View Full Version : Proper care of killed Deer

September 5, 2009, 12:13 PM
Like to hear about the various methods used after gutting the animal to the table.Seems to be many ideas around about this. Besides cooling down ice inside. Does anyone hang the deer for a day or 2 before butchering?Before cooking any brine? It is the season now and this maybe a good subject

September 5, 2009, 12:21 PM
Removal of all "silver skin" is requisite IMHO...
I am now learning that the fat of venison does NOT help flavor as it does in beef or pork nor do the bones so I am going to trim all fat and de-bone from now on... I do not have a walk in cooler nor reliable cold weather so I put my game meat in a cooler and cover with ice draining the water daily and topping up with ice for 3 days to allow it bleed out as best as I can.

September 5, 2009, 01:08 PM
I do not have a walk in cooler nor reliable cold weather

I remember back when I was hunting, the weather was a big determining factor on if I went out or not. If I knew it was going to be warm for a few days I would just opt out. It was not until I think I was about 20 a friend of my fathers gave me one of the silliest ideas ever. And by silly, I mean why did I not think of that silly lol.

Basically I did all my hanging in the barn/garage. The warm weather solution was to buy a decent beater window a/c unit, tarp/plastic/blanket the area around and above the hanging deer. I set the ac unit on some crates, tucked the plastic around it and basically made my own cold room. The first instance it was done it was about 70-75 that fall week and we got that cold room down to averaging 40-45 degrees once the meat cooled.

I think it was maybe a few years later I was given a bigger unit around 20k btu..I never measured the temp but it was near freezing lol.

That was about 10 ish years ago, I think with todays cheaper high tech modern window units you could really regulate the temps to almost any preference.

I know it seems sort of ghetto but it worked out well in the unseasonably warm weather hunting seasons.;)

September 5, 2009, 01:23 PM
I am now learning that the fat of venison does NOT help flavor as it does in beef or pork nor do the bones so I am going to trim all fat and de-bone from now on... I do not have a walk in cooler nor reliable cold weather so I put my game meat in a cooler and cover with ice draining the water daily and topping up with ice for 3 days to allow it bleed out as best as I can.

What he said.

September 5, 2009, 01:27 PM
Flipcat, that is wonderful advice. I would wonder if it would work in reverse also.
One of the reasons I do not age venison is because i don't want it to freeze solid before I process.
On using one for cooling I would think some moisture problems could happen??
Maybe a bucket of water in tent to help with the aging??

We hunt in some hot weather for Elk. Meat hung in the shade in wet cloth sacks works well to cool down, then down the mountain and into the freezer on the trailer.

September 5, 2009, 02:57 PM
L.L.Bean's cookbook for Game. Most likely from L.L.Bean, but could find it at old book shops or possibly a thrift store.

There is good info on hanging game.

Basically, ask at a gun club who does "precessing" of wild game (some state require seperation from commercial meat) and ask the processor what he looks for and how to bring in to him.

If a warm day, then dress, bleed & cool, as soon as possible, don't drag on ground dressed, handle it with respect.

For cooking, I found that using a pressure cooker, moisten the venison nicely and causes the meat to flake apart.

September 5, 2009, 04:12 PM
What HOGDOGS said is how a good number of my friends handle theirs. In fact a couple of them will bring their coolers down to the market and shove them in our walk-in for as much as a week before wraping and freezing.

One problem I've noted with that plan though is that vinison seems to shrink in our cooler. The longer it's there, especially if it's early in the season and neither Louann or I has scored, the more it shrinks..........

September 5, 2009, 04:21 PM
I am puzzled that some of y'all like the idea of rigging up a window unit air conditioner to cool the meat, when, as we have said, all you have to do is get a big cooler and put the meat on ice.

Rigging an a/c would be much more expensive, and a lot more trouble.

September 5, 2009, 05:09 PM
I talked with a guy who live in the UK long enough to get a British "Game Keeper" license. He had unlimited does and Bambies. Bucks were poached, and he was not allowed to shot them.

So he was a "meat" hunter.

He hung his deer, after field dressing and skinning, in a hanging loft. The area must have been cool, like lower 40's. He kept the deer hanging there until the outside was "almost disgusting".

He claimed aging the meat brought a tremendous taste improvement. Removed all the gamey flavor.

I would think aging a deer in warmer temperatures would ruin the meat.

Purdue University recommends against home aging of meats


September 5, 2009, 08:25 PM
I'm not a seasoned deer hunter... yet =) but here is my take.

