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How-to Process Your Own Venison

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Figured I'd do a "how-to" on the way my father and I butcher our deer. We de-bone them while they hang except the front shoulders. Hope someone finds it usefull for this season. It might be hard with words and photos to express what I mean, so ask questions. A video would help alot, maybe down the road i'll make one...

First we always skin them as soon as possible. We prefer to skin them from the neck down. Just seems easier and you end up with less loose hair. Then for the de-boneing, the deer will need to be hanging from the hind legs.


I prefer to use a 6 inch boning knife but a filet knife actually workes well also.

Grab the forearm and pull it away from the body a bit and with a few cuts along the body it will seperate easily...


When you get down to the neck I cut in towards the bone then take the side neck meat off also. Almost like fileting a fish...


Next I take the inner filets out. These are probably the most tender part of the animal.

Start by cutting away the sides of the belly.


Then start you knife in at the top of the filet and work from the spine and top slowly working it away from the bone. It actually comes out with very few cuts...



The other side is actually harder for a right hander. Just take your time and be carefull. Accidents happen when you get complacent and hurry...

Next are the backstraps.

Right where my thumb is you can feel a hip type bone. Your going to cut right below that over to the spine then down along the spine...



This next picture is from removing the other side but I think it shows best how you work from the ribcage and remove the meat.


I continue all the way down and get the rest of the neckmeat now also...


Thats about it for the front end and ribcage. There may be a few pieces of neck meat and if it is a bigger deer maybe some useable meat up around the chest/brisket. These pieces will go into the "grind" pile...

Onto the hind legs...

Only 10 pictures per post so in about 10 minutes i'll have part 2 up. cool

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The hind legs...

Go to the belly part of the deer and remove the "thighs". Start your knive in right below the knee where my knife is...


Cut into the bone and follow it down...


When you get down to that "hipbone" you can work the meat around towards the back and get some more from the spine area...


Now around to the backside.

Start your knife in at the back of the knee where I have it. If you cut too high and get the tendon, the whole thing will fall...


Now work down to the bone. This chunk will be the hardest part of the process. Just take your time. and work down and around the bone...



Once you get down so far, work towards the spine. You'll see that hip bone right below my trigger finger, thats where you start working towards the spine...


All that is left now except a few little pieces is the calf pat. These will only be "grinds" so however you get them off is fine.


This deer was done "warm". It is alot easier for the whole process if the deer is chilled but temps were around 60 degrees and only cooling to 45 overnight. If it is going to be in the 30's we'll let them hang overnight. If not we will do this process and either place into our extra fridge or coolers on ice.

The next process of butchering is alot easier if it is chilled. And cutting warm meat is much more dangerous. The knife will be harder to control.

The next stepp involves a small stable table, a few knifes and sharpeners, some small pails for the differnt cuts. Cat, dog, and beverages optinal...


Dosn't matter where you start so heres a backstrap...


Thats 10 pictures. Part 3 in a few minutes...

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There is an outer layer that seperats from the main chunk of loin easily with you hands and a few cuts...



One tip -- Keep a piece of paper towel close by. It is much easier to grab random pieces of hair with the towel.

Next lay the loin with the silverskin down and filet it off...


I find it easier to start in the middle and do this in two pieces...


I clean all silverskin, fat, and hair from all the meat. Some of the loins I package whole for grilling, and some gets sliced for either grilling or diff saute/sauce dishes...



The end opposite the hip up towards the neck i'll trim away fat, blood, and conective tissu. Most of this will be used in "grind". Maybe a few nicer pieces will get cut up for kabobs. Smaller pieces get packaged for soup/stew...


The inner filet or tenderloin...


Just clean it up and trim off any undesireables...


These I'll either leave whole or cut into 3-4 strips. Marinate and grill, dont overcook. We had them for lunch marinaded in a vinegrette i made with olive oil, red-wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt n pepper, garlic, and horseradish-mustard...


10 picts again. Part 4 comming right up....

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The front legs...

All of this for us goes into grinds, ie - sausage, kielbasi, burger, brats, sticks...

Just follow the bone and take a big top chunk and bottom piece....



The shoulder plate...

Right where my knife is there is a "ridge"...


Cut on either side of it and filet the meat off...



Flip the leg over and filet off the other side of the plate.


Now the forearm...


