You've harvested a big buck, and you are thinking that you won't have to shell out big bucks to have it butchered if you can learn how to process deer. If you enlist the help of a friend, you can process your own deer in a couple of hours. You can send the wife out shopping and be sitting around drinking celebratory beers by the time she arrives home. As an added bonus, if you process your own deer, you can enjoy a tasty venison steak a lot sooner than if you waited for the processing company to do it for you.
To process deer, you will need:
- A sharp knife and sharpener
- Cutting board
- Butcher paper and freezer tape (Or freezer bags)
- A permanent marker
- A big trash can
- Running water
- A flat surface for wrapping
- A storage container for meat that is going to be ground
- (Optional) A meat grinder
- Keep your deer cool and dry at all times. After the deer has been field dressed, it is preferable to hang it overnight, head down, to allow it to drain. If the temperature is above 40 degrees, you will need to get the deer cooled down quickly and hanging it overnight may not be an option.
- To process deer, hang it from a tree or tripod and begin removing the skin from the neck down. Try to keep the hide in one piece as you pull it down. A sharp skinning knife is essential to slide under the skin and loosen it from the meat. When the skin has been pulled down past the knee joints, use the saw to cut the leg bones off. Hose off your deer and look it over carefully for pieces of hide or hairs. Remove anything inedible, like excess fat or damaged meat.
- Remove the meat along the back bone and save those loins for the very best venison steaks. Remove the hindquarter meat and cut it up for roasts and steaks. The front and neck meat is usually ground, along with the rest of the edible scraps, although neck meat can make a good roast if the deer is not too gamey.
- As the meat is removed, wrap it twice in butcher paper or place it in freezer-quality bags. This is where the friend comes in handy, wrapping and labeling the meat. Dating the packages and labeling them with the cuts helps ensure that your harvest does not go to waste. Depending on how long it will take you to eat the deer, freezer burn may become an issue. The two layers of butcher paper hold up better over time than a freezer bag.
- Grind the remaining meat to make venison hamburger. The ground meat can also be made into sausage, often a summer sausage that is good to eat cold and take along on your next hunting trip. If you do not have a grinder, most butcher shops will make the ground meat and sausage for you. You will still have saved a bundle on all the pounds of steaks and roasts you have processed from your deer.