The backstraps are the first cuts to come off. Long and lean, these muscles give a deer its ability to vault fences and twist out of the way of a slashing antler. I start at the hip, with a shallow cut close to the spine, working the blade along the bony processes, then deepen the cut to feel the knife tip bump along the sharp angle in the vertebral arch. When I move the incision out toward the flanks, the backstrap begins to sag away from the carcass under its own weight. At this point my foot starts tapping. This is my favorite cut of venison, and when it comes free of the deer, I hold 2 feet of lean meat draped across my palms. Trimmed of silverskin, this alone balances out the long sweaty drags and frigid mornings in a tree.