If you’re new to butchering, the idea of processing your own deer can be intimidating. Particularly so, when your research reveals there are numerous ways to use each part of the animal! In order to help you, I thought I’d break the process down into 9 basic steps. Let me show you a simple way to butcher and wrap your deer!
But first, I need you to ask yourself the following question.
What Will I Use the Most Of?
Take a moment to think about your go-to recipes. Think about the way you cook. When it comes your meat supply, what do you use the most of? Some people feel they have to take a wide range of cuts from their animal. But when you’re just starting out, I encourage you to keep it simple.
If you use lots of stew meat in your home cooking, don’t be afraid to turn potential steaks into stew meat. Maybe you primarily use ground meat? Give up the ribs and roasts for the sake of making more burger!
With our first deer of the year, my man and I put nearly the entire thing toward both ground meat and stew meat. It’s what we use the most of, so it makes sense to focus on these two things.
Keep it simple. And create what you’ll use.
Equipment You’ll Need
Before you start into the butchering process, you’ll need a few, basic supplies. Here are our favorites, ones we use every butchering season!
A Sharp Cutting Knife
One of my favorite hunting/butchering knives would be the good, old fashioned Buck knife. This tool sharpens like no other and it’s a favorite when butchering day rolls around!
After cutting up your deer, you’ll want to wrap the meat before storing it in the freezer. We like this type of butcher paper and purchase it in large rolls. If you’re doing butchering at home, you’ll be grateful to have it in bulk! Not only is it cheaper, but you don’t have to worry about running out part-way through butchering day!
You’ll need a good tape to seal your packages. We like to use a simple roll of masking tape. Again, I recommend purchasing it in large quantities.
A Tool to Cut Through Bone
While a band saw is idea for home butchering, not many can afford to purchase one. The cheapest alternative would be the handy hack saw.
However, once we realized a reciprocating saw would do the job much faster and with less effort, we didn’t hesitate to make the change! Today we use this Milwaukee Sawzall to cut through bones and ribs. It works well (see video below)!
A Simple Way to Butcher and Wrap Your Deer
You’ll find the 9 basic steps written below and I’ve also included a video for you to watch. Sometimes a visual is worth a thousand words!
Step 1: Clean the Carcass
Be sure to give your deer a wipe it down, removing hair, dirt and dried blood. Before you use a wet cloth, do a quick dry-dusting with a clean cloth, knocking off loose hairs or debris. This accomplished, wipe the table clean around the meat.
After dry-bushing the deer, make a simple, vinegar solution by using a 6 to 1 ratio: to approx 6 C of water add 1 C vinegar. Dip a clean cloth into this solution and use it to wipe away dried dirt and blood. Be sure to clean inside the chest cavity!
Step 2: Remove Front and Back Legs
The first thing you should remove are the legs! It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll soon grow familiar with the muscle groups and natural anatomy of a deer. Don’t worry if you literally butcher things the first time. You’ll improve with practice!
Step 3: Carving Out the Backstrap
On either side of the deer’s backbone is a very tender muscle, referred to the a backstrap or tenderloin.
You can create T-bone steaks with the backstraps and backbone. However, a much simpler way access the meat is to remove it from the bone. Watch the video to see how we do that!
Step 4: Cutting the Ribs Loose
There are two options for the ribs. You can cut the meat away and grind it up for burger, or you can create roasting ribs by leaving the meat intact. Using a saw, cut the ribs away from the back and breast bone. Then, you’ll want to cut the ribs in half or even into thirds.
Step 5: Processing the Front and Back Legs
Muscles on the front legs will be tough and lean. We remove this meat and almost always turn it into burger. It’s a great way to go!
Deer hams (or back legs) are wonderful for creating a few Sunday dinner roasts! We’re very rustic in our approach. If you want beautiful roasts taken from each individual muscle group, I recommend watching this youtube video.
Step 6: Cutting Up the Backstrap
Because it’s one of the most tender cuts, the backstrap makes wonderful tiny steaks, small roasts and also excellent stew meat. Again, it’s your choice. Think about what you’ll use the most of.
Step 7: Dividing the Ribs
If you choose to keep ribs in rib form, you’ll need to divide them up so your roasting pan can hold them! We prefer to cut them to length at every 3rd rib.
Step 8: Cleaning Up the Scraps
Finally, it’s time to clean up the remaining bits of meat on what’s left of the deer carcass. Chances are, you missed some meat when you took out the backstraps. These extra bits are excellent for stew!
Also consider the neck. A deer’s neck has lots of meat on it, but it can be difficult to get at. You can try to cut the meaty bits away or do as we prefer to do. Take a saw and cut the neck into 2-3 pieces. They’ll make excellent soup bones!
Check out some of my favorite, go-to deer recipes in “The Venison Cookbook: Venison Dishes from Fast to Fancy” by Kate Fidducia!
Step 9: Packaging the Meat
The meat you took for burger can now be sent through a meat grinder. If you aren’t ready for that, you can freeze the meat in bags, then thaw them out the day before you grind it up.
We hold off on making burger until after hunting season is finished. Then we do all of it at once.
All the other cuts can be wrapped and place in the freezer. If you need to learn how to do this, you can watch the video or get my tutorial here on how to wrap meat.
I hope this gives you the confidence you need to move forward! Remember that this is a simple way to butcher and wrap your deer. When you find yourself becoming comfortable with the process, you may want to expand your skills and knowledge, particularly with the cuts you enjoy most!