Processing Your Deer at Home


James E. Knight, Extension Wildlife Specialist
College of Agriculture
Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University

Processing Your Deer at Home

Venison can be delicious meat. A great deal of your family’s acceptance and enjoyment of venison will depend on how it is cut up and cooked.

This publication illustrates and describes a good method of cutting up a deer. It serves as a guide, and there are tips on using, cooking, and storing venison in the back.

The deer processing method described here is basically one of boning. If you do not especially like your venison now, try this boning method and you might be pleasantly surprised to find how boning enhances the eating qualities of venison, especially the round in the hind quarters.

Boning a deer is neither impossible nor particularly difficult. It just looks that way. Once learned, it is an easy and convenient way to take care of venison. It may, however, take some extra courage and a sense of adventure to try it the first time.

Boning can be done in the field, garage, kitchen, basement, or butcher shop. All the equipment needed is a counter or table top, a meat saw or fine-toothed carpenter saw, a sharp narrow-bladed knife and a place to put the meat and scraps. Because most people have tables, the cutting illustrations are shown on a flat surface. However, the best position for boning a deer is when it is hanging from a gambrel by both hind legs. If placed on a flat surface, the animal can be quartered, halved or left whole. The basic principles of boning will apply in any case. Elk, antelope, bear or other large game can be cut up in the same way.

Boning has several advantages over the conventional methods of cutting up deer. It separates the choice pieces of venison from tough connective tissue, tendons, off-grained meat and excessive fat. Dirt, hair, and bloodshot muscle are also removed easily. The bone dust and marrow from the meat saw is avoided, and packages for freezing are boneless, compact, smooth and easy to wrap tightly. Venison from the boned animal takes up less space in the cold storage locker or freezer.

For the uninitiated, the first step in boning out a deer is to study figure 1. Locate the major parts to be boned out. After you have them fairly well in mind, pick up the knife and begin. It is not necessary to follow the exact order of the steps as shown, but it is a good way to proceed.