View Full Version : Skinning ... need some advice
February 8, 2001, 03:08 AM
I'm an inexperienced hunter, and had never skinned an animal.
Hoping for a mule deer or elk this year. In the meantime, I went rabbit hunting ...
I learned the skin comes off relatively easily, as I pull gently, and sever the membranes that attach it to the body. However, I tore the skin. And, it was a little confusing as to where to cut.
Any general advice on skinning critters? Once skinned, must the skin be immediately tanned, or can it be preserved some other way for awhile? Can something like rabbit skins be economically tanned by taxidermists, for possible use as a 'blanket'?
Thought I would learn a bit on rabbits, and work my way up ...
Thanks for your advice.
Regards from AZ
February 8, 2001, 09:56 AM
Hooee! Well, first off, there's field dressing--"Gutting" the deer. Ya gotta do that before you think about skinning.
I've done the whole deal with just a large pocket knife, but it's easier if you have a 4" (roughly) hunting knife, a very sharp pen knife, and some heavy-bladed something to split the pelvis bone. (I have used a rock on the back of a knife blade.)
There are scent glands on the rear hocks. Some folks cut these off, cutting away a sizable flap of skin. I quit doing this, with the idea that it gets musk on the knife blade. I've never had a problem with musk getting onto the meat, so I quit worrying about it.
I--very carefully!--split the skin somewhere along the stomach, being cautious that I don't penetrate any "innards". I make a split all the way up the neck, and all the way back to the genitals. This is where it gets a bit tricky for the first-timer.
Separate the genitals from the crotch, but DON'T cut the urethra. Cut the muscle across the inside of the pelvis. Skin around the anus, cutting enough meat that it and the poop-duct is free from the hams. Then, CAREFULLY split the pelvis. You can then lift out the genitals, urethra, bladder and all that "bad stuff" and not get urine on the meat of the hams.
Turn the deer on its side; stuff starts falling out. Little cutting is needed; you can pull stuff loose with your hand. Cut the diaphragm. Split the breastbone and go on up into neck muscle. At some point near the head, cut the windpipe.
That's pretty much it. I hang my deer head up; I find it easier to skin them, that way.
So now you're ready to peel 'em and eat 'em, yea, verily like unto a shrimp!
It's easiest with two people; less fatigue on the "pulling" hand. That is, one person pulls on the skin, while the other carefully cuts against the hide. You just work round and round and down. Once past the shoulders, you can pull the hide down to the hindquarters just like pulling off a glove. (For that matter, you can pull the hide off with a vehicle and rope, once past the shoulders.) The most important thing is that your knife have a sharp blade, and hold its edge--or have spare knives.
The most tender part of the whole deer is the pair of muscles lying alongside the spine inside the body cavity. The tenderloin, or "Tenders". (If you ever help a "dude" butcher out a deer, tell him that these are "poison sacs", and you'll dispose of the carcass so they won't poison the dogs. He's gone? Can't see? Hokay! Cut 'em out, stash 'em in the fridge, and have yummies for later! :D )
Hope this helps,
February 8, 2001, 11:52 AM
LMAO, poison sacks!!!! We took our idiot nieghbor hunting who "claimed" he used to hunt all the time back in the day. He also "claimed" he knew how to drive a 4-wheeler....anyways...somehow the idiot got one, and couldn't seem to "remember" how to clean it, though he'd done it soooo many times before:rolleyes: So we had to help him....we should've taken the "poison sacks" instead of butterflying them for him:(
February 8, 2001, 01:33 PM
Those backstraps (ribeyes) are poison too! Especially after you slice em real thin, soak them in a bowl of milk in the fridge for a day or 2, then season them good with good cajun powdered seasoning (preferably Tony Cacheries) and a little salt, then roll em in Zatarins fish fry and pop em in good hot cooking oil for a few minutes, or skip the fish fry and with only the Tony's on em pop em on a good hot grill for a few minutes! PULLEASEEEEEEEE posion me! :D
February 8, 2001, 09:06 PM
While searching for visual aids to help my daughter learn to care for her deer, I found this site.
It (the site) is a bit homegrown looking, but the info and pictures aren't bad. You might want to take a look at it.
February 8, 2001, 10:41 PM
I usually follow this routine: clean deer, dress him, then take his picture. The hardest part is getting the sportscoat over his legs, and picking just the right tie.
Seriously, these guys have I'm sure killed and cleaned a lot more deer than me, but one trick I learned early on is to place the meat in a cooler with plenty of ice. Let the ice drain over the meat (continue to periodically add more ice) for a full day. This will help to get a lot blood out and thereby reduce the gamey taste.
