How to Process a Deer

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You just harvested your first Deer so what do you do with it now? After you have properly tagged your deer you will be able to proceed to field dress the deer. Depending on the state you are in, some allow you to field dress the deer after tagging and before calling it in. Both Bucks and Does have a scent glands that needs to be removed. The sooner you remove these glands the better you meat will taste. Some people may not believe that the glands have no affect on the taste of your meat but, I have been around deer hunting for over 14 years now and it definitely makes a huge difference. These glands are located on the inside of the back leg just below the knee joint, you will be able to feel them. You MUST use a separate knife to cut these glands off with, then what you are going to use to field dress the deer with. Other wise you will contaminate the meat. Deer do urinate on these scent glands during rut and you don't want that on your meat. A very good detailed field dressing instructions can be found at:

You need to consider if you are wanting to get your deer mounted though before field dressing it! If you do, you don't want to cut all the way up on the chest. Part of this hide will be used to mount your trophy. Once you have gotten your deer field dressed you will want to take in account the weather. All meat needs to be kept under 40 degrees and deer meat is not an exception. If the weather is over 40 degrees you will want to take your deer to a processor so that it can be hung and cooled out. Even if you want to process the meat yourself. You have to keep the meat under 40 degrees or you can quarter the meat and place it inside coolers on ice but, it is best to let the deer hang from 2 to 4 days in a cooler. The longer you let your deer hang the more that its own natural body acids will begin to break down the meat and the more tender your meat will be. You don't want the deer to hang over 5 days though, other wise you will begin to see the meat start to rot.

If you have a garage and the weather is cool enough you can let the deer hang inside of your own garage. Which is what we do, unless it is too warm. We have done a lot of deer processing for ourselves and have come to the conclusion that if you leave the hide on and remove it when you begin to process your meat. The meat stays fresher and you don't have to cut off a whole lot of waste. There is catfish tenderloins in the deer that you will want to remove after you have gotten you deer hung to cool. Some people don't know about these. If you look on the inside of the body cavity, about in the middle of the back bone you will find these two small tenderloins. If you don't cut them out now they will not be any good to keep if you wait the few days of the cooling process. You will want to soak them in warm to hot water to bring out the blood that is in them. You can even add a little salt to the water if you choose. Then let them strain and you can wrap them in freezer paper, label them with date and what type of deer it was. For example when I harvest my deer and it was a doe. We will label it with my initials, date, what the meat is, and we will write "D" on the package as well to represent "Doe" This way if you harvest 4 to 5 deer in a short period of time like my husband and I do. We know exactly what meat it was and who got it. Which will look like this:
Catfish tend.

You will want to get a good book on deer processing Or you could just experiment your self. It is best to get a book. We always begin with the front legs and get steaks, stew meat, and roasts out of them. Then my husband removes the back straps which is your tenderloin and we either cut them into butterfly chops or just thin breakfast chops. Every one has a preference on how they want their meat cut. This is the benefit of doing it your self. You can cut it the way you like it. When it is all said and done after processing. We will have deer Burger, tenderloin, catfish tenderloin, roasts, steaks, stew meat, heart, liver, and on occasions have ribs. Which most of the time we just cut all of the meat from the ribs and put it into grind meat for deer Burger.

We like to soak our meat in pans of hot water, twice before we strain and package it. This helps to pull out the blood giving you meat a much better taste. You will want to change your water several times during this process. This also helps remove and hair left on the meat. I had a girlfriend that we had given some of our deer meat to. She had to call me and ask if it was "Deer". She said it tasted so much like "Beef".

For your Deer Burger you will want to get some pork fat to grind and mix in with your deer burger. Other wise you won't be able to hold the meat together while you cook it. You can get this at any local grocery store in the meat section, some have it available and already packaged up others you have to ask at the meat counter for.

As I stated before, you can see how to cut your deer into proper parts from a deer processing book. Its your preference to how you cut your meat and what you choose to have!

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