Get a good shot on the deer, through and through the ribs...minimal meat damage

wait the 1/2 hour or so after the shot so you don't start 'leap frogging' it and have its meat taste bad from all the adrenaline dumping into it.

gut asap and make sure to get no urine/feces on the meat and if you do rinse it out/wipe it out asap

then i drag it back to the truck, i hunt about 2 hrs from where i live, so i keep a tarp and a cooler full of ice. i put the deer on the tarp and fully surround it w/ ice, kinda like a body bag setup, b/c its going in the back of a jeep cherokee. THough this year i'm going to buy a hitch basket carrier. this will allow me to not pull out my back...as bad, since i dont have to lift the deer as high, as well as i'm not fighting the heater in the truck, deer is outside in cold weather.

when i get it home i immediately hang it up and skin it, then i remove loins/tender loins, legs, and neck. And trim out the rib meat/brisket ect i put that all in a large cooler that is 1/2 ice 1/2 water... this allows the meat to get colder faster IMO compared to just ice. maybe even a little salt but not really needed, to help the ice melt faster. i keep the meat in this for a few hours to get the temp dropped down asap. then i drain the water, top off w/ ice and keep the cooler tilted and the drain open so the meat doesn't get water logged. Then i pass out b/c i'm whipped!

the next day i will take the meat out and remove all bone, blood shot meat, silver skin and fat. then i wrap it in plastic wrap and then it goes in zip lock bags into the freezer.

I am a firm believer with minimizing contamination of the meat, cooling it as fast as possible, and i dont really believe in aging. THe deer i've taken with this method taste excellent. You would not eat the meat and instantly think 'deer meat' you'd have to think about it for awhile thats how delicate and mild the flavor is.

September 5, 2009, 10:16 PM
I generally let the deer hang over night, the meat chills through the night and then we dress them out in the morning.

If the weather is quite warm my mates and i will dress thwm straight away and put them in the chiller..

I tend to let my meat sit in a fridge for about a week before freezing it.

Here are some meat animals on my last hunt




First photo is of some does shot on dusk. We got some beautiful meat from them. They were shot with a .270win.

Second photo is a couple more does shot the following morning

Third photo is of a spiker stag shot the next afternoon we butchered that stag for meat too.

I posted some photos of a nice stag shot by me on the last day.. 25 inch Fallow in another thread..

All deer shot are Fallow deer, and we got one mungrel red stag i think we got 9 all up in three days.

September 5, 2009, 10:47 PM
I'm sort of spoiled here lately in that I have a quality, inexpensive processor 1.5 miles from my house. I take most of my kills to him. There are times where if I am giving the meat to someone else, but don't want to give them the 65.00 processing fee on top of it I'll butcher it myself. Other folks who I give meat to each year want it processed and we agree up front that they'll pay for that. In those cases they go to my guy down the road here too.

If I'm doing the butchering though, I cut the loins and backstraps out. Neck if it's large enough to bother with. Shoulders if they aren't destroyed by bullet or buckshot. When it comes to the hams I have a technique to debone them off the hanging carcass. Just cut around the "knees" (Do deer have knees?) and then cut around just above the hip joint. Connect those two cuts and then peel the meat from around the bone. Comes off in a nice big roast that you can then cut into steaks/stew/jerky/etc.

When I do this, I take a large cooler and fill it 1/2-2/3 with ice. I lay wax paper down across the ice and lay the meat on top of it. This keeps the meat up out of the water. I tilt the cooler on a block of wood and open the drain so the water runs out. Keep a check on the ice, replace as needed over 2-3 days (depending on ambient air temp) and then finish butchering and package.

As far as care in the field goes......gut quickly and get it cooling. No need to slit throats or anything. Do you really think it's gonna bleed more from the jugular when you've just opened it from stem to stern?? We use those cloth game bags to cover the carcass and hang them in a tree at our hunting location. If the weather is on the warm side (bow season) we gut, bag and run to the processor. It's about 30 mins from field to our processor. In cooler weather during black powder and gun seasons we'll continue to hunt and let one hang all day in a cool shady spot on the farm and then bring it in that evening.

September 5, 2009, 11:32 PM
Removal of all "silver skin" is requisite IMHO...
I am now learning that the fat of venison does NOT help flavor as it does in beef or pork nor do the bones so I am going to trim all fat and de-bone from now on... Brent

I agree that removing the membrane is a good idea.

Otherwise, hanging the deer in a cool place to age has served me well through the years. No need to remove fat. Just trim it off before eating, since you're correct about it contributing nothing to flavor---except a negative flavor.