February 9, 2001, 12:53 AM
rock_jock: The deal about "gamey" taste has always sorta puzzled me. To me, deer just taste like deer. I've never noticed any difference in taste between a buck or doe, nor any objectionable flavor to the meat. Doggoned if I know.
Now, deer which feed heavily on the guajia of the Uvalde, Texas, area and on west around Del Rio, they'll be flavored like guajia. You can smell it in the meat when you butcher them.
CenTex whitetails and Davis Mountain mule deer, to me, just taste like deer--doggoned good!
February 9, 2001, 05:43 AM
know how u feel. My first hunt.
Invited and taken on the hunt. There I was given the rifle and taken out in a 4x4. The buck was chaosen and I was told 3rd one from the right. In front of me were at 30. Well I did shoot the right one (eventually after 4 attempts and a lot of shaking hands). The buck was loaded and taken back where the innards were removed. on leaving I was presented with the buck, skin and all. I asked what and how. "Its easy" say the experts "Loosen the skin in the stomach area and start pulling","Oh, if the skin sticks just cut the sinew with a sharp knife and carry on". 4 hours to skin and then cut the meat up for use,another 4 hours (our favourite use for game meat is biltong or what u call jerky). I had no holes and it didnt look that bad. Learnt the hardway and all this for a buck carcass that weighed 40kg.
Use a sharp knife with preferably a curved blade (skinner) this makes it much easier. After the skin is off sprinkle it with coarse salt (liberally) till ready to tan. Thats how we all do it, even when keeping a trophy while we hunting for preparation. They last longer and dont stink so quickly. Where we hunt in South Africa our tempretures reach up to 45 degrees celsius ( I think thats +100 Faranheit) and we have no problems keeping the skins and trophies for up to a week.
February 9, 2001, 11:11 AM
This is all excellent advice ... thank you very much. TFL is such a resource - ask a question like this, and you can get advice from all over the world. This is something that was inconceivable just a few years ago.
Anyone seen any good books as reference?
Thanks again, and take care.
Regards from AZ
February 9, 2001, 01:15 PM
I thinka rt is right...that "gamey" taste....that's the taste of "game." Alot of people who haven't eaten game all their life expect deer and elk to taste like steriod injected fertilized hormonally enhanced beef-cows, but it ain't so. For the most part, deer is deer, not really much of a difference between buck and doe, except for Rut-buck, which is stronger I've noticed. As far as deer tasting like what they eat...definately!! In idaho the muleys we shot had a sage flavor to them that was awesome.
February 9, 2001, 02:49 PM
The other "gamey" taste that I see down here is poorly prepared venison. (spoiled meat) My standard is the the animal is field dressed very quickly and the meat's on ice inside an hour. Too many cold early mornings here are followed by warm mid-mornings. I have seen slob hunters keep a deer in the back of the truck for several hours. :barf:
February 9, 2001, 04:19 PM
If you hunt in a place where you can drag your deer to a pickup truck and take it home, ignore this post.
If you have to pack your deer out, or are hunting elk/caribou whatever that are too heavy, then pay careful attention.
An Alaska Native taught me how to completely bone out an animal in the field and do it in oh, 20 minutes for a deer and a bit longer for a larger critter. You can get all the meat and save yourself the trouble of packing bone and hide and stuff that's going to be discarded.
1. Shoot a critter.
2. Do not gut the animal (yet). Instead, with the animal lying on its side, cut the hide down the backbone from head to tail. Peel the hide down the side of the animal - you'll have to make a couple of side cuts to the hide to do this but the places to do that will be obvious (Easier to do than explain...) The hide on a freshly dead warm critter will slide right off - a whole different deal than what you are used to.
3. When you have the entire front shoulder exposed, flex the joint to find the cutting point (it's deceptive) and then just "joint" the shoulder from the lower leg bone. From BEHIND the shoulder, simply wave your knife betwixt ribs and shoulder and the entire thing will come free. The shoulder bones are the only bones I carry out since it's a pain in the neck to get the meat off.
4. Now go back to the hindquarters. peel the hide down to at least the joint being careful that when you cut on the inside of the thigh that you don't pierce the body cavity. When you get the whole thing exposed you will see a white line that appears to run parallel to the thigh bone. This is where the muscle groups all meet and in fact that line runs exactly parallel to the bone. Cut along it to the bone and then cut around the bone freeing all the meat. You'll also have to cut it free at the top and bottom joints as well where the muscles attach. You'll likely find some of it attached to the hide on the inner thigh where you couldn't peel it down as well.
Easier to do than explain, but as you cut it free you'll find all the meat comes out in 2 or 3 large chunks.
