. Even the shanks are good. I strip them from the bone and chunk the meat for stew or stir-fry.
Anyhow, just wanted to thank you for the work you did putting this site up. It's very helpful every year. Even if you know what you are doing out in the field, a little refresher before you start is best. Regards from Michigan: Jaye

So, your husband shoots the deer, and you dress it and butcher it. How does that work? I'd say he owes you big, maybe some jewelry.
Although I've shot wall hangers, we too prefer grocery shopping. My favorite animal for meat is a 1 or 2 year old dry doe. The meat is still pretty tender, especially with aging, but the quantity is also respectable. I agree that a yearling - what I affectionately refer to as a 'dog,' is by far the best eating. Last year my dad gave me a 'dog' he shot. I aged the carcass for two weeks, and I made steaks out of all the roasts. They were, of course, to die for.
Thanks for the note. I'm glad that you find my web site useful.

 

[11/10/08]
Hi, Congratulation for your website it's very instructive and all-interesting. I'm from Quebec and I live in Alberta Great Help Thanks ! I will be deer Hunting for the First time very soon. I just Never got around to it but I will be shooting a bow again after many years so, This is my chance. I'm getting my wife a Bow too. We both love Tracking and stalking and Have found Many Critters! Question, What about cooking the Ribs ? We love to grill meat so I will be cooking everything, maybe. Also, Is there any problem with the bones or connective tissues for our Dogs ? Thanks for the Great site, Looking Forward to our next hunt. Thanks, Aubrey and Danita Cave Junction, Oregon

Aubrey,

You are lucky to have a wife that likes to do this sort of thing.

I've never tried cooking the ribs because there is not much meat there. I have heard of people doing it though. My biggest concern is this. When aging the animal, any flesh directly exposed to the air gets oxidized (brown color). If you don't plan on aging your animal, this doesn't apply, of course. My biggest concern is if the animal was gut shot or the bowls were perforated during field dressing, the ribs will be among the first things to get contaminated. Also, sometimes when aging, mold can form on the exposed parts of the carcass. This is not a bad thing. It happens to country aged hams all the time. The problem is that you'll have to cut the mold off which may be hard to do if it forms on the ribs in the body cavity.

I know that it can be dangerous to feed chicken bones to a dog because the bones can splinter. This is not the case with deer bones. What dog wouldnt love a femur or tibia to munch on. The ranch where I hunt in western South Dakota has many dogs. We often let them feed on the gut sack which includes mesentery, fat, etc. They love it!!!

Good luck with bow hunting, and remember, ladies first.

[08/07/07]
Hi, Congratulation for your website it's very instructive and all-interesting. I'm from Quebec and I live in Alberta since one year, I discovered your website last fall when I'm looking how butchering my deer. My question is "Do you use the same process to butchering a moose?" Thanks.
Alain (QB)
Both deer and moose belong to the Cervidae Family, making them very similar. The muscles and bone structure are very similar, with the moose simply being larger. Butchering and deboning the animal should be very much the same. I would think the main difference would be with how the animal is aged. Moose hunting is typically early compared to deer hunting. This means you may have to get creative to find a way to keep the temperature suitable for aging (33-35 deg F - 1-3 deg C). Moose, like elk, benefit greatly from aging. See Moose_game_care for expert detail on processing moose. Good luck. I hope you have great success out in the bush.

[06/29/07]
Thanks to your pages, I butchered my first deer today and I must say everything went perfectly well. You explanations are so clear that it was real fun to just follow your instructions and all meat came out with really no effort at all. Thanks to you!
H. from Europe
Very cool! Deer hunting in the summer is a surprise to me. I hope you enjoy the venison. Be careful to not over-cook the meat. Even if you like beef medium or medium-well, you should still cook venison to 145-150 F (63-66 C).