Now the hamstring part of the hindleg...


Flip it over and it will look like this, you can start to seperate the muscle groups...


I "seam out" the whole chunk in pieces...


10 pictures! Part 5 soon. crazy

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Pt 5!


Each of these chunks I carefully remove any fat and all the connective tissue and silver skin. The two bigger chunks can make a good roast if thats what you like...

Some of the pieces I clean up and slice with the grain for jerky...


Others I cut thin across the grain for sandwiches or picatta. Place them between saran wrap and pound them thin, toss them in seasoned flour, into beaten eggs, then into seasoned breadcrumbs, fry them, hot and quick. Onto a nice roll with some cheese and roasted red peppers. cool Or just dredged in seasoned flour and quick fried, into some kind of gravey or sauce, along with smashed taters or rice...


Some is also cut into pieces for kabobbs(locally called spiedies)

Smaller pieces I use in chili. stew, and soup...


Besides some random scraps that need cleaning up all that is left is the front thigh...


With your hand and knife there is a "cap" that removes...


This chunk makes a nice crock-pot roast, or sliced lengthwise for jerky, or can be cut across for steaks...


Thats about it!!! Hopefully you folks that already cut your own picked up something from this. And maybe it inspires someone to try it themselfs.

There are some great butchers out there that put out a great product but it is nice doing it yourself and knowing exactly what goies into things and how things are handled. While saveing money... grin

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I like it, very nice, the one thing that I think too many hunters do is use their skinning and gutting knives. A flexible fillet knife is a must have for cutting up deer quickly and efficiently.

Do you take left over meat and grind it, You do a great job getting the big roasts and meat chunks, but what about the trim, do you keep, or throw? What percentage of the meet do you get off of deer, we usually run 35 to 40% of the field dressed deers weight.

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Nice job and nice pictures Dark Cloud!!! Thanks for putting forth the effort!!! I'm going to try and figure out how to print these off on a color printer!!! I'm inspired to try butchering one myself!!! I've done a couple deer on my own, can get the hide off ok, but then getting the chunks off and cut up nicely is a mystery. Thanks!!!

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Trigger - We use alot of "trim". We go through all the meat and remove, hair, fat, and blood. The tougher fiberous meat will go right through the grinder.

My dad and I are usually good for 2-3 deer each and we like venison alot but also work at ways to use it up.

I use to work at a butcher shop and still have access to the grinder which is nice.

We use alot of burger. Most of this I grind with beef fat, ie trim from a rib-eye at a 10-15 percent ratio. This gets used in taco's, chili, stuffed cabbage and peppers, ect...

I also make alot of hamburgs. This I started grinding with bacon. 1 pound of bacon per 5 pounds of venison works out nicely. Mix in some seasonings and its great...

I also just made 10 pounds of meatballs and 10 pounds of brats that were both 50/50 venison to pork.

We also usually make some kielbasi, summer sausage, breakfast sausage, and sticks...

Most of the time from the average deer we have 18-22 pounds of trim. Im not sure on total weight but somewhere around 35% sounds right...

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This is great info and interesting to read. May have to try it sometime. On a recent work trip, I sat next to a guy on the plane to New Orleans coming back from a Canada duck hunting trip. We talked hunting for several hours and he instructed me in graphic detail (complete with hand motions) on the gutless method of field dressing and quartering a whitetail, much to the chagrin of some non-hunters next to us. He mostly hunted Alabama for deer and it was interesting to compare notes. The bag limits there are basically limitless on the deer you can take. He was dumbstruck to find I could only take one.

In any case, here's how I process my own deer. First I put it in the back of my truck, then I tie it down. Next I drive it to the Belgrade Meat Center. Then I go home, have a beer and wait for about a week before they call me to come get my steaks, chops and tons of wonderful breakfast sausage, summer sausage, snack sticks, and weiners. Sure its not really doing it myself but I like the guys there and they do an awesome job with everything so I like to give them my business. I will have to try it on my own someday though and this is good information to have.

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It looks like a clean and efficient method. It's always interesting to see how others process and butcher their deer. I came to deer hunting later in life with no one around to show me how to hunt or to field dress and butcher a deer. Luckily there are excellent videos out there and up in this neck of the woods Bill Hesselgrave; from Superior, WI; puts out an outstanding one. He also does seminars and I've seen him twice at the Duluth Gander Mountain. He goes through the whole process--from field dressing to packaging. Another good source for folks wanting the savings and satisfaction of dealing with your own animal.

