Processing your own deer

Processing your own deer may sound gross at first but it is actually not that bad.  My dad taught me how to process one three years ago and I have not paid to have one processed since.  Processing your own deer is simple and saves money.  If you can gut a deer, you can process one.

***The body of the article has pictures of a deer being processed.  Do not continue if you do not want to see a deer being skinned or pictures of cuts of meat. ***

Processing your own deer seems to be a lost art though.  It is amazing to me how many people pay to get their deer processed.  I spoke with at least twenty guys that shot a deer this year and only a few processed their own deer.  I wonder why that is?

I am sure time has a lot to do with people paying to get their deer processed but it doesn't really take that long.  I know people that can completely process a deer in two hours.  I am a little slower at three to four hours but I am very meticulous with the process.

Three to four hours may sound like a long time but it is worth it to me.  At seventy bucks to process a deer, I can turn the TV off for a few hours.  The Kardashians will survive!  I do not watch the show by the way... just a bad attempt at humor.

Another positive of processing your own deer is you know what you are putting in the freezer.  I am sure you have heard the rumor that most butcher shops will mix your deer meat with others.  I do not know if this kind of thing takes place but I do not want to take the risk.

I don't know about you but I definitely do not want my meat mixed in with the guy who shot the swamp buck in the UP who proceeds to haul it downstate 7 hours on top of his car to have it processed.  No thanks.  I like the fact that my meat is handled by me in the correct conditions.

So how do you process a deer?  I could try to explain how to butcher a deer for you but you really need to see it for yourself.  The best way to do this is to ask around to see if any family member or one of your buddies has experience butchering deer.

If you are not as lucky as I am, go to Youtube and search "how to process a deer".  You will find many good examples of how to correctly process one.  I have watched a few and they pretty much all do a good job of explaining the process.

A couple things to keep in mind while researching how to process a deer.

Before you process a deer, make sure you know how to do the basics.  To process a deer, you will need to gut it, skin it, debone it, process the meat, store the meat.  During all of these steps it is very important to practice good sanitation.  It is also very important to keep the meat cool enough at all times to limit bacteria growth as well as clean utensils and a clean working station.

Another thing I find important is to not waste any meat.  Make sure you know how to remove all the sections of a deer.  The main sections are the backstraps, tenderloins, flank steak, neck meat, rib meat, 2 front shoulders, 2 rear legs. 

The best tasting meat to me is the backstraps followed by the tenderloins.  The flank steaks are also a unique piece of meat that if not shot up can be very good barbequed.  The neck meat and rib meat is a lot of work to process but can be worth it.

The rest of the meat is in the legs.  A common thing to hear is that the deer is quartered.  This means the legs are off of the deer and ready for processing.  Processing the leg meat can be as simple as cutting everything into chunks to grind for burger or as advanced as cutting out specific steaks.

When processing the legs, work your way from top to bottom when removing the meat.  What does that mean?  Find the muscle on top, remove it, find the next muscle that is on top.  This will make sense as you gain experience....  Keep doing this until all the meat is off the bone.

Once the meat is all off of the bone, it is time to process the meat.  I do not get technical when it comes to this part.  In my book, the back legs are good for jerky meat, stew meat and the rest burger.  The front legs are pretty much all burger for me.  Other guys I know cut out specific steaks though.  To each their own though!

Check out some pics of the last deer I processed

All quartered up.


Ready for processing.

The completed work.

Processing your own deer is not only a good way to save money but is unfortunately also a dying tradition.  I am proud of the fact that I can process a deer and will be passing on the tradition the same way it was passed on to me.

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