Hunting is a visceral experience. It puts you closer to nature than you’d normally be. Heart pumping, breath coming in short, and sweat running cold, you watch closely and wait for the opportune moment to pull the trigger, killing the hunted to give life to the hunter.
As with any endeavor, there is always room to refine your hunting. This article talks about how to process deer carcass, improve your hunting, and enjoy the meat post-processing.
Hunting is a mix of action and adventure. You'll walk the trails in search of a deer and get pumped up when you spot one.
It sounds easy and exciting, but only those who know what they're doing will get the thrill. If you always come home empty-handed after hours outdoors, something has to change. Consider these tips on your next deer hunting trip to add several kill points to your stats.
Find the core area.
Before you hunt, study the terrain and find the deer's fall range. Usually, it's within a 1,000-acre radius.
Locate water sources.
Deer often bed close to water sources for sustenance. So next time you go out for a hunt, narrow down the field by locating water sources within the fall area.
Reduce the suffering.
A skillful and ethical hunter kills deer instantly. However, there are more benefits to killing deer without making them suffer a lot. For one, the meat will be of better quality.
Aim for the organs that give and take life away instantly—the heart and the lungs. If a deer is facing sideways on your scope, aim somewhere behind the shoulder. That should penetrate the skin and go straight to the heart of the deer, killing it quickly.
Deer Down: Processing the Game
Shooting down the deer is only half of the hunt. Once the adrenaline wanes, you'll have to process the game. And if you've been hunting for some time, you know this part delivers a gritty kind of enjoyment.
To get every drop of fun in the processing games, learn advanced techniques to be efficient. Here are some tips.
Dressing a deer is a hunter’s ritual. Thus, you need to have utter respect for the carcass. This mindset and the tools below will help you execute the task with ease and finesse.
- A deer gutting knife
- Whetstone or honing steel
- Clean cloth or paper towels
- Sealable plastic bags
- Cooler with ice
- Surgical gloves
- Clean bottled water
Here are the things you should keep in mind as you do your field dressing.
- Start quickly. Doing it while the carcass is still warm will make the task easier. A deer antler hunting knife is a good alternative to a fixed-blade knife for gutting.
- Put on your surgical gloves before you start. Doing this ensures the bacteria and viruses from the deer won’t transfer to you.
- Remove all visible dirt and mess surrounding your fallen deer. Alternatively, transfer the deer into a clean area outside of the kill zone.
- Clean the deer of any blood, hair, urine, or fecal matter on the surface.
- Once you're done dressing the deer and removing the entrails, cool the carcass immediately. Bacteria can quickly grow when a carcass is exposed to a warm temperature.
- Keep the hide on the carcass before transport; it acts as a layer of protection and prevents any bacterial contamination of the meat.
Hunters have different ways to transport a deer carcass. From a straightforward back carry to a sophisticated deer rack, all methods serve one purpose: to carry the carcass with as little exposure to heat or dirt as possible.
Here are methods to move the carcass from field to vehicle with less effort and more care.
- Use a rope or a cord to tie the legs of the carcass together.
- Tie rope or cord around the neck of the carcass. Then, attach it to a tree branch or a steel bar so that you can drag the carcass across the ground.
- Get a sled to drag the deer if you can. However, if this is too inconvenient to carry, you can improvise by putting a clean blanket underneath the deer and holding each side of the blanket together with a rope. The blanket will protect the deer's hide from the ground and prevent any contamination.
- Avoid exposing your carcass to direct sunlight.
- Put the carcass where the air is circulating. A pickup truck is an ideal vehicle for transporting deer carcasses.
Skinning a deer can be painstaking. First, you have to separate the hide from the carcass while maintaining the integrity of both. Otherwise, it could affect the quality of the meat and the hide, both of which you can consume.
Here are some tips to make sure you’re skinning the deer the right way.
- Keep a sharp deer skinning knife as part of your hunting knife set. It keeps the tissue on the carcass intact. Also, having a separate tool for skinning prevents contamination due to repeated use of tools.
- Before skinning a deer, you can either hang it on its hind legs or lay it on its back on a table or bench. Between the two, you'll want to go with hanging.
- Keep your hands clean at all times; you’ll be using them more often than the knife.
- Use your fist to peel the skin from the carcass after the initial cuts from the skinning knife. Then, work your way toward the backbone.
Hanging is a critical part of processing the carcass. It could make or break the whole endeavor.
In 24 to 48 hours, the carcass muscles will undergo rigor mortis or the hardening of the flesh. Hanging prevents this from happening because the enzymes break down the muscle fibers, causing them to be tender and counteracting the natural stiffening caused by decay. Hang the meat at around 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kitchen Ready: Different Cuts of Deer Meat
Now that you've done all the hard work of processing meat, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Nothing is more satisfying than making that first cut with the best deer hunting knife at your disposal, be it a fixed blade or a folding blade. So here are the parts you should slice off and cook.
Neck and Flank
Filled with fat, the deer’s neck is the best for slow-cooking meals. It’s great if you're making a nice, thick broth. The flank meat, on the other hand, is a bit odd in shape and may be difficult to fit into some of the usual cuisines. Best try shredding or grinding this part for dishes such as patties, tacos, and other meals that have ground meat.
This part is one for steaks and barbecues. Season it, marinate it, grill it, or sear it. Let’s say you're a hunter who wants to enjoy his keep as quickly as possible. You can throw this in the grill, take out your best hunting knife, and slice a portion of the cooked meat. Then, pop a cold one and enjoy.
Great as steak meat, you can best enjoy tenderloin by searing it on a cast iron pan with some salt and pepper to taste. Slice the tender meat with your favorite survival knife, put it in your mouth, and just taste and feel its tender goodness.
Another part that is suitable for a good steak is the round. The cuts are large, and you can chop them into chunks for kebabs as well. A bowie knife with a clip-point blade may be a good tool to work on this meat after the initial cut from the carcass.
This part of the meat may be hard to process and debone. But it's also what's good about it. You may use a pocketknife in case you need to shave off some meat from this part. Its bone and meat are great for slow cooking and for soup and stew as well.
Shoulders and Rumps
The meat of the shoulders is always great for making stew and sausages. It's tasty enough, but it's not ideal for frying or grilling like the larger parts.
This part isn't as meaty, but ribs are one of the tastiest parts of deer carcass because of the bone itself. You can best use it for making soup. If you chance upon a good chunk of ribs with a lot of meat, savor it. It'll be a tasty one for sure.
Enjoy the Hunt Better with a Deer Hunting Knife
We hope the tips above help you become a better deer hunter not only in the hard work of hunting but also in enjoying what you've hunted to the fullest.
Integral to the processing of a deer is, of course, your knives. To improve your hunting game, it's best to know what hunting knives are suitable for you. You can find out more about knives from our blog.
Keep chasing the thrill of the hunt!