How to Butcher a Deer | Learn How to Properly Process a DeerGreg
I’m a butcher with over 20 years of experience and I butchered many different types of animals in my live. I learned that there is no one good way doing it, but you have to tailor every advise you get to your needs and circumstances. Depending if you are field dressing a deer, doing it at home or in a butcher shop, all these different aspects will affect the approach you take.
In this article, I would like to show you, how to butcher a deer in general with no specific focus where you want or need to do it. I would like you to take this advice and tailor it to your needs. I will cover all the most essential stuff, but if you still have any questions, please let me know.
To start, you are going to need the following tools for butchering:
• A deer hoist (with sufficient surrounding space) – If you could get this item to hand a deer, it will make your work much easier.
• Proper knife set – having a proper knife set is a must. You need different types of knives for different tasks such as meat processing knife, gut hook knife, skinning knife and a boning knife.
• A waterproof apron – to protect you from the blood and other dirt.
• Cut resistant gloves – To protect your hands from bones, knives and various types of cuts.
• A knife sharpener – Having a sharp knife will make your work much easier, faster and more accurate.
• A meat saw – To separate the bigger parts of the animal.
Step 1: Hanging a Deer
Hanging a deer in a traditional way using a rope requires some strength to carry the animal. If you’re suffering from problems that make carrying or pulling weighty objects difficult, then we recommend help for this stage.
However, this is not a must anymore. Simply by using a deer hoist. There are different types of a deer hoist. If you are a butcher, you probably have already some kind of set up to hang the animal. However, a few months ago I got a gift from my friend, which was a deer hoist hitch.
It is absolutely great tool if you are field dressing your animal. You can also load the animal into the truck using it and you don’t need much power at all.
All you need to do is to lift the deer off the ground so that it hangs. Preferably, legs should not be touching the ground. The neck of the deer should be at a height to allow comfortable cutting by you.
The video below shows, how easy and handy it is to hang an animal using this tool.
Step 2: Gutting a Deer
Lets move to gutting a deer process. The major part of gutting, as implied from the name, is pulling the intestines out.
We assumed that we are hanging a deer upside down. However, if you are field dressing you need turn the deer on its back so that the stomach face you. This will allow you maximum control when pulling the intestines out.
Make an incision from the ribcage at the sternum, all the way down to the deer’s buttocks. Make sure not to press too hard and not to cut the intestines. Cutting into the intestines will make pulling them out and a lot of mess. Learning, how to butcher a deer, involves minimizing clean-up efforts through the process.
The incision should be long enough to allow maximum exposure of the intestines. From there, you should commence pulling the intestines out, while using a small knife to cut membranes attaching the spine to the intestines. Cut with care, as to not damage the loins.
When pulling, it is best to start from the bottom up. This allows a process where you can linearly cut the nerve membranes (and some blood vessels), in an organized fashion. Just like with the pulling process, cutting the membranes occurs as you pull from the bottom to the top of the incision.
Keep performing this process until you reach the diaphragm, where you need to cut it. From there, after all membranes have been severed, you can pull the guts out of the body.
From there, you should cut the center of the pelvic bone using a bone saw to pull the colon out. This will also help loosen the legs, to make hanging the deer easier.
At this point, you will be left with the liver, lungs, and heart. Liver and heart are edible parts of the deer that you can use later. This is where you will need an ice cooler for the process if you are field dressing. It is an important part of the process of how to a store deer meat.
This video will show you, how to gut an animal in a clean and easy way. Some parts are done differently than my way, but it’s a great reference if the written instruction isn’t enough.
Step 3: Skinning a Deer
The best way to skin a deer is by keeping it on a hoist. When hoisted, you do not have to turn the deer over when taking the skin off.
The skinning process starts by the removal of hooves at the elbow joins. The knife is used to loosen the ligaments, where the hooves are removed by snapping them off.
From there, you can start with cutting the skin. Skinning begins from the back legs. This allows you to remove the skin efficiently. The motion you need to use is similar to undressing a diver’s suit.
When cutting, make sure that you do not pierce into abdominal tissues or muscles. You do not want hair to end up in these tissues, risking a contamination.
