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butchering your own wild game

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 February 2010 at 17:26
we spend a lot of time each year butchering our game - i am very particular about it and tend to go overboard, but the final result is very much worth it. i know i've posted this before, but here's a summary; if you have any further or specific questions, just ask.
 
immediately upon the kill, we field dress and keep the heart and liver for my dad and oldest son. we then wash out the cavity either at the site of the kill, at the hunting vehicle or as soon as we can when we get back. somewhere between this point and after hanging, we also remove the tenderloins.
 
thanks to our climate here that rarely goes above 40 degrees during most of the gunting season, i am able to hang the deer (head down and skin on) for around 10 days to a maximum of two weeks. this promotes tenderness and, in my opinion, a lot of flavor as the connective tissues and enzymes break down (NOT rot!). then i skin the deer and quarter the carcass (including removing the loins) without a saw and bone the quarters.
 
with careful trimming, i then remove everything that isn't meat from the quarters including any bone, fat, membrane, silverskin etc., leaving nothing but a pristine roast that can be left as-is or carved into steaks of any thickness.
 
i vacuum-pack everything into 1-pound packages and freeze as quickly as possible. i also usually save the neck and wrap it as a separate roast for my father, who seems to enjoy it along with heart and liver, which i have eaten but generally do not favor. this year, i might also try packaging sections of the ribs in order to barbecue them over slow smoke next year; i think that if i keep them moist during cooking, they should turn out very good.
 
scraps and trimmings that are meat go into a bowl and then  later made into jerky or ground and packaged without any fat and frozen so that they can  later be used for burger, sausage, jerky or anything else.
 
there are usually a lot of undesirable trimmings that are packaged in larger packages of paper and labeled as dog food.
 
------------
 

in response to a couple of questions from a friend, here are a couple of clarifications:

tenderloins and loins are two different things entirely, but both are the best meat on a deer. very tender and if cooked right will literally melt in your mouth.

the loins run along each side of the backbone on the back side of the deer. on a pig they would be called pork chops and on a cow they are called ribeye steaks. i cut them off the bone so that they are boneless and in my opinion much better. they come off in one long strip from the back of the neck to the hind quarters; you then trim all fat etc. so that all that is left is just the meat.

tenderloins are underneath between the backbone/ribcage and the guts. when the deer is field-dressed, the tenderloins are exposed and will dry out while the deer hangs, so they are removed immediately.

they are the best meat in the animal, with the loins coming in a very close second and anything from the hindquarters coming next.

the front quarters/shoulders provide some steaks but are mostly trimmed and then cut in cubes for stew meat or ground. sometimes people save a whole shoulder and BBQ or roast it, but i prefer to trim everything because deer fat, membrane etc can really give a funky flavor and doesn't have a good shelf-life.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kiwi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2010 at 20:00
here we call the loin 'backsteaks' and the tenderloin 'salmon fillet'. no idea why on that last one, maybe bacause it is almost as tender as salmon on a nice animal? I've got a good recipe for tenderloin, I'll chuck it up in the kiwi /aussie section when I get time.
kai time!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2010 at 20:30
hey, kiwi - that would be great - looking forward to it ~
 
amazing how different names and monikers spring up in different areas. most of the time, the origin of the name is lost in time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jkeith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2010 at 06:52
Agree with everything you said.  I'm a big believer in field dressing ASAP and cooling down right away.  This can be a challenge hunting in NC, but is worth the effort.  When  we dove hunt on opening day it is usually in the 90s.  My son and I both carry a small cooler with ice and try to breast out the doves as soon as they hit the ground and throw them  on ice.  Makes a world of difference in the taste of the meat.
 
For deer I have never "aged" the meat simply because I can't hang them outside in our temperatures and don't have a cooler big enough.  I do hear of folks letting the meat sit for several days in ice water, but have never tried this. 
 
Deboning the meat on deer and removing all fat, silverskin, etc., does wonders for the flavor. 
 
Okay, I've got a nice venison loin (backstrap) sitting in the freezer....what are your favorite recipes for this piece of prime meat?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2010 at 07:14
jkeith - yep, in your climate, hanging to age just isn't possible, unless you have access to a meatlocker. i imagine (and this would be a guess) that the best a person could do would be overnight in order to let the muscles relax as much as possible. i have heard of people cutting into quarters, then into an ice chest or refrigerator, and have done this for antelope on a few occasions, but for myself, i would never soak in water, saltwater or anything else like that. i could be wrong, but to me, this would replace a lot of the venison flavor with something else.
 
