Butchering deer

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Dennis Clay

Butchering big game is simply making small pieces of meat out of one large piece of meat. Years ago, perhaps 30 or more, an older hunter provided instruction about butchering a deer he had taken. He instructed and my duty was the butchering.

This instructor said, You are butchering for your use, so there is no incorrect cut.

This is an accurate statement, because if the butcher, meaning me, cut a roast in an incorrect manner, it could simply be placed in the grinding pile. Who would know the difference?

The various parts of an animal have become known through study. The eye of round and sirloin tip are well known parts of the carcass. There are also the backstrap and tenderloins.

The front shoulders are always grindings and the hindquarters are separated into roasts and steaks. But let me begin again, to describe the butchering process in total. But first must say, my butchering efforts are all unprofessional.

The animal is gutted on the spot where it dropped. It is skinned with the help of a front-end loader, then washed with a garden hose. After dripping dry, the carcass is suspended in a cool, dry place.

The amount of time a carcass should be allowed to age is a matter of debate. Some say 10 days, but others say the animal is ready to butcher as soon as the body heat is removed, about 24 hours.

We hang our animals until we have a time to get together and complete the butchering process, be it 24 hours or 10 days. We butchered after seven days this year.

A sheet of plywood is placed under two sawhorses. The plywood is covered with freezer paper and taped to the plywood. This is our butchering table.

This year we had two animals hanging. Each of us cut off a front shoulder and reduce it to grinding size pieces. This means removing any sinew areas, which are tough, plus any fat and unsightly and unappealing pieces.

The hunter who shot the animal will cut out the backstrap, the most sought-after cut of wild game meat. This is located along the backbone and extending to the beginning of the ribs. A human can feel the backstrap of their body by reaching behind their ribcage, with one hand or the other, and feeling the meat between the backbone and the ribcage.

The hunter then trims this piece of meat. All fat and unsightly pieces are removed, until there is a long and narrow piece of meat. This is then cut into steaks, by the hunter, at the length desired. About 14 steaks are cut from this part of the animal, depending upon the thickness of the cut, and packaged two to a package. The hunter then cuts the other backstrap from the animal and processes it in the same manner.

Deer tenderloins are small, much as the size of a pork tenderloin. These are the most tender pieces of meat on any animal. They can be cut into pieces and served in a taco or baked whole and presented as the main meat of a meal.

As much meat as possible is cut from the outside part of the ribs. The ribs are not viewed as a good eating part of a deer, as the fat is more like tallow, which is considered by me as sticking to the roof of the mouth of the eater.

The hindquarters contain most of the meat of a wild game animal. My way of cutting this section is to separate the various muscles and either cutting steaks from each muscle or making it a roast. The various muscles involved in the hind quarter of a game animal is illustrated by looking at a beef round steak.

The various cuts from the hindquarter can be a bit tough, but there are devices which will make this meat much more tender. A cook can take a hammer-like tool and pound the steak or use a device with a bunch of needles and force the needles through the steak.

My way of tenderizing any type of meat is to use an Excalibur meat tenderizer. This manually operated machine will cut into the steak and end up looking much as if it was a cube steak, which is what it becomes. A quick change of blades, turns this tool into a jerky slicer. My deer hindquarters were turned into many tenderized steaks and, also, sliced meat to make jerky.

All of our meat, in meal-sized portions, is placed in FoodSaver bags and all of the air is removed by the machine. This allows the meat to remain in the freezer for years without spoiling or getting freeze burn.

Any hunter with a deer carcass and wanting to learn about butchering a deer give me a call. Im willing to come over and be the instructor.

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