Field Care and Preparation Tips for Venison

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  • Field Dressing.  A good venison meal begins as soon as the deer is harvested.  How you take care of your deer after the shot will have a great deal to do with how tasty or nasty your next venison masterpiece will be.  The most common errors that hunters make are contamination of the carcass with intestinal matter, hair, soil, leaves and other trash.  If you do not have a processor near by who can professionally skin and dress your deer, the first step is to field dress the deer as soon as possible so the carcass can begin to cool.  Drag the deer to a spot where you have plenty of room to work and follow these steps:
    • You should always carry a sharp hunting knife, a 8-10 foot length of rope to  fashion a drag, a 3 foot length of twine and some paper towels or cloths. 
       
    • Prop the deer on its back and with your knife, cut completely around the anus.   Pull it out and tie it off with your twine. This a must do procedure!  Do not forget to do this!
       
    • Pinch the hide between the hind legs and make a small cut with the point of your  knife.  Insert two fingers of your free hand into the incision and lift the hide away  from the inner skin.
       
    • Using your fingers to keep the hide raised and as a guide for your knife, carefully  cut the hide from the anus opening to the breast bone.  Always cut from the inside  of the hide to reduce the amount of hair contamination and be careful not to cut  the abdominal muscles and intestines.
       
    • Once you have completed your cut, roll the deer on its side.  Pull the tied off anus  through the pelvic opening and roll the intestines out on the ground.  Be careful  when removing the bladder that you do not cut or puncture it.  Reach into the  chest cavity, cut the esophagus and pull it out.  Pull out any remaining organs.
       
    • Use your paper towels to clean any remaining blood clots etc out of the cavity and  to clean your hands.  Disposable plastic gloves are also a handy item to carry.
       
    • If you have to drag your deer any distance at all to get it out of the woods, it’s  probably not advisable to split the pelvis or chest bone.  this will reduce the  likelihood that dirt and debris will get into the body cavity.  Drag the deer head  first so that the natural bend of the hair will not pick up excessive dirt and debris.
       
    • If you plan on skinning the deer yourself, do not wrap the skinned deer in newspaper!  It is next to impossible to remove the paper from the deer.
  • Refrigeration.  Your deer should be refrigerated as soon as possible.  If the air temperature is above 50 degrees as it often is here in Southeast Missouri, the carcass should be refrigerated within 3-4 hours of the kill.  If that is not possible, pack the body cavity with as much ice as possible until you can completely dress your deer.
  • Aging Venison.  A number of hunters like to age their deer to tenderize the meat.  To properly age a deer, the hide should be left on and the deer refrigerated at 34-36 degrees for up to 2 weeks.  However, most hunters do not have the facilities to hang their deer in such a manner and processors must remove the hide before bringing deer into their facilities. Removing the hide exposes the meat to cold dry air and causes excessive dehydration and consequently, higher trimming losses.  Generally speaking, it is better to go ahead and process the deer within 3-4 days of the kill due to the dehydration problems and the contaminates that are usually present.
  • Cooking.  Venison can be a delicious change of pace from the beef, chicken, pork routine or it can be like eating Luther’s boot.  The key is understanding that venison is a naturally lean meat.  It has very little fat cover and what it does have, does not contribute to the flavor of the meat.  When preparing venison for cooking, as much fat, tallow and silver skin as possible should be trimmed off.  Since venison has very little fat itself, your recipe should provide some replacement to enhance the flavor.  Butter, bacon strips, cheese and even larding with beef fat will help.  Don’t overcook venison.
     
  •   Venison steaks and roasts have a better flavor when they are still pink inside.  Try different seasonings, marinades and sauces to compliment venison’s natural flavor.  Also, choose a method of cooking that adds moisture back to the meat.  Simmering in a sauce, frequent basting, and slow cooking in a crock pot are examples of how to keep your venison from drying out.

        For more information on how to cook your deer so it tastes just like beef, read this article I wrote for Huntseek.com!

You may also want to check out these books  and videos on deer cooking and butchering:  How To Butcher Wild Game Video, Oh Deer! The Venison Cookbook an Wild Country Gourmet Video.

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Check out our Deer Charts page with photo's and diagrams of how to cut up your deer the proper way!

Are you concerned about CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) this year?
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We now have a PDF file from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture
that has a diagram of a deer's lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, and spinal cord.
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Last Updated - February 05, 2011 03:48 PM