recipes ~ oh, there are so many! my absolute favorite is simply thinly-sliced "medallions," seasoned and then breaded in flour and then pan fried a bit on each side, with simple pan gravy. it's pretty basic, but i've got a recipe for this and will post it this afternoon or early this evening your time. i also have a couple of recipes for the grill or the smoker, which i will post. will most likely post these in the "midwest/great plains" forum.
 
if you want a complete selection of wild fish and game recipes, a great place to look is www.baitshopboyz.com!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jkeith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2010 at 08:03
I've done the medallions and they are wonderful.  Have also cooked it in the crockpot as a roast and have cut it up for stew.  The one time I cooked it on the grill it did not come out well....too dry.  I did wrap it in bacon and slow cooked  but I suppose I overcooked it (trying to keep it medium rare).  Grilling tips on this cut of meat would be appreciated.....never tried smoking....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2010 at 09:05

grilling and smoking venison is easy - just keep it moist! wrapping in bacon is a good way, also brushing with olive oil or an oil-based mop. i'll also post a few in the grilling/smoking forum - there are a couple of kabob recipes there now that i made with deer and had great results ~ this one in particular:

 
really worked well!Star
 
i always cook my deer to something pretty close to well done, but this is a perosnal preference only. i think medium or medium rare is fine. one thing about your own deer (and this kind of goes back to the original post) is that you know everything about your meat during every step of the process!Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 December 2011 at 09:21
i have some very good information, with step-by-step written and picture detail, from the hutning and fishing library. it covers the entire process from field dressing to packaging and freezing and is a great resource.
 
it's in .pdf format, so i am unable to post it here at this time. i'll figure out a way to share it here sooner or later; in the meantime, if anyone is interested in it, send me a pm or an email, and i would be happy to pass it along.
 
but the main thing ~ i've said it before and i will say it again:

remove ANYTHING that isn't meat, and you will be ok.

that is the NUMBER ONE rule as far as i am concerned. our steaks and roasts have everything removed: bones, fat, silverskin, membrane etc. - it all goes to the dog. i even take down individual roasts in order to get strips of silverskins that (over the years) i have learned are inside. anything that goes into the freezer labeled roast, steak or cubes will be meat only.

when it comes to burger, sausage and jerky trimmings, i relax a little bit, but not much and ONLY where some of the thinner, clear membranes between muscles are concerned, since it would be a shame to waste that meat. this is because there is plenty of meat that is great for these purposes, and the very light-textured membranes i am referring to either melt away in cooking (collagen) or dry on jerky. by membranes i don't mean silverskin, which is whiter in colour and much heavier in nature/texture - that STILL comes off of everything.

also, my oldest son likes to keep the hocks/shanks whole for smoking or braising with beans or something. other than that, if it ain't meat, it's gone.

my kids hate how "anal" i am about that, but regardless, i make damn sure they learn to do it that way. the meat is a lot better for it and it shows in the finished meal that is prepared from such meat.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 December 2011 at 11:28
in my original post, i mention hanging your wild game - there are many ways to do this, but i can't imagine anything easier than this:

simply drill a hole:

screw in a hook:

hoist her up:

and hook her on....

...repeat for other leg.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DIYASUB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 December 2011 at 16:04
 Ron,
 The lads think you're a bit anal about how you remove unwanted stuff from venison? I've got just the recipe for them.
 Venison Cracklings
 Cut up some venison fat into cubes 1" by 1" by 1/2", then fry it up until golden brown. Put it into a strainer while still hot and press as much lard out as possible using the back of a ladle. Plate it, salt it, and serve it. Then sit back and watch the fun. In just a couple of minutes they're gonna look like a couple of cats tryin' to gag up some hairballs. It wont take but a couple of minutes more and they'll become totally OCD about removing all fat from venison.LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 December 2011 at 22:37
ClapEvil SmileLOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 07:38
Simple fact is, those who complain that venison tastes "gamey" are the ones who do not remove all those non-meat parts. Venison fat will go rancid even while frozen.
 
I would never let venison (or any meat or fish) sit in water. Not only does the flavor leech out, you're setting yourself up for bacterial growth and spoilage. But I do keep my quarters chilled, in coolers, as I work on butchering the meat. The venison is up on a rack, though, and the drain plug left open. So the meat never touches water.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 10:00
agree 100%, brook ~ also, i said it in my original post, but i should probably make clear, regarding the hanging/aging deer: i am able to do this becuase my climate allows it; i don't recommend it for folks in warmer/moister climates, but even for those, a hang for at least overnight, if possible, would do wonders to help the muscles relax. quartering and putting in a cooler (above any water or leakage as you describe) is of course an acceptable substitute, but i find that the muscles don't get the slight benefit of stretching a bit as they hang, which does contribute to more tender meat. of course, if climate or conditions preclude any hanging at all, then that's the end of that.
 
