How Long Do You Hang Your Deer?

by Dave Hurteau

Last night, I had the best backstrap steak I've eaten in quite a while, which reminds me that I've been meaning to tell you about the doe I shot with my muzzleloader on the last weekend of our deer season. The temperature was in the 20s when I tagged the animal on December 18, and it stayed below freezing through Christmas. Which means my garage stayed just above freezing the whole time, allowing me to hang this deer longer than I'm typically able to.

No surprise, it made a big difference. The other two deer I killed this year each hung for a day or two and the meat is very good. No complaints. But I kept this doe hanging (skinned and head-down) for between 8 and 9 days (I butchered it little by little over the course of two days) and the meat is fantastic--unusually tender with a clean, mellow flavor.

I shot this deer in western New York while hunting with my friend Paulie, who put me in his best stand. (Where would we be without our friends?) While there, we drove past a meat pole loaded down with three or four deer, all hanging skin-on, heads-up. According to Paulie, they'd been there since the late-November gun opener. In other words, about a month--which included some unseasonably warm weather. I'm not sure I'd want to eat those deer.

So today's questions is: Assuming good conditions, how long do you hang your deer?