How to Butcher a Deer

How to Butcher a Deer – Overview

Learn how to properly butcher a deer after your kill. Ensure that your meat is safe to eat by following these simple methods while processing your game.

Items you will need to Butcher a Deer

  • Very sharp knife
  • Hatchet or saw
  • Gambrel
  • Coolers filled with ice & water

Directions to Butcher a Deer

To begin, you will need to hang the carcass from the hind legs, much as you did to skin the animal. You may wish to invest in a gambrel. The gambrel takes the place of the pole and ropes you may have used. A gambrel, however, is triangular-shaped like a clothes hanger, allowing you to attach the gambrel’s apex to a winch, so that you can raise or lower the animal. This additional function comes in handy during the butchering process. Gambrels are inexpensive, costing under $20, and are available at all sporting goods stores.

Butcher the Deer in Sections

As you cut each section of venison away, place it in a cooler filled with ice water to soak. For the best tasting meat, you should soak it at least five days in ice water, changing the water often. Some hunters think they need to “bleed out” the deer as part of the field dressing process, but if you soak your meat in this way, excess blood will drain out  naturally.

How to Butcher a DeerPlease don’t discard the blood-infused rinse water when you butcher a deer. Give it to your garden instead. Your plants will thrive! The soaking process especially helps if the venison displays a lot of yellow-tinged fat. This fat is a sign that the animal was not well nourished and the meat will be less tasty. White fat indicates the animal had a variety of good foods to eat and therefore the venison will be better-tasting.

Does the venison smell strong or “gamey”? A cup of vinegar or lemon juice will help this, but be careful not to overdo it. If you see signs that the vinegar is making the meat turn blue, discard the water and start again.

With your very sharp knife in hand, you are ready to cut the carcass into manageable portions. The first cut is to remove the shoulders and front legs from the ribs. Pull the section away as you cut. The loins, or backstrips, are located on top of the ribs on either side of the spine. Cut the meat away from the spine and along the ribs. The cut will go from the base of the neck all the way to the pelvis area. For deer ribs, use the saw or hatchet to remove them from the spine. Locate the tenderloins inside the cavity and remove them in the same way you took the loins.

The last cuts to remove are the hams when learning how to butcher a deer. First, maneuver the knife between the leg and the pelvic bone to find the ball joint. You need to severe this joint and the heel joints, just as you severed the lower legs when you prepared the deer for skinning. It can take some practice to do this well. If the deer is large, you can also remove the neck. Although there is not much meat here, the neck is a wonderful addition to your simmering stock pot. Take care that all visible veins, blood clots, hair and other non-meat materials are removed, as these will taint the meat.

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