[01/07/07]
I live in Mesa, AZ and around here it's hard to find a good honest processor for deer and elk. This year I harvested a fairly nice size elk after skinning, gutting and quartering my elk it weighed at 350 lbs. The processor I used gave me back 220 lbs of boneless meat which there was at least 100 lbs of hamburger. Does this sound like a fair amount of meat to you? also is it common to be charged for the gross weight or the meat you get back? Thanks,
Dave C.
I must confess; I've never shot, field dressed, or butchered an elk, but the ratios you gave me make good sense for a deer, which is of course a similar animal, except for size. I've never been charged for gross weight for butchering. It is always per net pound. I guess the way to look at it is to convert the price you paid to price per net pound, then compare it to other processors who charge per net pound. In any case, I hope you enjoy your elk.
If all goes as hoped I'll get an elk tag this year, bow OR rifle, bull OR cow, I don't care. I'll take whatever I can get. Elk is great eats.

 

[12/29/06]
Thank you so much! I am new to this. I harvested my first deer a couple of days ago! I received enormous help from your site on butchering the deer. I'm looking forward to trying your recipes. Why don't you put this all in a book and sell it on your web site? I'd buy it.
Joe O.
Thanks, and HUGE congratulations on the first of what I hope is many deer. I'm glad the site helps. I have thought about selling it. I am as much a free-market purist as anyone. If you can make money at something, more power to you. Maybe someday I'll put a Paypal link on the site for donations, but for now some good things should be free.

[12/18/06]
Your site is excellent! Thank you so much!
In order to understand the joy my partner gets out of this and to understand what he is talking about I think this is bet best site and easy to understand there is, I need to know the a to z of butchering and cooking deer, thank you.
Sandra in NC
Thanks. It's a rare thing for most people to really SEE from where their food comes. Your partner is lucky to have someone who wants to understand this hunting thing. Before I met the woman who was to become my wife, I told her "I HUNT," this meaning, be prepared because you will not see me much of the time during the month of November. I'm very lucky in that she not only likes deer meat, but I'm almost required to bring home at least three deer each year for the family. I actually feel pressure to 'bring home the bacon.' This year I brought four deer home, so she was happy.

[12/13/06]
Your site is excellent! Thank you so much!
Sir I must say this has to be the best site I have read for hunting/butchering.

I used to hunt with my father 14yrs ago and then the family split and I lost out on hunting. I have never lost touch of being in the woods but due to schooling I haven't been able to get out. June I should graduate college, So this means I should get to hunt next session.

I will be using your site to guide me through the process because I have never been taught anything past the cleaning stage. I will be getting an all-round rifle, hopefully Remington 700 7mm SPS DM plus I am hoping to get into reloading as well as every possible way to hunt (Bow, muzzle, rifle)

I live in Ontario and will be taking advantage of hunting Moose, Deer, Elk, Maybe even bear.

Sorry for taking up your time, I miss the hunt and reading your site just makes me want to go even more. Nice family by the way.

Keep up the good work, look forward for more information or ideas.

Steve L.
I was in the same boat when I was in college. Let us know how that Moose and Elk bow hunting goes.

[12/01/06]
Your site is excellent! Thank you so much!
I've tried to butcher a few deer in the past and that's what I've pretty much accomplished. You're site really is the best one I could find on the net and has really helped my cutting. I can't say that my cuts look like they're from the supermarket but thanks to you I'm well on my way. I have a much better concept of what's what and what goes where. Thank-you!
Jimmylegs
Thanks. I'm glad to hear that this site is helping. I've received a lot of comments like yours. My main motivation for doing the site was because 20 years ago I was in the same boat as you. I couldn't find any good resources for butchering. I made a lot of mistakes until I knew enough to make a web site. Good Luck.

[11/30/06]
Your site is excellent! Thank you so much!
This afternoon, I set up my laptop in the shop and accessed the Deboning pages while I butchered a deer my brother shot for me last week. Last year, I did the same while butchering a 7 Point he shot. In the past, he took the deer to a processor, which cost me $50 and I wound up with a freezer full of ground venison and cube steak. I was determined to debone deer on my own to get the cuts of meat I wanted. I wrap the meat with freezer paper, weigh and label it and place in the freezer in freezer bags overnight. The following day, I remove it from the bags and vacuum seal it. Stays fresh and doesn't get freezer burn.
I could never have done this without your awesome photos and explanations. I am truly grateful to you for sharing this information!
Thanks again!
Beth R.
It's fun to do your own deer isn't it?  I'm only too glad to help.  Vacuum packing, and weighing, nice idea. Sometimes, I vacuum pack the tenderloins, but with two to four deer each year, I'd go through a lot of vacuum bags.
P.S. I hope your laptop is blood resistant. :-)

[11/30/06]
Jonathan,

Great site!

