Hurteau: The Best Reason To Butcher Your Own Buck

I shot my first mule deer a couple years ago in Nebraska, and that buck tasted nasty. It stunk. I had to turn the backstraps into sausage just to choke them down, which is a sad, sad thing to have to do to backstraps.

This weekend, I had bottom-round steaks from the muley I shot a couple weeks ago in Wyoming, and it was excellent. So what made the difference?

You've probably heard, like I have, that a buck will taste sour if it was old, rutting, had a prolonged death, or any combination thereof. I'm not so sure. I've eaten sweet-tasting older bucks; sweet-tasting rutting bucks; sweet-tasting older, rutting bucks; sweet-tasting rutting bucks whose demise took longer than it should have and so on….

In fact, I can remember choking down only a couple truly awful-tasting bucks. Both of them, including the Nebraska muley, were taken to a processor. I'm not out to malign processors. Some do a great job. But on the other hand, every deer I've butchered myself, which is the vast majority, has tasted great--without exception.

If you ask me, the difference between my nasty first muley and my delicious second one is that I butchered the latter myself. Joe Arterburn of Cabelas brought everything I needed to cut the deer up on the tailgate of his truck, and I took the frozen meat home in this Coleman Soft-Side Rolling Cooler (cabelas.com), which worked great.

So what do you think? Does venison always taste better when you butcher it yourself?