Processor's tips for field-dressing deer
October 1, 2010 by
A deer hunter keeps no secrets from his processor. Some hunters butcher their own deer, sure. But for everyone else, all is laid bare when the processor opens up your deer to turn it into recognizable cuts for the dinner table. The folks at Dunbar Meats in Milan, Mich., have been processing deer since the 1950s, and they typically handle about 500 deer a year.
Kenny Glenn handles most of the deer that come through Dunbar, and he says hunters who field dress their deer properly can make the meat taste better and get more of it. Many hunters field dress deer the way they were taught by a dad or grandpa, and often those practices lead to spoiled or wasted meat.
"The big thing is to slow down," Glenn said. "Honestly, take your time doing it, don't rush. It isn't a pleasant experience, there is some blood involved, but in the end if you really and truly want to enjoy the deer, then take that extra 10 minutes."
Here are Glenn's tips for field-dressing your deer so it tastes better and provides more meat:
'Bung' the deer: The first step in proper field dressing is to cut out the deer's anus, a.k.a. its bung. Cut a clean, deep circle around it using the pelvic bone as a guide. Pull it out at least 6 inches of the tube to make sure it's free. You can use piece of string to close off the opening and keep loose feces pellets from falling out if you wish. But cutting the rectum loose allows it to slide out when the rest of the entrails are removed. Leaving a section of the digestive tract in the deer can spoil meat in a few hours.
Bone to bone: When cutting open the abdomen, start at the pelvis and stop at the sternum. It ‘s not necessary to split the pelvis or cut open the deer's rib cage. In fact, it wastes meat. Any meat exposed to air will dry out and end up in the waste bucket. Cut bone to bone, no more.
Through the diaphragm: Once the deer is opened, cut away the diaphragm and cut the esophagus to remove the heart and lungs. Leaving a section of esophagus will not affect the meat.
Rinse it clean: Once the cavity is empty, rinse it thoroughly to remove blood, dirt, leaves or any other debris. Water will not affect the venison.
Ice it down: Pack the abdominal cavity with ice bags to cool the meat. Once the meat is cooled, the hide insulates the meat and serves as its own cooler.
Leave the hide: Leave the hide on as much of the meat as possible. It protects the meat from drying out. Same with the fatty layer that covers the tenderloins inside the abdominal cavity.
Leave the glands: It is not necessary to remove the tarsal glands from a buck's hind legs. Despite an old wives' tale to the contrary, the glands do not affect the flavor of the meat.
Don't cut the Achilles: DO NOT sever the Achilles tendons at the back of the animal's legs. Keeping them does not affect the flavor of the meat, and cutting them makes it nearly impossible for your processor to lift the animal off the ground for butchering.
Find it now: If you shoot an animal in the evening, find it. Use all the lights and all the buddies you can. Unless temperatures are in the teens, the minute that animal dies its digestive tract begins to work on the meat and can spoil it.