It is great to see three generations hunting together. What a wonderful legacy to leave your children.

You have a very informative site and, I thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.

As I live in Indiana I can only dream of hunting with a .270 mag. but, this year I am using a smokeless muzzleloader with fine results.

Keep up the good work and remember, your kids will cherish these times always. Kudos!

Sincerely,

Mike S.
Thanks very much. I like talking about hunting. It's interesting that you alluded to shotgun hunting for deer. When I lived in Wisconsin, I was required to use a shotgun. To a South Dakotan, hunting deer with a shotgun is totally foreign. The only opportunity I had was with a small buck at about 80 yds. With my 270, this would have been less than a chip shot, more like a tap-in putt. I lobbed three or four slugs at the animal, but I have no idea how far off the rounds were. Getting skunked three years in a row was a great blessing in disguise. It was just the motivation I needed to take up bow hunting. My success rate increased just a bit. After that, I took a deer three years in a row with my bow.
This year (2006), I took three deer, one at 294 yd. and one at 350 yd., with my 270, and a running shot (quartering away from me) at 350 yds, with my 243. Except for the running shot, this is pretty typical around here. A shotgun would not work very well. I understand the restriction to use shotguns in more populated areas. I'm glad that we can still use rifles. Western South Dakota is open to non-resident hunting. Many units have two-tag licenses, and there is a lot of quality land open to the public. You should give it a try sometime.

[11/15/06]
Nice site. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge. I was glad to have your insight.
Rhys

Thanks. Just giving a little something back.

[11/13/06]
I just wanted to let you know that this is the most informative site that I have seen on the process involved with killing a deer from the kill to the freezer. Great job!! I will be using this info as I have two deer hanging and will hopefully have two more tomorrow. Again, great site. One question: Some people say to hang the deer for up to a week and others say from 7-14 days. After a week, is there really a difference in the tenderness of the meat for an average deer??
Trevor W.
Thanks for the compliment. I think there IS a difference, under just the right conditions. The time I spend aging a deer depends greatly on the ambient temperature. If the temp. within the carcass stays consistently below about 36 degrees, aging for two weeks is perfect. Note: if the meat freezes solid, proper aging doesn't take place. If the temperature is warmer than that, you may have to shorten the aging time. Last week I shot two deer, and the temps were high 30's at night and high 60's at day, which is WAY TOO WARM. So, I aged them for only 4 days. The only reason I was able to age them as long as I did was that I used ice on the hind quarters and in the chest cavity to keep the meat cool. The problem with this is that it creates a moist environment which helps bacteria. Cold is good; moist is bad. It's a balancing act.

Overall, I have found that it is definitely better if you can age the meat for two weeks at an ideal temperature (33-35) than for one week at warmer temperatures. One way to test the aging process is to stick your nose in the carcass, and sniff. Do this a couple times each day starting with the day you hang the animals. Try to note any change in the scent of the meat. During normal aging, you should smell only the smell of the deer. If the smell starts to get a little sour or pungent, you've probably gone too far. That's OK. Do not age it any longer; butcher it right away. Just make sure that you remove all dark, oxidized meat before packaging it.

If you've ever seen a high-quality Martha Washington ham, you may have been put-off a little. They are aged for months, and often have a layer of mold on the outside. This is, of course, removed before cooking and eating. A good Martha Washington ham is expensive, but it is to die for. One of the best-aged deer I did was a small doe that I aged for two weeks at slightly above ideal temperatures. It actually started to form a thin layer of the very same kind of mold that appears on a Martha Washington ham. I simply removed it during the butcher process, but I didnt tell my wife about the mold. She wouldn't understand. Such long aging was safe because I did the sniff test. Never did the carcass smell bad.

Don't age your deer if it was gut-shot or if you perforated the bowels during field dressing.