We’ve shared lots of columns geared toward getting your game animal on the ground. Now I want to talk about what to do with it once you’ve gotten it there. This is written with the local deer or elk hunter or huntress in mind. These rules or the order of their operations could vary some depending on local custom or necessity.
Depending on the location of your harvest, you may only need to complete a basic field dressing of the carcass or, conversely, a complete quartering thereof. Typically, if you’re within dragging distance of camp or a roadway, merely doing the basic field dressing will result in keeping the carcass cleaner until it’s hanging from the meat pole. If you’re having to pack out the meat a considerable distance, then field dressing, skinning, quartering and cutting all usable meat off of the carcass will be necessary there on site.
Once you’ve transported your meat back to camp, hang it up to cool. I’ve seen folks hang them by the head, and I’ve seen others hang them by the back legs. I prefer the latter. You’ll need to remove all skin and trim off anything that is bruised or bloodshot. Having a clean water source will be necessary for washing the meat to remove any dirt or hair. You’ll need at least 4-5 gallons of water for this step. Regardless of weather or climatic conditions, always cover your meat with a game bag to prevent insects from laying eggs within it, and to keep birds and small varmints from consuming any of your harvest. Failure to do so will result in partial, if not total, loss of the meat.
I like to let my deer hang for 5-7 days and elk for 10-14. Some folks eat it fresh, and others hang it longer still. Hanging the meat allows it to cool and tenderize. During certain times of the year, this will have to be done in a cooler versus in open air as the weather could be much too warm and the meat could spoil. Bow season, antelope season and occasionally even into deer season, the heat must be taken into account. After a day of hanging, the meat should develop a hard crust or case on its exterior. This is normal, and it means all is well.
Once the carcass has hung for its preferred period of time, it’s time to butcher the meat. You can take it to Russell’s or do it yourself. This is a long and painstaking process to undertake, so I will let you decide which course to pursue. I prefer to butcher my own as I have the knowledge and facilities to do so.
Once butchered and wrapped, you are ready for my favorite part: the eating! Venison is relatively simple to prepare. Like other red meat, simple seasonings like garlic, salt and pepper work well! Everyone has their standby recipes, but my favorites are fried or barbecued. Just one of the few things in life that is a literal pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Got any favorite wild game recipes to share? Please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!