Antelope fat, on the other hand, is neutral. Eat it if you want, doesn't add to flavor. Doesn't hurt.

Best tip of all: GET IT DRESSED, OPENED UP AND COOLED! Hanging in the night air at night in camp is good. If days are warm and you aren't leaving right away, wrap it up to keep cool, unwrap at night. Old sleeping bag works ok.

September 6, 2009, 02:59 AM
I don't believe in aging deer. My deer get shot, skinned, and hung overnight if the ambient temp is 40 degrees or less. If it is any warmer than low 40's, it gets butchered while it is still warm, vac packed in a commercial unit, and put into the freezer. I have always gotten compliments on my venison. All fat and sinew is trimmed, front quarters ground, rear quarters steaked, backstraps cut into chops, and tenderloins eaten the same day. Works for me!

September 6, 2009, 03:41 AM
I found a cpl really good products for field dressed/butchered game. One is the Reynolds Handi-Vac with quart/gallon sized bags (bad thing is it needs 6 AA batteries). The other is the ZipLock hand pump (looks like a small bike tire pump) and is hand powdered, although it is very easy and not difficult to do. Both work well. The Zip-Lock pump will work on the Reynolds bags but the Handi vac will only work with Reynolds bags.

Using this has truly saved the flavor and tenderness of the meats/game for me and especially good if I am going for a tri-fecta of deer, bird and fish in the same trip.

The Initial Reynolds Kit at $9.00 with the handi-vac (comes with first round of batteries), 3 of each bag Quart and gallon and a $5 coupon for more bags. 12 bags of quart sized is like $3.50 and 7 Gallon sized is about the same.

The initial Ziplock kit at $4.00 comes with the hand pump and 3 quart bags. 10 quart sized bags will cost about $2.53.

There are a cpl more different models out there, but their price and cost of extra bags or rolls of bags is just too high.

Uncle Buck
September 6, 2009, 04:57 AM
We definitely age our deer (and other farm animals that are butchered here at home). Usually for a minimum of three days, hung in a cool place (Tornado shelter, usually) and thought about continuously.

Hanging the meat or aging it, allows the enzymes to start breaking it down. They do the same thing in most places that process deer and other farm animals. (Ask your butcher how long they hang the carcass before actually butchering it.)

It works well, providing you have properly field dressed it and then once it is skinned you ensure all the hide, hair, guts, feces and silver is remove from the carcass. As we are actually butchering the carcass, we remove even more of the silver from the piece of meat.

September 6, 2009, 06:12 PM
Contrary to popular belief, there are no "enzimes" in venison to make it more tender with aging. This ain't beef folks. There is, however, bacteria that will break down the meat. I prefer to have my venison with as little bacteria as possible. There have been numerous studies on this, do an on line search. Ask for info from the FDA, or a state inspector. Also, using liquid to soak or wash the meat is a big no-no as any kind of liquid spreads bacteria, urine, feces, stomach matter to all the meat instead of keeping it localized. There is no reason to rinse out the inside of the body cavity. None of the meat is inside the ribcage other than the tenderloins. Be more concerned about cooling it down as soon as possible. My venison is super tender, and mild flavored and many times it is vac sealed less than 2 hours from the field. I have done deer processing for 10 years, have butchered around 2500 deer, elk, and moose. None of my wild game hangs for more than 48 hours and it is skinned, quartered, and hung in a walk in cooler immediately. My equipment and workspace has been inspected, and I have done my research on proper meat handling. I have refused deer that have been hanging for weeks, or are improperly cared for in the field, to avoid contaminating my equipment and possibly my other customer's meat. This is my opinion based on lots of factual research, and real world experiance. Take it or leave it, and feel free to do it your own way. This is what I tell people who are new to hunting and processing.

September 6, 2009, 07:24 PM
If I am say 2 to 3 days away from home and not 2 hours like you. Then your ideas on handling the meat.Because that is our situation,we are up in the woods this year from Sat- Wed.

September 6, 2009, 07:44 PM
I field dress a deer immediately. I then take the deer to a processor/butcher. If I shot many deer per year, I might find this approach too expensive, but for now it works. At the processer, they let them hang in a cooler for a few days.

In a cold climate, I feel leaving the field dressed deer hang for a couple days is a very good thing.

