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Field Dressing and Meat Prep. of Whitetail Deer

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Follow these simply steps to field dressing and meat preparation of whitetail deer to enhance your table fair.


Decomposition begins the moment your deer takes its final breath. The steps which are taken to prepare the animal from recovery to the freezer, are the steps which will dictate the quality of your meat. After tagging your animal it is important to implement a credible field dressing method. Prior to field dressing game, remember, to avoid cutting into major organs. Carelessly cutting into any organ, will result in the emptying of the organs contents onto the meat, which may taint the quality of the meat.
Initially, you may choose to remove the scent glands, which are located on each rear leg, just above the knee joint. I believe this step is unnecessary. For me, field dressing begins with removing the animals sex organs. Cut the penis free from the underside of the body all the way to the anus. Carefully cut a circle around the anus to free it from the connecting tissue on all sides. Again, do not puncture the intestines or bladder. Remove the sex organs and anus. Traditionally to open the stomach cavity one would hold the back of the knife blade against the index finger, and begin to cut at the point where the genitals were cut free. Sliding a finger and blade just under the skin, the abdomen should be opened. I use Outdoor Edge cutlery for butchering and field dressing. Outdoor Edge gut hooks allow me to make a small incision but beneath the breastbone, insert the gut hook, and open the stomach cavity as if I were simply unzipping a windbreaker. The guthook is a safe way of opening a deer. If I have harvested an animal which I have no intention of mounting, I cut through the ribs all the way to the breastbone, to the neck. If the animal I have harvested is an animal which is to be mounted, don’t cut any further upward than where the ribs meet at the breastbone. Connected to the rib cage and spine is a thick skin called the diaphragm. The diaphragm separates the stomach from the chest cavity. Trim the diaphragm away from the carcass to expose all organs. Find the windpipe and cut it. Run the knife along the backside of the windpipe, along the spine for about 12 to 18 inches. Grasp the windpipe and pull the entire contents of the animals cavity out onto the ground. If anything was missed that needs removal, now is the time to trim it loose from the cavity.
After field dressing, enhance the quality of meat by hanging the animal in a cooler, or outdoors, provided temperatures permit. If possible, let a deer hang for a week prior to butchering, and skinning. Hang time results in tender meat. Hang deer from the back legs, and spread the rib cage ,to promote drainage of fluid from the cavity. Always clean the cavity with water as soon as possible.
Following hanging it is time to begin skinning. This procedure works best with two people. One person holds the hanging deer steady, while the other begins the butchering process. Hang the animal with the hams high. A game gambrel is a relatively cheap tool which works great for the skinning and butchering process. Skinning is easiest when the animal is fresh. The hams should be well spread to allow plenty of room for the procedure. Make a careful incision around the knee joints, making sure to cut through the hide only. Deeper penetration will result in the deer falling from the gambrel. Using the tip of the knife peel away the hide. After cutting free a piece of hide to handle, pull the hide from the carcass, using the knife to free stubborn skin which refuses to pull free. Take a knife and cut a straight incision under the hide to the body at the legs.
The front legs and head can be removed with a saw, which should be followed with a thorough washing of the entire carcass. This will rid the animal of blood, hair, and debris.
Remove the backstrap meat, which lies along each side of the backbone first. Make sure to have a cooler of cold water nearby to soak meat, as it is cut from the deer. By soaking meat throughout the process, one may minimize the “gamey” taste, as well as removing excess hair.
Debone the ham of each back leg. Scrumptious roasts are obtained here. Roasts taken from this area can often be very large. One may wish to cut the roast into smaller portions, dependent upon estimated serving sizes.
Move on to cut the neck meat free. Neck meat is delicious when cubed into stew meat or used as hamburger.
Cut the front legs free at the shoulder. By doing so, these awkward portions can be cut, in an easier manner. This meat can be used for burger, jerky, or stew meat.
The remainder of the animal is inclusive of ribs, heart, liver, and displaced meat which lays about the body.
After obtaining all the select cuts, rewash meat thoroughly. Keep it clean. Select either freezer bags or freezer wrap for packaging. After packaging and marking the cuts, I utilize a grinder to make deerburger. Using suet or ground beef to mix with is optional. This enhances the flavor of the deermeat, and increase the workability for frying, and or cooking. Remember, deer meat is very lean and can be difficult to cook without an additive of some type. Most processors add fat or “grind” to burger meat.
When properly prepared venison can be one of the tastiest treats around. Simply make sure and follow the steps suggested leading up to the dinner table and you’ll enhance your quality of taste.

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