After I have gotten the deer home I hang it in the hind legs and pull the animal up so the snout of the deer is above the ground. I place an old horse feed bucket under the snout allowing me to let entrails etc. just drop down into the feed bucket. After I have gutted the deer I normally let it hang for a couple of days, depending on the temperature. If it is too hot I may want to skin and butcher the deer right away or next day, while if the weather is cooler I will let it hang longer. If we have frost I will have to bring the deer into the garage before I can do the skinning and rough butchering. That has only happened once.
In case you are wondering why I don’t gut the deer in the woods I can tell that I also take my dogs there as well and since my deer stand is only 6 1/2 minutes walk from my back door I don’t want them to get into a gut pile.
After I have gutted the deer I place a stick in the stomach cavity to spread the ribs further apart so the cooling of the meat can be more effective. Before I start skinning the deer I cut the front legs off at the ankle. It makes it easier to get the hide off if the front legs are cut off that way. I drape the hide all the way down to the head and cut the head off and it is now the only thing that is attached to the hide. I will work on the antlers later. In butchering the deer I start with taking off the front legs. It is helpful here if I have a friend steadying the carcass and pulling in the leg while I am cutting between the leg and the body. I make certain the meat doesn’t touch the ground to avoid any contamination.
I use a big cooler wherein I place the cut off pieces one at a time. After the front legs I cut out the back straps (the tenderloins I have already removed after gutting the deer and have had my first dinner with this most tender of meats). I then take off the neck where I will need a hack saw (or meat saw). Depending on the amount of lard (fat) on the deer I may decide to take off and keep the flank and rib meat. I generally don’t keep the ribs. In my opinion there is too little meat on them and they take up too much space in the freezer to be worth it.
In case I have left a “lot” of meat on the back bone I will saw it in three pieces and keep those for venison soup. The hind legs are now the only pieces hanging from the block and tackle spreader and they are bound together in the pelvis. I cut the into the pelvis with my knife until I reach the bone and then cut the pelvis with the hack saw. Each of those legs can be very heavy, maybe 20 to 30 pounds depending on the size of the deer so when I cut the tendons they will come crashing down. Again it is a great help if I have a friend making the catch. To make further certain that the meat will not accidentally touch the ground I stick a plastic shopping bag around each hindquarter before cutting the tendon.
I will do the final butchering and portioning in the kitchen so until then I will keep the meat in the refrigerator for a couple of days and only take out the piece I will be working on.
I separate the individual pieces of the deer according to how I plan to use them. The big muscles and back straps are the finest pieces of meat on the deer.
The tenderloins are already out. They were inside the rib cage and I removed them immediately after I have gutted the deer and made a great venison dinner of them that evening or the next after having kept them in the refrigerator overnight.
The back straps are great for small steaks or medallions and my next favorite meat after the tenderloins.
The sirloin tips are great for steaks and roasts.
The bottom rounds and top rounds are also great for steaks and roasts.
The eyes of the round I use when only my wife and I are going to have an easy meal and will make good venison Marsala.
The neck pieces are tender enough to be used for venison stroganoffs.
The briskets and the shanks I keep for breakfast patties, chilies, casseroles, meatloaf etc.
I generally cut up the rumps into smaller pieces that I use for stews or stroganoffs.
If it is a small deer I will use the shoulder and chuck meat for stroganoffs while if the deer is larger I may use the shoulder and chuck meat for roasts. The shank meat and trimmings goes into breakfast patties.
When butchering I take the time it takes to remove all the trimmings, which a butcher wouldn’t have time to do. I take whatever time it takes and sometimes that goes into hours when the deer has been eating well and it has a fat layer of over 1 inch at places. What keeps me going is the desire to be able to cook the very best meals possible without the gamey taste that some people complain about for the enjoyment of my family friends and myself.
Since all the meat has been deboned it takes up much less space in the refrigerator and results in much tastier meat. There will be no bone residue that could affect the meat’s flavor. There are no sharp bone edges that might puncture the freezer bags and expose the meat to freezer burns.