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Butchering a Deer - Part 1

Butchering your own deer is hard work and time consuming.  It's much easier if you have someone to give you a hand during the process.  There are also numerous places to take it if you want someone else to do it for you.  Small operations around here charge about $60.  I prefer doing it myself, as I am paranoid and don't trust just anyone to do it properly.  A couple of my friends...well, maybe. 

First, you need a deer. 
This one I am showing you came from my friend Tom, who has been giving me a deer almost every year for the past 8 years.  His parents place has an overabundance of the pests!  They ate all of his dad's newly planted evergreens last winter - boy, was he pissed. 

[I have only ever shot one deer in my life.  I used to leave the shooting to Rick, as he was a crack shot.  My job in the hunting hierarchy was to tromp around like an elephant and drive the deer towards the shooters.  Not very glamerous, but an essential strategy in this neck of the woods.  My family owns about 95 acres of woods (my house is on 2 acres that was previously part of the whole farm) which sounds great.  But, it is very hard to hunt as most of it is old growth forest.  Which means that there is not much brush for the deer to eat or hide in.  Pretty much we had to wait for the deer to run across our land from the brush in the east to the pine trees in the west.  We did a lot of deer drives in those days.... 
The year Rick died was the year I actually shot my first deer.  The next year, my sister and bro-in-law moved in with mom and the hunting rules changed.  My sis hates hunting, and wouldn't let me invite any of my previous hunting buddies onto the land to hunt with me.  Suffice to say, now I see very few deer when I am alone in the woods.  Basically, I am lucky she lets me go on the land at all.  I try to stay on my side of the power lines.  But, that's another rant for another time.]  

Some people like to let the carcass 'age' for 5-7 days.  Weather plays a role in this, I won't let it hang too long because I am so afraid the meat will spoil.  Deer shotgun season starts the third weekend of November, so usually it is cool enough not to worry about temperatures over 40 degrees.  But, once in a while, Mother Nature fools us and it is nice and warm.  I once had to throw out an entire deer because I was so busy that I waited too long to butcher.  
Generally, I won't let it hang more than 4 days.  I have never noticed any taste difference in the meat, no matter how long it was hanging.  

Find a place to work and gather your equipment.
I have found a radio is essential, especially if you are working by your lonesome.  I like to sing oldies loudly and out of tune as I work. 

Here are my butchering tools.  These are the same knives my grandma used when they butchered the farm animals back in the 30's.  They have hickory handles and steel blades.  Not stainless steel, these are very soft metal which needs to be constantly sharpened.  But, they are very, very sharp.  I love them and they make me feel very macho.
From the top, the cleaver (which I have never used, but it looks great hanging above my stove), sharpening steel, butchering knives (7", 8" and 10"), 2 skinning knives and a filet (also never used).   


The deer needs to be hung up, and that top piece of log with screwed in ends is my homemade gamble.  I didn't need to use it this time because Tom already had the deer suspended on one made of rebar.  Some people prefer to hang the animal so the head is up.  I have read that position makes it easier to skin, but I don't have the strength to flip the deer back and forth.  So head down, it is. 
I will also use a large hacksaw for cutting through the bone, plastic gloves and garbage bags.  Lots and lots of garbage bags. 


I need extra lights so I don't cut my fingers off, as my garage lighting isn't quite bright enough. 


I'll need this stuff later - cutting board, freezer paper and tape, and assorted knives to help chop up the meat.


Tom helped me hang the deer, as it probably weighed 200 lbs.  If I was smart, I'd set up a pulley system so I could raise it myself. 
Plastic goes on the floor for any blood drops.


He was a small six-pointer.  That little black dash above the ear is a deer tick.


Actually, this is the first time I have ever seen a deer tick in real life.  I never saw ticks on any of the deer taken from our land, although I am sure they were there.  
I used a knife and scraped the hide to knock off about 10 ticks before I started.  Most were dead.  They got tossed in the trash.   


Their fur is so soft.  The hairs are hollow to insulate the body heat.  


There's the slug's entry wound.  The exit looked almost the same.  I only knew this was the entry after I had skinned him, because I could see the bruising trauma from the slug hitting the ribs.


Here you can see how the gamble ends go through the tendons.  And the tag proves it's a legal take. 


Full view of the cavity.
You open the animal up after gutting so it cools down as quickly as possible to avoid spoilage of the meat.   


Close-up of the rib cage.  I thought this was a pretty cool abstract shot.
I might enter it in the fair next summer.


