Deer Butchering Basics

Hunting is a process that only ends after you have taken your first forkful of venison, when the life of one animal has been sacrificed to sustain another. Aging and butchering meat is an important link in this ancient blood tie, and it is not as difficult as most hunters imagine. The following guide will help you make your first cuts.

[STEP 1] AGE THE MEAT Hanging your deer improves the flavor and tenderizes the meat. Ideally, it should hang for a week to 10 days at a temperature between 34 and 37 degrees, with the skin on, the back legs splayed, the chest propped open, and the head hanging down to drain blood. At higher temperatures of up to 45 degrees, remove the skin first and reduce the aging process to three to five days.

[STEP 2] SKIN AND CLEAN Skin out the deer, remove the head and legs at the first joints, and wipe off any hair, mold, or blood from the carcass with a vinegar-soaked cloth. Then transfer it to a clean work surface and cut the carcass in half between the last two ribs.

[STEP 3] BUTCHERING Follow a butchering manual or the illustration here to render cuts for the freezer. Use a knife with a thin, slightly flexible blade of 5 to 7 inches.

[STEP 4] WRAPPING IT UP Seal all cuts in plastic bags before double-wrapping them with freezer paper. Use the meat within a year (burger with suet added should be eaten within six months).

Tenderloin (Shish Kebab) Round (Steaks, Roasts) Rump (Roasts) Loin or Backstraps (Chops, Steaks) Shoulder (Roasts, Burger) Neck (Burger) Shank (Burger) Front Leg (Roasts, Burger) Ribs (Burger) Flank (Burger, Stews, Jerky) Shank (Burger, Stews)