Whitetail Hunting photo

I just returned from speaking at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo. I’ve been going to these deer shows for a long time, and I learn something new each time. This year’s gem: How to be a better butcher, thanks to Kurt Heid.

Heid, owner of Heid Wild Game, has been a professional meat cutter for three decades, and he processes more than 400 big game animals annually. Maybe there are a handful of guys as fast and efficient, but they haven’t documented their prowess on video. In this YouTube clip, Heid bones out whitetail in a shade over eight minutes.

It’s an impressive demonstration and, according to Heid, something of an accident.

“I was just chatting with a friend, and he asked how long it took me to bone out a deer,” he told me. “I said, ‘I don’t know…15 minutes or less?’ My friend didn’t believe me, so we decided to film the process. That video now has like a million hits.”

Heid’s deer butchering seminar at the Expo–in which he cut a whole deer in front of the crowd–was a big hit, and his booth was busy with folks anxious to buy some of his knives, sharpening tools, curing mixes, and instructional videos. I’ve cut up my share of deer, but he taught me two new tricks I plan on using on my next deer:

1. Use a meat hook. Watch the video and see how Heid handles this tool. It not only grabs and holds slippery venison; it prevents cuts to your fingers.

2. Use but don’t overuse a sharpening steel. “Keeping a knife sharp means maintaining the right angle on blade,” he said. “But a rough steel can take an angle too far in a hurry. Just a couple of strokes with a smooth steel every few minutes keeps that edge sharp for a long time. Most pro meat cutters use one, but very few amateurs.”

If you get a chance to attend one of the upcoming Deer & Turkey Expos (there are four remaining: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Wisconsin), Heid will be there. Sitting in on his seminar is well worth it.