when hanging, i prefer to leave skin/hide on, to keep the carcass from drying out, but if i am going to put quarters in a cooler, of course i would skin the carcass first.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 11:30
On the other hand, Ron, here's a quick tutorial on how not to do it:
 
1. Sneak out on the prarie and shoot a pronghorn.
2. Hike back to wherever it is that you left the truck.
3. Drive to downed antelope.
4. First take the time to sharpen your knife.
5. Field dress the antelope; hopefully remembering that the diaphram and lungs are part of what needs to be removed.
6. Tie carcass to hood of truck.
7. Drive to gin mill.
8. Hoist a few while you brag on the great shot you made.
9. Return home. It's now too late to do anything, so leave carcass tied to truck.
10. Butcher antelope next day, leaving much of the fat and connective tissue in place.
11. Complain forevermore about how gamey and off-tasting pronghorn is. Must be because they eat sagebrush.
 
Trust me, I did not make this up. Seen it, or variations of it, more than once.
 
(edited to correct "sagebrush" for no other reason than I finally learned how. Embarrassed)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 11:57
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

On the other hand, Ron, here's a quick tutorial on how not to do it:
 
1. Sneak out on the prarie, roll down the window of the pickup, have your friend hold your beer and shoot a pronghorn.
2. Hike back to wherever it is that you left the truck.
3. Drive to downed antelope.
4. First take the time to sharpen your knife.
5. Field dress the antelope; hopefully remembering that the diaphram and lungs are part of what needs to be removed.
6. Tie carcass to hood of truck.
7. Drive to gin mill.
8. Hoist a few while you brag on the great shot you made.
9. Return home. It's now too late to do anything, so leave carcass tied to truck.
10. Butcher antelope next day, leaving much of the fat and connective tissue in place.
11. Complain forevermore about how gamey and off-tasting pronghorn is. Must be because they eat safebrush.
 
Trust me, I did not make this up. Seen it, or variations of it, more than once.
 
fixed lines # 1 and 2 for you!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 13:23
Not to be argumentative, Ron. But the folks who do it your way drive jeeps. Wink
 
I used to skin professionally, for a processor. Putting the slobs aside, I always found it incredible the number of hunters who 1. could not properly field-dress a deer, and 2. who had no idea where the kill zone actually lies.
 
I also never understood why anyone would pay somebody else to skin their deer. But I wasn't going to turn down the money.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 13:27
yep, i am afraid on both your points, my observations have been pretty much the same.
 
i've done my own deer (and my dad's, and my kids' - and sometimes for friends) all my life, and i do feel i've gotten good at what i know, but it amazes me that i am able to learn something new, or at least expand on it, each year. ~ i've only had it done for my by a processor once, and while the meat etc. was fine, it just seemed like a waste of money to me ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 13:44
I agree. Plus the only time I had a processor do it I was ripped off royally. That's when I vowed to learn to do my own.
 
Yes, like you, I learn something new every year. But at base, it's basically following the dots, because each muscle group is separated by connective tissue.
 
When I was skinning professionally, we got 15 bucks to do that job, and kept the hides (and brains, for that matter, which we used for tanning). The processor charged $65 on top of that. I just can't imagine paying that kind of money for something that just takes a little time.
But people just don't want to learn.
 
When I butcher other people's deer I take a hindquarter and the tenderloins as my payment. But you know what? The line would still form on the left, if I let it.
 
Amazing.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DIYASUB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2012 at 18:23
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

On the other hand, Ron, here's a quick tutorial on how not to do it:
 
1. Sneak out on the prarie and shoot a pronghorn.
2. Hike back to wherever it is that you left the truck.
3. Drive to downed antelope.
4. First take the time to sharpen your knife.
5. Field dress the antelope; hopefully remembering that the diaphram and lungs are part of what needs to be removed.
6. Tie carcass to hood of truck.
7. Drive to gin mill.
8. Hoist a few while you brag on the great shot you made.
9. Return home. It's now too late to do anything, so leave carcass tied to truck.
10. Butcher antelope next day, leaving much of the fat and connective tissue in place.
11. Complain forevermore about how gamey and off-tasting pronghorn is. Must be because they eat safebrush.
 
Trust me, I did not make this up. Seen it, or variations of it, more than once.
 
 Ya left out step #9.5 when doing deer!
 9.5) Hang deer on front porch in direct sunlight, in 50-60 degree October weather, for neighbors to marvel over the hunter's prowess.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 February 2012 at 08:55
Ain't that the truth, Dyasub!
 
Is it just me? Or does it seem that the smaller and less imposing the animal, the more likely it is to get hung in public view? 
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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