September 6, 2009, 08:07 PM

I hear you loud and clear that the enzyme thing isn't pertinent to venison. I have heard it for years.
However, will a deer go through rigor mortise?
I believe the meat/mussel will. Then will, If so, will rigor mortise leave when frozen?
The reason I am bringing this up is we have never had tender Elk venison. I bone out the animal in the field and it is in the freezer within 10-12 hours.
We even have to Swiss the back loins, of course a critter got that meat sack last fall and the only thing we could do about it was wish it a belly ache:mad::mad:
Anyway I have heard from literally everyone that the meat must age to tenderize it. My jaw mussels have to wonder if that is a correct and true statement?

September 6, 2009, 08:32 PM
I don't hang the carcass, temps tend to stay above 45 here. But that air conditioner idea seems like a good one.

September 6, 2009, 09:01 PM
venison is either delicious or tastes like crap. the difference is how you care for it immediatly after it is killed.

don't do like the "hunting shows" where they kill the animal, stand around for hours and take pictures and then drag it to the truck like a bag of garbage and then take some more pictures. thats lesson number one.

if you want good meat take a few pics and then get down to the hard work they never show on tv. start gutting the animal. get a couple of good tools, a good skinning knife maybe a knife with a gut hook. don't take it for granted you are born with the proper skills to gut and skin an animal. do a little reading learn about intestines, bowels, kidneys and anus. the better you are at gutting the animal the better the meat will be. lesson two.

skin the animal asap. the cooler the meat the better the taste. get the animal in a cooler asap, remember heat is the enemy. lesson three.

i remember 1 hunting camp, opening day i saw 3 deer come into camp. a couple of good old boys got 2 of them. they gutted them and hung them in a tree stood around the camp fire drinking and admiring their trophys. it might have gotten done to 65 degrees that night. the other deer was shot by a young guy and girl. they gutted it where it was shot. as soon as they got the deer to camp they skinned it. they had a saw and some knives and quartered the deer, deboned some of it, placed the meat in big plastic bags and put in big ice chests topped with ice of course. guess who really enjoyed their meat and who complained it was gamey or the deer must have had a poor diet?

deer is good eating if you know how to take care of it and do it quickly.

September 7, 2009, 01:17 AM
If you are days away from a processer, skin, and quarter the deer as soon as possible. Bag the meat in heavy plastic and put into coolers with ice. I try to avoid getting the meat wet. It will keep like this for days. Another problem I run into processing is when people gut their deer and put them in the back of a pickup or in the garage for a few days. The meat needs air to circulate to cool it properly. I once bought two bison from a ranch in North Dakota. We shot them, gutted them, and winched them into a refridgerated trailer (36 degrees). We then drove them back to the butcher shop in northern Minnesota. After 16 hours in a 36 degree trailer, the meat was still steaming, and we lost a lot of meat to spoilage. I would hang quarters next time up off the floor.

September 7, 2009, 11:26 AM
skin the animal asap. the cooler the meat the better the taste. get the animal in a cooler asap, remember heat is the enemy. lesson three.

I have always wondered if cooling it hanging with the gut wedged open versus skinning it immediately was preferable. My gutted deer are generally at the processer within 5 hours max and I didn't think this an issue even with fairly warm temps (50's and 60's).

September 7, 2009, 03:39 PM
I have always wondered if cooling it hanging with the gut wedged open versus skinning it immediately was preferable. My gutted deer are generally at the processer within 5 hours max and I didn't think this an issue even with fairly warm temps (50's and 60's).

All I can do is repeat that In a commercial kitchen I have 4 hours to bring the temp of meat to below 45 Degrees F.

I know that this isn't possible to do that in the field most of the time. Still it is a very good idea to get that carcass cold asap.

One thing that people might consider is wiping or rinsing out the carcass with a strong vinegar solution.

September 7, 2009, 04:16 PM
what does the vinegar solution do?

Also IMO for max cooling if possible getting the skin off helps a lot. Remember that skin and fur is the same thing that keeps the animal warm. aka keeping cold out and heat in. It still is trying to do its job when its dead too! Though when i hunt i skin when i get home (2hrs after dragging it out of the woods) right before i butcher it. but its fully encased in ice wrapped in a tarp on the way down, sans guts of course. I think if i was able to skin it, it opens it up way too much for contamination. since its sitting in some melting ice, has residue from any guts still there ect ect.

September 7, 2009, 05:02 PM
This website http://www.askthemeatman.com/deer.htmhas tons of info. Its a butcher shop with a few things to sell, but a lot of good info. Hanging seems to confuse people some, you either do it and swear by it, or you don't and swear by that. The FDA recommends that individuals don't do it but there are guidelines for commercial outfits on how to do it. 36-40 degrees, from 2-16 days. There was a post on here about deer not having enzymes. I have a link on my work PC tat I will post tomorrow that shows that the enzymes are the same as the beef enzymes, so aging does work.

