Everyone has their own reasons for hunting, ranging from the peace and tranquility of the outdoors, to the exhilaration of having that trophy of a lifetime 15 yards from you, along with many others I'm sure. I, like anyone else, enjoy holding an impressive set of antlers or having out-smarted that matriarch doe. I also enjoy the benefits After the harvest!
Venison is a very healthy and nutritious form of protein, and with proper game care after the harvest, it tastes pretty darn good as well! With proper game care you can ensure your family and friends can enjoy it as well.
Everyone has their own way of dressing, skinning, and processing their venison. Most traditional ways I have practiced as well, but a few years back while hunting with a friend he showed me a game care and processing routine I have practiced since. The taste of my venison changed drastically for the better. So much so, that friends and family (who previously have tried venison I had made and did not care for it) practically beg me to cook venison for them. My recipes have not changed, but the taste of the processed meat has. Below I describe the steps I take After the harvest! To follow this process you will need a sharp skinning knife, a sharp butchering knife, bone saw, an ice chest, 2 large lawn and leaf plastic trash bags ( I prefer the ones with draw strings), and plenty of bagged ice on hand as well.
Field Dressing: I only field dress deer now if I cannot quickly get the deer out of the field and hung up by myself, or if the animal was gut shot. This thought scares a lot of folks but timing is everything. If it is warm weather, 45 degrees or warmer, I give myself 30 minutes or less to have the animal hung and start my process. Below 45 degrees I give myself 90 minutes. If these time frames cannot be achieved I field dress the animal.
Hanging and Skinning: When I hang the deer to start this process I hang it by the rear legs and raise it just high enough to skin it. The process of skinning I am going to describe is assuming there is no intention of mounting the animal therefore caping is not required. I start the skinning process by cutting the skin all the way around the neck directly at the base of the head and then cut along the spine from the head to the tail. I then start the skinning process from the tail (you will need to cut around the anus all the way through the skin and meat), pulling and cutting the skin off all the way around the body, down to the head.
Quartering and Butchering: Once the skin is off I start cutting the animal up in large, appropriate chunks. First, I detach the head from the spine. I do this by cutting fully through the meat to the spine directly below the skull, and finishing with a bone saw to cut through the neck bone and then throw the head and hide away. I then start with the neck. With the head off I go to the other end of the neck and follow the same process to remove the neck as I did for the head. Put the neck in the ice chest. Next I cut the front legs off at the knees and throw them away. I then remove both front shoulders, this is done easily by grabbing the remainder of the leg and pulling it out away from the body of the animal. I start cutting underneath (what could be considered the arm pit), down and around following the scapula all the way around back to where I started cutting. Generally that ball joint gives way fairly easily, if not, cut away any tendons or ligaments that are holding the shoulder in place. Place shoulder in the ice chest and repeat that process for the other front shoulder. Now remove any and all fat from the animal. You will want to remove as much as you can as this fat is not like beef or pork fat. It will add a very gamey greasy taste to your meat. Next I remove the back straps. I start just below the rear hip and along the spine with my knife. I place my knife right along the side of the spine and penetrate as deep as the knife will go and gently slice all the way down along the spine towards the head end. Then go back to just below the back hip again, where I started the cut along the spine, and make an incision from the spine out along the hip to the edge of the back strap. From there I pull that end of the back strap out making small cuts as needed to remove the backstrap. Follow this all the way down towards the head end until backstrap is fully removed. Place backstrap in the ice chest then repeat for the other side. Next I start back towards the head end and remove any meat I can use for jerky or that can be ground up for hamburger or sausage. You will find you can cut a lot of meat off the rib cage and from the belly (belly meat is some of the most flavorful meat on the animal and the reason I try not to field dress the animal. If you field dress the animal you can still get some of this meat but not as much). When you start cutting the belly meat away the paunch and intestines should mostly fall down into the chest cavity, be sure to not puncture them. Put all that meat into the ice chest. You should now be able to easily access the inside tenderloins and remove them and put them in the ice chest. Next I take one of the lawn and leaf bags and put it over the carcass from the head end and pull it up as high as I can and tie it off using the draw strings. Now I start the hams. The hip joints can be tricky. I start back along the spine, cut as deep as I can all the way around the ball joint. I then pull the ham out and away and start cutting at the ligaments holding the ball joint together. There are videos online to show how to do this. Once the hams are off, I cut off the rear legs and put the hams in the ice chest. Now you can take the other lawn and leaf bag and put it around the other end of the carcass and tie it off, then dispose of properly. With all the useable meat in the ice chest, fully cover the meat with ice. I put as much ice as I can fit into the chest and close the lid. Each day I go out and drain the melted ice off and replenish the ice as needed. I do this for 5 - 7 days. Now I start cutting the meat up into steaks, chops, roasts, etc... removing all meat from bone and discarding the bone. When I am cutting the meat up, I just follow the muscle lines and cut them up as I want.
Why this works: This process works because the melting ice pulls large amounts of blood out of the meat which, in my opinion, is what gives the meat a gamy taste. Now this process does not remove all the blood from the meat but it does remove most of it.
Hunt Hard, Hunt Safe, and God Bless!