We now have a deer carcass hanging in a cool place to allow the body heat to dissipate. This may be a shop, garage or walk-in cooler, but make sure the deer is out of reach of smaller critters looking for fresh meat.
The amount of time between hanging the animal and butchering is debatable. The controversy centers on the fact some hunters like to hang their animal for 10 days to let it age.
My teachings hold wild game doesnít need aging, but the body heat must be allowed leave the carcass. After this is accomplished, the carcass will simply lose moisture and shrink.
But letís back up just a bit. After a deer is skinned, my group washes the carcass down to rid it of any dirt and remaining blood. We even have a plastic brush to scrub difficult areas. Then it is placed in the hanging mode.
We gather at the end of the hunting season to butcher. We may have one or more deer carcasses hanging. A 4- by 8-sheet of plywood is placed on two saw horses. Butcher paper is taped to the wood. Cutting boards and knives are on top of the butcher paper.
Do not be intimidated by the task at hand. There is a large hunk of meat hanging in front of you, but the job is manageable. First realize this is your meat and you will make no mistakes. You can cut this deer into any size and shape you want.
We let the hunter who shot the deer cut out the backstrap and tenderloin. These are the two most desirable cuts of meat on the carcass. The two backstraps will be on either side of the backbone. Cut down to the ribs from the backbone and up from the curve of the ribs. The result should be one long hunk of meat.
The backstraps steaks can be cut into any thickness desired, providing several steaks or medallions. Many consider this the best eating meat on a deer.
The tenderloins are on the inside of the carcass, also near the backbone and near the rear end. These short and narrow pieces are easily removed. They are tender, for sure. Usually they arenít large enough for much more than a one-person meal each. However, if they are diced and used as an omelet ingredient, they will serve two or more people
Remember, you can not make a mistake when you butcher your own deer. You will learn, over time, which cuts work better for different meals, but you butcher your deer your way.
Tomorrow: Butchering the hindquarter.