Hunter: Do you want your wife to beg you to go hunting? Bring her home the most delicious meat she’s ever had, and she won’t mind that you disappear during hunting season.
How to Process Venison at Home
These pages will help you learn how to process venison at home. They include how to properly field dress your deer, and then how to butcher it yourself to yield the best cuts of meat. Even if you’ve been hunting for years, you may find a new trick here that will show you how to process venison at home in a much easier way that yields better meat—that was Rick’s experience when he first learned the techniques described in our videos. And if you have a special trick you use, share it with us!
Before you dive into the how to of processing venison at home, here is some background as to why it is so important to do it correctly.
The key elements to producing good meat for the table are:
- Cooling the meat as quickly as possible,
- Keeping the meat clean,
- Aging it properly, and
- Packaging and freezing well.
For a comparison, take a look at how processed beef arrives in the supermarket versus a hunter’s game.
Beef cows (not bulls) are walked up a shoot into an abattoir where they are quickly dispatched. The cow is then taken immediately to a climate-controlled room and gutted and skinned to cool quickly. The two sides of beef are split from each other and hung to age in a perfectly controlled, low-humidity, 40 degree cooler for a few days to weeks, depending on the grade of beef. Once the beef has aged appropriately, it is quartered and broken down into the cuts for the consumer. It is often shipped in a partially frozen state to be further processed at the supermarkets and packaged there. At the supermarkets, beef frequently has either carbon monoxide or additives applied to keep it looking “fresh.”
At every step, there are quality control measures in place to make sure the meat always tastes good. Although you are using different methods, the generally process is the same and if you keep quality in mind, you’ll have a good outcome.
The Challenges of Harvesting Venison
Here is a typical example of harvesting venison: You shoot the deer and it bolts, dying anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 hours later. You sit and wait, making sure the animal has plenty of time to expire so the deer doesn’t “jump” and run off again. You quickly field dress the deer in the woods and then drag it to the vehicle for transport home. Since most hunters don’t have walk in coolers available to them, you either hang the deer outside if it’s cool enough or take it to a processor. If it is late in the evening you may have to wait until the next day when the processor reopens. If the processor is closed on Sunday, it may be a two-day wait. In this scenario, the deer may go through 10 to 30 degree temperature change while waiting to be butchered. The deer is then butchered and wrapped in paper and put into the home freezer.
Challenges for hunters in this scenario are numerous. We don’t have climate controlled harvesting conditions, commercial freezers or butchers willing to stay open late as we get the deer out of the woods and to them. All of these factors impact how well the meat tastes.
Trophy Bucks and Good Eating
Also, many hunters are looking for that trophy buck. When they get a chance to shoot one, they let the animal sit for an extended time to make sure it expires—nothing is worse than the thought of losing that trophy. We are taught that it’s better to come back the next day if we’re unsure about the shot and find the deer then. That works out fine if all you want from the deer are antlers, but it doesn’t work out well for the quality of the meat.
How to Properly Harvest Deer
If you’re hunting to put good food on your family’s table, here is the right way to harvest deer.
Make absolutely sure when you take the shot, it will be a quick kill and easy recovery. If it’s warm out and you’re confident in your shot, wait 15 to 30 minutes to retrieve. If it is really cold out, you can wait longer. Quickly find your deer. It helps to hunt with a buddy so all the steps following the kill go faster. Remember, you want to cool the meat as quickly as possible. Once you find the animal, think about how you are going to get it to a vehicle. If you crossed streams or muddy bogs to find it, drag the deer back closer to the vehicle before gutting it. This keeps water and mud from entering the shot holes and into the deer, and keeping the meat lean and sanitary is important. If you have a cart, even better.
Tutorials on how to process venison at home
So, now you have an understanding of the importance of field dressing and taking care of the mat. Here are tutorials on how to process venison at home.