Great work! Your deer is down, and you’ve successfully field dressed it and loaded it in your vehicle. Now what? There is too much quality meat on a whitetail deer to let go to waste. Let’s take care of the whitetail deer meat properly, so we can ensure the meat is safe for our family’s consumption. With this out of the way, let’s talk about how to take care of your newly acquired venison.
Grunt, Snort-Wheeze, and Rattle this to your buddies!
Hanging deer is the best way to cool and drain your deer completely. Assuming it is cold enough, your deer can last for a good amount of time. If it is warmer, the meat will spoil sooner, so expediency is key here. Estimates vary based on many factors, but if the deer is hanging and it’s less than 50 degrees out, it should last for two or three days. If it is much colder than that, depending on other factors, the deer should last up to a week. Once this is done, you can take your deer to a professional butcher, or you can choose to process the whitetail on your own. If you take it to a butcher, be sure to keep the meat from getting contaminated when you transport the deer. If you’re processing the deer on your own, keep reading for more steps.
You decided to process the deer on your own. You are now in charge of the quality of the meat, so it is important to follow safe procedures. Next up on the procedure list is skinning. You can either skin the deer with the head hanging up or down. It is personal preference, but we will discuss head down, as it seems to be a little quicker to pull the hide off. To start, make circular incisions around the part of the leg that bends on both back legs. Then cut along the inside of the legs down to where you made your field dressing cut. Pull the skin (cut if it is needed) off the legs to the point where you can roll the hairy side of the skin under, then pull all the way down to the whitetail’s front shoulders. Use your knife to cut any muscle that is holding the skin and continue to pull the hide down to the throat. Once here, cut the deer’s head off and pull the hide the rest of the way off. Your whitetail is now skinned. Time to move on to collecting your meat.
Now that the deer is skinned, we can be nice and careful about this part of the process. Take your time and really pay attention to quality at this point. It’s important, as this is where what you do has a direct impact on your meat’s quality. To start, let’s begin with the shoulders and neck.
A lot of people will tell you they like to use shoulder and neck meat as “grinder meat”, to be used in chili, burgers, etc. To recover the meat from their shoulders, use your knife to cut parallel to the ribs, which will take you to the shoulder joint. It may help to pull out on the leg so you can see where to cut more easily. To remove neck meat from the deer, simply slice it off the deer’s neck bone. Now that you have shoulder and neck meat, we can move on.
These are one of the easier cuts of meat to make, because all you really need to do is cut along the spine. Cut the straps off the backbone of the deer and continue working your way down. At some point, you should be able to peel the rest of the backstrap off. These are big cuts of meat. It’s worth mentioning that there will be smaller areas of meat on the front half of the body, and if you’d like to, you can collect them as well. Now with the backstraps done, let’s keep going.
There are three muscle groups in the hindquarters that will be easy to obtain if you split them up: eye of round, bottom round, and rump roast. These all come off in a nice, big hunk of meat. Below the Achilles, cut down to the bone and cut all the meat off the pelvic bone and legs. With this hunk of meat off the deer, it’s easy to separate the muscles. Now you can recover any other “grinder meat” you want from the hindquarter area. Also, make sure to grab the sirloin off your deer. Cut parallel to the leg of the deer, starting at the knee and ending at the whitetail’s hip. Now that you’ve recovered the meat from your deer, you’re almost done.
This part is straightforward. Go over all your cuts of meat and cut any fat and tendons off them. Once this is done, it’s time to package your meat. Depending on your budget, and how much you care about the meat, there are different options here. The cheapest and easiest way to package meat is by putting it in freezer bags. Another option is to wrap in waxy freezer paper if you would like. Be sure to put the meat on the waxy side. You can put the meat in a plastic wrap before you seal it in freezer paper. If you really want to preserve the meat, you can vacuum seal it. Any way you decide to do it, you successfully processed your own deer.
It feels good to process your own deer and you deserve to enjoy that meat once you eat it. The time you took to process the deer on your own, will show in the quality of the meat. Every year you process your own deer, you will get better at it, and learn some tricks of your own. This fall when you harvest your trophy whitetail, you’ll be able to process it on your own.