5. Now do the backstraps. If you know how to fillet a fish this will only take a few seconds. From mid-neck run your knife along the back bone. You have to this by feel, allowing your knife to be guided along the vertebra (for some reason this is much easier to do from neck to tail rather than tail to neck). The point of the knife just touching the ribs while the blade slides along the vertebra.
I hope the description is clear - if the deer is lying on its side the knife will be parallel with the ground as you cut.
OK, now go back up and do the same thing on the opposite side of the backstrap - easier to do than describe but with your knife almost 180 degrees from the previous cut you will simply free the entire back strap in one 2 1/2 or 3 foot section.
You are basically done, or half done at this point. You'll see numerous little odd pieces of meat that you can cut free - do that but ignore the ribs for the moment. Flip the animal over and do the same thing on the other side.
At this point you have not yet cut into the interior of the animal. Your meat should be clean and relatively blood free - it's the blood and fluids and "gook" that can make game taste nasty.
So, anyway you have all the exterior meat (95% of the meat) and all that's left is the rib meat and the small filets along the backbone on the interior. Just cut out that meat and the liver, etc, and you are done.
This probably sounds complicated and difficult but once you do it, it's extremely easy. With a fresh warm critter, the hide slides right off and the meat is pliant and cuts like butter. Just try it once. You'll likely make a few mistakes the first time due to the difficulty of describing this. After that you'll be able to get all the meat off in 20 or 30 minutes - a snap.
The meat of the animal (minus bones, etc) only makes up 40% of the weight of an animal, so even a fairly large critter can be packed out in one trip. Your meat will be clean and sweet and free of hair and contamination from the gut etc.
February 9, 2001, 07:58 PM
Keith, you're absolutely right, but for one little thing: I wanna see you make that first backstrap cut and then get 180 degrees with your knife, for the next cut. :)
Something to think about: If you hunt by yourself in rough country, a deer doesn't have to be very big to be one heckuva problem. With a backpack and some plastic garbage bags, and following Keith's method, you can turn a 250-pound, live weight deer, into a quite manageable package to haul back a mile or six to a road.
Well, mostly manageable...
February 10, 2001, 01:31 PM
>>>>I wanna see you make that first backstrap cut and then get 180 degrees with your knife, <<<<
I said ALMOST 180 degrees<G>. Easy to demonstrate, difficult to articulate.
The native guy who showed me that went on to one more step which I chose not to emulate. He chopped out the rib cage, turned it upside down and used it as basket for the meat. He then took the pieces of hide and in about 30 seconds fashioned a back pack out of it which worked perfectly, if you don't mind blood draining down your back. He had a rain slicker on.
I just use a framepack but it was a pretty neat demonstration of how resourceful we shaved apes can be given the right circumstances.
I fished with this guy several times as well (he has since moved away) and he would never carry a knife. He could take two round stones and strike them together in such a way that a sharp curved edge would break off one the stones. They call this a "cobble" and it will filet a salmon as neatly as any knife.
February 10, 2001, 07:36 PM
Keith, know what you mean about the cobbles. A guy from Cuero, Texas, "Scooter" Cheatham, is extremely knowledgeable about flint-knapping and edible plants. He's a bow-hunter, and carries hardly any sort of gear with him in the field. He's always eating some sort of growie-nibblie, all day long as he goes across country. When he kills a deer, he just pops a couple of stones a few times until he has the right piece, and field-dresses the deer with the stone knife.
FWIW, I've found points and large shards around here which are wickedly sharp, even after several thousand years...
February 10, 2001, 09:22 PM
speaking of flint knapping, how did the indians know where to find flint? where does it occur naturally in the wild?? the mouth of streams? dried river beds?? I'd like to do some flint knapping, but it's expensive to buy, and usually only find small sporatic pieces. We have found some really awesome flint heads and knives in Idaho and colorado...It's awesome how fine they can tune them.
February 10, 2001, 09:49 PM
Hmmmm...you do know if you want said critter mounted you need to cape it out, right? I do basically what Keith described, but I cape it first.
February 10, 2001, 10:31 PM
I posted this over on freerepublic.com back in Nov.
That said I just finished skinning mine out and took it to be cut
up (processed) yesterday. I have a Marlin 30/30 that I have bagged
many deer with. It's a good little gun. My son uses it now. We went
up to the U.P. this year and I got a 3 pointer opening day. The
bullet entered the right shoulder and exited the left side of the
chest in front. It broke his shoulder blade and dropped him instantly
to the ground where he stood. The way I field dress a deer is to
get the carcass oriented so the head is uphill slightly. Then I
make a slit from the sternum to the back end. Stick the knife in
and cut a circle around the anus. Next cut the diaphram away from
the rib cage. Wear rubber gloves. Next reach up in the chest cavity
with knife in one hand and feeling for the windpipe in the other.
