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Monday, March 2, 2009

Deer Hunting isn’t all about Hunting.

There are many different aspects of deer hunting one of them is processing your kill. Lots of people decide to bring their deer into a meat locker or meat shop, and have all of the processing done for them. From what I understand this can bring with it quite a hefty price tag depending on what you have out of venison made into.

Processing your deer all starts shortly after the kill when you field dress the deer. I don’t care who you are or where you come from if you don’t field dress your animal as soon as possible it can cause major damage to the meat. Although there are a few different ways to dress your deer this step is the just about the same for every one.

Now I will let you in on some of the secrets we have found out over the years of hunting and processing our own venison.

Our party believes the best time to skin your animal is shortly after you bring it in, from the woods or at least with in the same day. The reasoning behind this is the animal is still warm the hide comes off with little effort. When you let it hang for an extended period of time you may have to use a four wheeler to pull the hide off, or spend a large amount of time removing the hide. This can create a much grater risk of damaging or wasting meat.

The next step we take is cleaning the deer off and trimming excess fat. When it’s cold out like most Novembers here in Minnesota your hands get awfully chilly and sometimes numb. Cutting off the excess fat allows the meat to cool much faster during the evening, and washing it gets rid of any debris you may have pick up out in the field. I could go into details here, but it is pretty basic.

Depending on the weather we will leave the carcass hang for up to three nights, but if it is warm which it has been in the past we try to cut it up that night shortly after it is all cleaned up. De boning of the meat is usually a group effort and takes very little time. We try to cut it into bigger pieces so we have the option to make jerky. No matter how good you are there are going to be some scraps, so we make two piles one for sausage and the other for the big roasts. We always cut out the back straps, and tender loins and cook them up that evening. Which makes for a great meal after a long day. Once the meat is cut we seal it in an air tight bag with a vacuum sealer. Then put it in the freezer.

Some time with in the next month after the deer season is over we all get together to make the sausage. First we grind all of the pork shoulder on a course setting, then the venison on the coarse setting as well. Now we go back and grind each one of them again on a fine setting. As we are grinding the meat some one else weighs out the correct portions to make a 60/40 split (60 venison 40 pork). We use to have a butcher grind all of our meat, but after having a couple bad experiences my uncle decided to invest in a grinder. After the correct amounts are weighed out we mix by hand the meat and seasoning.

We typically buy either pig or sheep intestines to use for casings. We use an old antique sausage stuffer to stuff the casings. You just put the casings on the nozzle, fill the stuffer up with as much meat as possible and crank. As you crank the stuffer meat it pours into the casing.You have to make sure you pinch one end so the meat doesn't shoot out the end. Once the lengths look good we cut it, and tie both ends together with a piece of string. Now it’s time to seal it in an air tight bag and take home to freeze. We usually have this set up so two guys are stuffing while two are tying, packaging and labeling everything. It goes pretty quick.

Summer sausage is very similar but the casings aren’t eatable and they are a whole lot larger. After a day or two we hang the summer sausage in the smoker for a while and then you seal it in bags and freeze.

Although processing venison isn’t really hunting, I feel it is part of the whole experience. I have had some really great times with my hunting buddies while processing our venison. If you have never done it before I suggest you try it out not only does it save money, but it makes you appreciate your tasty snacks that much more.


Deer Passion said...

I have to agree that processing the deer is definitely part of the experience. For my family tho, we simply don't always have the time so we usually take it to a small, family owned processor about 30 minutes away and the price is extremely reasonable. You are right though, after doing it once you definitely appreciate your meat more.

Anonymous said...

I process my own deer as well. I don't get to carried away though, just steaks and stew and roasts. I usually let mine hang for an average of two days.
It is a lot of work but very very satisfying.

Randy said...

I process my own venison and make sausage as well. I found that if you grind the venison with a course grind, grind the pork with a course grind, and then take the knife blades out of the grinder, leaving the course screeen in the grinder, then run the venison and pork throught the grinder together to mix well. (the auger does a great job of mixing even without the knife blade) You get a better consistency this way simular to store bought sausage, without the fine finish.

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