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Hey dark cloud. I've been cutting deer for the better part of 30 years and that is one of the best DIY's I've seen. Very nice job.

PS: say Hi to "tony on ice" for me.

From one of the original shanty gang guy's.


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MNice - Nice to see you here!

Dark Cloud - Excellent! Very similar to how we do it also.

I learned some things on your presentation on the hind quarters that I am going to adopt for sure.

If you like to work standing up once the meat is of off the carcass, here is what I did. I have a Craftsman tool box on wheels with the wood work surface on the top. I picked up a 4 foot length of kitchen counter top from a big box store. It has the back splash on it, but more importantly, the front of the counter top has that little ledge underneath that keeps the whole works from sliding off the bench top.

It is very comfortable to work at that height and there is room for two to cut an trim.

It's easy to keep clean, and it does not take much storage space when we are done.

In addition, if its really cold outside, I can bring the counter top in and use it in the kitchen, or on the dining room table.

It works great for grinding and stuffing too!

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Nicely done Dark Cloud!

I finally completed my deer processing last night after several hours of cutting up my deer, and cleaning the meat. I'm beat. Thankfully, the temperatures have been great to work with.

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Great work DC! Those are the best photos/instructions I have seen yet. I do it the same way but sure could have used this info 20 years ago.

One tip I will throw in is I never cut my steaks up before freezing, I keep the meat in a whole chuck. I belive this helps the meat hold its moisture and it only takes a minute to cut your steaks up fresh before they land on the grill.

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In any case, here's how I process my own deer. First I put it in the back of my truck, then I tie it down. Next I drive it to the Belgrade Meat Center.

Classic. grin

Dark Cloud - very nice tutorial.

Yes, and in all seriousnes - and my approach aside, I just printed this out on the home computer. My wife may need to buy some new color cartridges. I'd love to try this some day and this is the best step by step instruction I've seen to date.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • Sounds like a great time Minky, even with other people messing things up.
    • Yes I did but several hours apart. I don't remember the timing exactly but I do know that the pork butt went into the stall already at about 150 degrees so I foiled it then for the duration of the cook. The brisket probably got wrapped a bit sooner at around 160 degrees.
    • I recently spent about a week and half in the panhandle mountain area of Idaho. We were a mixed group of elk and deer hunters. What an awesome hunt in a great area.   This was my first hunt for elk with an experienced elk hunter (childhood buddy). I learned so much. One bull was harvested on opening day. On day 5 we got into a bunch of elk with one being a herd bull, no shot. Next day was cow season so we backed out.    Early the next morning we were back in the area. Fresh elk beds and urine puddles showed we were right behind the elk. Fresh tracks showed they were walking ahead of us but not running. I pulled off to let my buddy and his wife continue on. About a half an hour later a pair of moose hunters in a side by side pasted me on the logging road head towards my buddy. The elk heard the side by side and bugged out.   The next morning we were going to try again but there was a truck at the trail head. The last morning of cow season a very large group of people were camped blocking the trail head, the joys of public land! We continued hunting and exploring new areas.    We ended up with 1 elk and 6 deer before half of the group headed home. The other half are still out there trying to fill tags.     I am already planning next years hunt. I learned so much and seen / explored new area. I only had an elk tag but hope to have both elk and deer tags in my pocket next year. I will also be better prepared next season. I am looking forward to next years two weeks of mountain therapy. 
    • Interesting.    Did you foil both of them?    
    • Very nice DTro! Don't know if you remember me but I used to fish the Mississippi for cats and carp. Congrats on the guiding job. Take care.
    • A couple of weeks ago I put a butt and a brisket on the Louisiana Grill at the same time. They were basically the same weight but the brisket got done about 3-1/2 hours sooner than the brisket.
    • Bruce Jean at Rainy lake Guiding does a great job.   www.rainylakeguiding.com     
    • I was looking at the vikings schedule the rest of the way and I see them with 4 or 5 wins.  Not good enough to watch and enjoy the season and not bad enough to get us the top pick.  Hopefully they find new and innovative ways to lose games they should win and finsih 1-15. 
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