Up against the spine are the tenderloins, the most tender meat on any animal. 
I remember rick cutting them out immediately and cooking them in butter on a small grill in the barn. 
These have been exposed to the air and that's why they are brown.  The brown will have to be cut off. 
Such a waste, which is why we usually tried to remove them immediately.  They are too small as it is.


I just slice them away from the bone.

See, they're not very large.


I popped them into a ziploc baggie to cook later.

End of part 1.
That's all the photos I have ready, I must go through and arrange the next set. 
I will say that I am DONE DONE DONE with the deer.  And I am happy, I got a decent amount of meat. This saves me a lot of money. 
Phew, what a job.  
I hope you found it interesting so far.



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
Oooooh fascinating!!

And now I really want some venison burgers. :/
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
It is kind of cool to see. And I'm sure I'm a lot more sanitary than what goes on in the beef slaughter houses. I don't wanna think about it.

Wait 'til you see how nicely the ground venison turned out. Yum.
Dec. 10th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
Yummy. You look like Dexter with all those tools.
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
I've never watched Dexter, but I know he's a serial killer.
I presume he has a nice set of tools.
That sounds dirty. heh.
Dec. 10th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
Nice deer! My bro got one earlier in the season. It definitely is quite a job to butcher and cut off all the good meat. And he didn't even give me any. >[

Dec. 10th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
You need to demand some. That's what family is for! Ask for the tenderloins, or backstraps.
Dec. 10th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Nice commentary! If we can, we usually put the deer in a freezer or hang them up overnight when it's REALLY cold to take care of any ticks or fleas. I definitely recommend a pulley system too, you /will/ mess yourself up trying to lift those deer like that!

Great job and way to educate! :D
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
You must have a big ass freezer!
It was on the warm side when the deer was shot, and didn't really cool down until he got in the garage. That's why the ticks were so sluggish and I didn't mind putting my finger close to them.
Yeah, pulley would be good, but it helps to have a strong, younger man to do the heavy lifting!
Dec. 17th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
We just have a regular deep freeze, which is why we don't put them in the freezer very often. Too much of a hassle to rearrange anything and can too easily create a huge mess!

Too true! And since you don't lift them by yourself too often, it's not terrible. Just be careful!
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
I know, yucky.

The more you know, the better off you are.
I'll be waiting for your butchering pics next year!
Dec. 10th, 2010 07:12 am (UTC)
*wistful sigh* i wish i had a friend who would give me a deer every year. (hell, even just part of a deer!) i'm horribly jealous of you right now. ;)

is it weird that i see these pictures of the deer you're butchering and think "mmmmm, tasty!"?
Dec. 11th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
Tom was one of my Rick's friends, and he has helped me out quite a bit. He's a good guy. He did a lot of my wood this year, also.
I've gotta make him an apple pie to thank him.

No, not weird at all. I think the same thing, because they 'are' tasty if cooked correctly.

Dec. 11th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
he sounds like an awesome guy, and i'm glad he's around to help you out when you need it.

just checking. cause some people give me the strangest looks when i do that. but it is tasty once it's cooked, and usually well worth the effort it takes to get there. (and that goes for anything you've cleaned and butchered yourself. so, so much better than food processed at a plant somewhere.)
Dec. 10th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)

I have not eaten yet today and am now really, really hungry... *wants FUUD*
Dec. 11th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
I am trying to be interesting!

Hey wait, I'll send you a cookie plate!
Dec. 10th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)
Fascinating! I know nothing about butchering. I've only had venison maybe 4 or 5 times in my life, but it was good :D

(I just used my tl;dr icon because it's a deer, not because your post is tl;dr)
Dec. 11th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
The secret to good venison is in how it's butchered - you've got to fillet the meat off the bone.

Ha, I had to look up what teal deer meant. I'm a derp.
Dec. 10th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
I'm against hunting, even though I know that population control is important. Even though I was disturbed by the pictures, I wanted to see what went on in a butchering. Knowledge for knowledge's sake, I suppose. Thanks for sharing.
Dec. 11th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Hunting isn't for everyone.
I don't think it's right to hunt just for a trophy, even though I would love to shoot a monster buck. But, I would use the meat, as food is the main purpose of hunting. Seriously, it does save me $$.
I don't think deer populations can really be controlled, just managed. Nature does what it wants.

As I mentioned above, you won't see it done like this in a slaughter house.
And the next batch of pics will be of skinning, so if you're squeamish, pass them by.
Dec. 11th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
I'll be okay. This is a good learning experience. :-)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )



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