You will not actually make a knife incision throughout the body for the skinning process. After making a circular incision around the neck, you should peel the skin down with your hands to take it off.
Note that when peeling the skin off, you should do it slowly. This is to make sure that you are not dragging muscle tissue by accident. When pulling slowly, if you’re dragging muscle tissues, simply scrap it off with your knife. You should never allow muscle tissues to be torn during skinning. Keep skinning slowly until all body skin is removed.
After the skinning is complete, you’re going to perform a 2nd washing process with a hose. This time, it is to ensure that all hair left in the carcass is removed. This leads us to the next step, where you will begin to age the meat.
Have a look at this video. It’s also done a little bit differently than I normally skinning a deer, but it’s still good, fast and easy way.
Step 4: Aging Deer Meat
Aging deer meat is required for the breakdown of collagen in muscle tissue. This softens the meat texture and drastically improving the quality. This process requires controlled storage areas.
With aging, you should seek a spacious location that is cold. If you’re a butcher, your butcher shop should contain a cold space for the aging process.
The meat should be transported to the cooling location as soon as you can. This is to avoid spoiling the meat. Meanwhile, you should continue washing the carcass and letting it hang to allow the heat to diffuse. Do not wrap the meat as this could trap heat, causing the meat to spoil.
The maximum temperature for storage should be 3-4C. Anything above that will cause spoilage. Do not freeze the meat at this point.
The aging process of the meat should last for a minimum of 7 days. For maximum quality and softness, you can extend that to 3 weeks instead. Storage beyond the period of 7 days is a matter of your own business choices.
Step 5: Processing Deer Meat
After the aging period has finished, it is time to start processing the meat. Knowing, how to process a deer should be the most basic skill of every butcher. However, if you are not a butcher the next part will definitely help. Remember that if you have any specific questions you can let me know and I will more than happy to help;)
Processing deer meat involves 2 things. The first would be cutting up deer into parts. The second would be how to debone a deer and the parts of the meat.
You will start by cutting the deer in half. The half mark is the point where the rib cage meets the spine. Through this process, you will separate the front quarters and hind quarters for deboning. You will be cutting through the area where the rib cage touches the backbone, and then down through the spine. The incision should resemble a T shape.
After the incision, gently remove the tenderloins and back-straps from the backbones. Those are the softest parts of the meat, so you need to be careful there.
Next, you need to saw the ribs for separation. We recommend you cut the ribs down through the spine, which makes taking the meat off the bones easier.
From there, you can separate the shoulder and neck meat of the carcass as you wish. I recommend storing those aside, as they serve well for barbecues. Next, you will be separating the hock joints and hamstrings of the deer.
Considering that you will be cutting out the meat with this piece, we recommend you saw right through the piece. You can remove the bones after sawing off the joints from the hips. Alternatively, another way of deboning the deer hind quarter would be to cut around the hip sockets, and then detaching the meat from there.
At this point, you should have all the meat from the deer. The next step will be the storage process.
Step 6: Storing Deer Meat
Chopping at this stage is always a necessity. The focus on the chopping process is to make the meat storable in a freezer for daily use.
To prepare the meet for storage, you will need to remove cartilage, fats, and spoiled pieces using a knife. To store, you can use plastic boxes or storage bags.
How to store a deer meat really depends on what you want to use the meat for. If you’re selling this at a butchery, then this is a business decision for the most part.
If you’re a hunter who wants to know, how to freeze deer meat, then this will depend on what you want to use the meat for. Stews generally require you to chop the meat up to minute piece of sizes, allowing the meat to be stored in plastic boxes in the freezer.
And that’s it for the deer butchering process! Below, we’re just going to mention a few safety tips to consider before starting.
• Make sure you know how, to use the knife. A lot of handling around meat pieces is required for effective cutting. Also, you need to pick the correct knife, depending on what you cut (meat, bone, skin).
• Most of the dangers that comes when butchering a deer are in the hoisting process. Make sure that the deer won’t drop to the ground when cutting and gutting.
• Always wear gloves and an apron. This will cover you from injuries and getting dirty.