Cut the windpipe and then drag out the inards all in one piece.
This whole process takes about 5-10 minutes and you're done. I hang
mine up with the front feet over the head head first from a tree
and let any remaining blood drip out. skinning is a hard job to do
it right. When skinning I use a knife extremely sparingly. I make
a cut just through the skin from the sternum up to the neck and
then circle around the neck. Cut off the legs at a joint that is
about an inch below where the bulge that looks like the leg joint
is. This is hard to find if you have never done it before. This is
important so you can later hang it properly by the back legs. At
this point I am dome with the knife. I peel the hide off by pulling
on the hide and pushing my thumb in between the hide and the carcass.
It's hard work that takes an hour or more. But it's worth it. The
guy at the processing place I took mine to commented that I had a
very clean carcass. :) After the hide is off I flip it so it is
now hanging by the gambrel. Now I can cut the head off without
getting any loose hair on the carcass. I cut all the way around
the neck and then twist the head so the connecting neck bone tissue
breaks away. A last cut with the knife and the head is separated.
I have cut up my own meat in the past but taking it to someone who
knows how to cut and wrap meat and has all the right tools is the
best for me. I am very particular about who I take it to after
having had butchers that totally ruined my deer in the past. You
don't want "chops". Ask how they cut it up in detail. You want the
backstraps filleted out and cut into butterfly steaks. You want
the tenderloins removed and packaged whole. Have the loins cut up
into steaks or roasts as you choose. The rest can be cut up and
ground or left as stew meat. In any case you don't want any and I
mean any deer tallow left on anything. Deer tallow is gross tasting
and probably the reason why people say they don't like venison.
Venison without any fat on it is extremely good tasting meat.
As for skinning and tanning I highly recommend reading,
"Home Tanning & Leathercraft Simplified" by Kathy Kellog.
You're doing the right thing by asking questions and reading
before taking to the field.
[Edited by tlt on 02-11-2001 at 05:46 AM]
February 10, 2001, 10:38 PM
Also check this thread on this forum
Tan a squirrel hide?
February 11, 2001, 02:09 AM
Bad Medicine: The geologists and archeologists finally came to an agreement about the stone used in points. If it has been worked, it's "flint". Prior to being worked, just lying there like a sex stone (Don't ask. :D ), it's "chert".
So, check with any geologist in your area about the presence or location of chert in your area.
There are quite a few books and pamphlets on how to knapp flint. A good reference book for identification is Overstreet's "Indian Arrowheads". ISBN 0-380-79462-4; about $20. Not only identification by part of the country, but a range of values. (The values he puts to my Folsom and Firstview points are startling. You might be surprised at some of yours!)
February 11, 2001, 03:01 PM
If you kick stones around in any stream bed you'll find the type of material that local natives worked. Basically, any sort of shiny stone is what you're looking for - any stone that will chip off in leaves rather than just disintegrate. I have a lot of pieces that I've picked up here in kodiak and the favored material is a dull red stone that feels glassy. I've never tried to work it myself but you'll find worked pieces anywhere a stream mouth hits the sea - every one of those places was at least a summer fish camp if not a permanent village. Check the banks of streams near the ocean and you'll almost always find recently exposed tools and stuff like that. I found a beautiful slate ulu almost a foot wide hanging out of a stream bank once.
They used plain black slate for larger tools like big ulu's and stuff like that. They ground it down into the shape they needed rather than "knapped" it.
I haven't seen the really fine stone tools in Alaska that they have down south. The ones here are a bit crude compared to theirs. I think that's because the coastal people here used a lot of ivory, rather than stone. Probably the Athabascans in the interior have finer stone tools.
February 11, 2001, 03:05 PM
Ron, yeah - I'm a meat hunter and don't worry about keeping the cape. If you plan on mounting your kill, or you want to tan the hide in one piece, you'd need to rethink everything I said.
February 19, 2001, 10:19 PM
You can field dress deer with just about anything sharp, but for skinning and cutting/deboning you want a quality sharp knife with good belly (skinner style). You would do well to have a steel, diamond impregnated rod or ceramic sharpening stick hand ...or at least a strop. I high carbon blade or top quality stainless blade should nor need much atttention to finish skinning a deer.
A poor quality and/or dull knife makes things a real chore and is dangerous.
February 20, 2001, 08:29 AM
The only thing I can think to add to this is if you can get the animal hanging and ready to skin before rigor mortis sets in the hide will come off as easy as taking off a t-shirt
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