If you don't have a place to hang your dear whole you can quarter it and place it in a cooler with ice (careful, hard to regulate temp) or do like I do; quarter it and place it in the garage refridgerator set to 38 deg. In 2 weeks cut away all the dried ugly meat, debone and separate muscles and viola perfect deer.

ps: you don't need to do this to the tenderloins or the back strap. Those should be eaten right away; blackened with garlic string beans, mashed red potato's and yeast rolls.

September 7, 2009, 06:29 PM
i would say the best way to post process any game meat would be to get it down below 40 degrees as quickly as possible... a well known form of bacteria bio-toxin called Botulism, (short for the toxins produced from the Clostridium Botulinum bacteria) basically only need 2 conditions to thrive... a temp of 40-120 degrees Fahrenheit and a lack of oxygen...

if you are going age it, plenty of fresh air and cool temps are the best(33-38 degrees)... aging does allow the basic cell structure to break down, moisture to escape, and allows the game to fully "bleed out"...giving you a more tender and flavor concentrated meat(ask any top notch steak house)...

my mouth is starting to water:)


September 7, 2009, 11:33 PM
Depending on which season and species I'm hunting, the temperatures can vary significantly, from below freezing to mid 80's. I've long been told by a very wise man (Dad) that it's important to get the carcass cooled as quickly as possible. After the kill, immediately gut the animal. The hide is only left on long enough to get the animal back to camp as clean as possible, and then removed. If it's cool enough, we hang the carcass in the shade, typically overnight when Colorado temps drop significantly. Then it's time to pack up the critter and get it into refrigeration, and then only as long as it takes to get the animal processed, either by a pro or by yourself. As mentioned above, heat is the enemy, and if a nice thick elk or deer hide keeps the animal warm when they're alive, it will certainly keep them warm when they're dead.

Good luck!


September 7, 2009, 11:57 PM
Contrary to popular belief, there are no "enzimes" in venison to make it more tender with aging. This ain't beef folks. There is, however, bacteria that will break down the meat. I prefer to have my venison with as little bacteria as possible

So beef is broken down by enzymes, and venison by bacteria. That what you're saying?

Guess that muddles the contention that as soon as an animal dies, bacteria begin the decomposition process which tenderizes the meat and ages it--up to a point, at least, since the decomposition doesn't stop there.

Uncle Buck
September 8, 2009, 08:06 AM
It seems the main theme here, regardless of the enzyme issue, is getting the meat cooled down quickly.
I may be wrong on the enzyme issue, but I know that ever since we have hung the deer for three days, it has tasted much better and I want to get out and get another deer that much quicker.

September 9, 2009, 08:05 PM
what does the vinegar solution do?

Vinegar is an anti-bacterial agent. It helps retard the growth of or kill bacteria such as ecoli that might still be in the body cavity and might grow on exposed tissue.


September 9, 2009, 08:15 PM
If you have a place to hang the deer in a cooler for a week or so it will make the meat a lot better. If you buy a high dollar steak in a restaurant you can bet it's aged.

September 10, 2009, 09:30 AM
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that no matter how gamey it may taste, cooking with lots of onions will completely kill any gaminess and make it an excellent tasting meat.

Shoot a rutting buck poorly, leapfrog it for 2 hours, shoot it again, drag it for miles, take pictures with it, don't age it, and don't worry about it, because onions will make it taste fine.

Obviously, onions won't improve your hunting skills or ethics, but they will improve your dinner.

This knowledge came to me from an old (1800's) trapping book that I read. I wish I had read it 20 years earlier, because I would have enjoyed a lot more venison meals than I did in all those years!

September 10, 2009, 04:16 PM
Or, grind in to burger and mix it with Lipton Onion Soup Mix.

September 10, 2009, 09:14 PM
The majority seem to support the quick field dressing, quick trip back to vehicle or camp, then skinning and cooling the meat as soon as possible unless you take it to a processor whcih should happen within 4 hours of the kill. If skin, the carcus or quarters need to be placed on ice.

I don't know about you all, but I have never tasted venision that did not taste like venision. Even the hamburger tastes like venison when blended with pork fat. My wife won't even cook the stuff. Most of the meat is given away after it is processed. Is the venison taste necessarily bad? No, but there is a favor different from beef that you have to at least tolerate.