There have been some recent questions about field dressing deer. From this I deduct that some folks might want to know what to do when they get the deer home. You can always take your deer to a locker and leave it with instructions. But I like to do it myself at home.
This is the method I have been using for years and we eat at least three deer a year at my house.
First: get one of these
I save the heart and liver when I field dress. I pull the tenderloins (two strips of muscle inside the rib cage near the backbone) when I hang up the deer.
I hang them from the rear leg tendons with a gambrel. You can cut them up right away or let them hang if the weather is cool. Hanging tenderizes the meat - good beef is hung in a cooler for up to three weeks. Does and yearlings I cut up right away. This buck hung for a couple days but the weather was turning very warm, so time to cut.
Take the hide off by cutting the skin around the legs near the gambrel - don't cut the big tendons that he's hanging from. Pull the hide down and use the knife as little as possible. You will have to cut some, but try not to cut the hide. Also, try not to transfer hair to the meat as you work.
When you get to the front legs, cut around as you did the hind legs and slit the hide under the arm to the center cut. Cut the front legs off at the joint. The neck takes some knife work to peel. Cut the head off at the Atlas joint - where the spine meets the skull.
Next cut away fat and connective sheeth that covers the back and the loins (large muscle down each side of the backbone). When you get down to the front shoulder, cut off the front leg by cutting under the scapula. In this picture the loins are exposed on one front leg is nearly cut free.
Once both front shoulders are cut free, you can filet out the loins (backstraps). This is the primo stuff, so try to get them out without much waste. Start at the top near the hams. If you run your knife up along the spine, you will hit bone at the pelvis. This is where the loin starts. Worry it free and work it down cutting where it attaches to the ribs. You will make a mess of the first one but practice will soon make you proficient, especially after you learn how good this is to eat.
Here one loin is being removed.
The shoulder pieces I bone and save for stews, chili, or grinding. The loins I cut into family sized portions and freeze in these large pieces. You can cut them into medalions, butterfly steaks or whatever when you take them out of the freezer. On a large deer cut the loin into thirds, on a yearling, I might freeze an entire loin in one package.
Here are the two loins and one shoulder.
Note: before you cut the loin into sections, remove the silver skin like you would remove a fish skin when fileting. That is, slide a filet knife between the meat and the table or board while pressing down but keeping the blade flat and working the length of the piece. Don't throw that back sinew away - back a bow or trade it to someone who makes bows.
The neck I cut off - either worry free at a vertibral joint or saw it off. I use the neck for mincemeat. The local farmers swear by neck cooked in a crock pot with a liter bottle of 7-up. Have not tried it yet, but its on my list. Mincemeat recipe will be a different thread. For now, I freeze the neck whole with the bone in.
I do not save the ribs. Used to when there were not so many deer, but I have not found a rib recipe that trips my trigger and cutting the little bit of meat from between the ribs is not worth it to me.
So we are down to the hind legs or hams. I used to cut these in two inch thick slices with the bone in for pot roasts. But now I bone them as follows. Cut the leg free at the ball and socket joint. Work you knife along the pelvis and find this pivot joint. Once again the first one will be ugly, but you will soon learn to do a neat job.
Lay the freed leg on you table with the ball joint down. We are going to get five cuts from this piece - bottom round, top round, eye of round, sirloin tip and rump (sometimes called butt).
Find this big diagonal seam. It may be lined with fat like this or just a lean line.
Make a shallow cut and work your fingers in. There is a natural seam where the muscles will separate. Work with your fingers and just enough knife work to free the piece like this.
Continue to follow this seam until the piece is free. This is the top round. On a small deer, you may want to leave the next piece - the eye of round - attached to this piece for a bigger hunk. On a large deer I make one freezer package with both eye of round pieces in it. Here is the freed top round.
The eye of round is only a couple inches wide. It has a seam and comes off next.
The next piece in line is the bottom round. It too will come free by finding the seam and working with fingers and some knife.
The sirloin tip is firmly wrapped around the actual leg bone. On the top end of the sirloin is the rump piece. Find the seam between these two and worry the rump piece away from the sirloin and then cut it free where it attaches to the bone.
Here the rump piece is freed and I am holding the sirloin. I freeze both rump pieces in one package and use for stew.
Now the sirloin. Turn it over so the leg bone is visible. This piece is attached firmly to this bone.
Carefully cut with your knife tip against the bone and it will come free.
The sirloin is a very fine grained solid piece shaped like a football. I like to use it for saurbratten or a roast.
The meat on the lower leg is called the shank. This is a wonderful thing to slowly braise. I keep it with the bone in for just this purpose. Cut the shank off at the leg joint.
Here is what you get from the back leg. Top round, eye of round, bottom round, rump, sirloin and from the lower leg the shank.
FAT DEER! I have helped my boss/buddy and his wife process quite a few deer and elk and I concur with what Shaun is saying and showing. When you 'butterfly' the loins; you lay the loin down on a flat cutting surface like in the photo; and cut through all the way with one slice across the loin; then almost all the way through on the next slice- and keep the distance between the cuts the same. Then you unfold each into a 'butterfly'. I take off all the sinew and other tissue I can and end up with a great tasting steak. On elk; there are a second set of tenderloins near the front of the rib cage. Sometimes meat processors call the tenderloins 'kidneys' and PRETEND to cut them out and throw them away.. if there was no gut material on them; they are considered by many the best part of the deer for the table Keep going Shaun
-------------------- THE VOICES HAVEN'T BOTHERED ME SINCE I STARTED POKING THEM WITH A Q-TIP. Posts: 2556 | From: North Fork , Idaho | Registered: Feb 2004
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To package for freezing. Trim as much fat and sinew off as reasonable. Deer fat does not keep well and will flavor the meat. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and then freezer paper. I have large rolls of each, but you can get by with grocery store packages of plastic wrap like Saran Wrap or Renolds Wrap and some smaller rolls of freezer paper.
The plastic wrap is what protects the frozen meat from air and the freezer paper protects the plastic wrap.
Use as much plastic wrap as it takes to completly wrap the piece. Then use a square piece of freezer paper. Place the meat on one corner of the freezer paper and roll it diagonally toward the other corner while tucking in the sides. This makes a "butchers wrap" that can be closed with one piece of freezer tape. Lable each piece with contents and date.
Put this in the freezer and you are a wealthy family! Learn to handle and cook venison right and you will have your friends and family asking you to go hunting more often.
If you are bitten by the self bow bug, you may want to save the sinew from the legs as well as the back sinew. The leg sinew lays along the bone of the lower leg. Cut it off and dry them for later use.
Great cut along. That is just how we do it here in NJ but our deer are much smaller. I love it when people from PA and out west ask what do you do with 10 deer? I say that coller I just filled with boned meat from one PA deer last week held three Jersey deer with bones in. J.Michael
Posts: 156 | From: New Jersey USA | Registered: Jan 2006
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Great pictures and info. I usually use the neck/shoulders/shanks for burger meat. Can you give out the recipie for braising the shank--that sounds like it would be worth a try.
Posts: 6205 | From: Michigan | Registered: Apr 2003
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Shaun,excellent picture along.I do basically the same as you,however, since our deer are smaller I follow the bone and cut off the top,eye and bottom round as one big roast.Then cut of the sirloin and butt.One thing you want to do if you leave the round whole is reach in and cut out the small gland in there.Ohh nice bug btw.
-------------------- "Forget your lust for the rich mans gold all that you need is in your soul...Find a woman and you'll find love and don't forget son,there is someone up above...Ronnie Van Zant "simple man" Posts: 1303 | From: Down on the bayou | Registered: Sep 2003
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