The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Gutting, skinning, and butchering the deer

Deer entrails.Shooting the deer, of course, is the easy part of getting free meat out of the woods.  The next steps left me floundering and wishing I had a pro with me.  At least I had the internet!

Everyone you talk to says that it's essential that you disembowel the deer immediately.  I was surprised at how thick the hide was on the belly --- I hacked and hacked and didn't even make it through the hair before turning the knife over to Mark.  He did a better job and then I had no problem pulling out the steaming entrails --- a lot like gutting a chicken but with the addition of what seemed like a gallon of blood sloshing over my hands.

After carrying the deer back to the barn, we hung it up and went inside to figure out whether we should age the meat.  Some people seem to age their deer for up to two weeks, leaving them hanging out in the open.  A few minutes of research, though, suggested that you shouldn't age your meat outside if the temperature is above 40 or 50, and the day was beautiful.  So we moved on to plan B --- cut the deer up and age the meat for a day or two in the fridge.

Hanging a deer to skin it.Between the two of us, with the help of a sharp knife and hacksaw, skinning was fun and relatively painless.  Then we whacked off the head (to be composted), the legs, and the tenderloin before cutting up the rest of the meat for Lucy's dinners.  I've been reading Sharon Astyk's thought-provoking blog and was especially struck by her entry that calls us to task for buying mainstream pet food.  Although I would consider it wasteful to throw away all of the meat I plan to give to Lucy, it'll help lower our dogfood footprint (and will save me a lot of time cutting little bits of meat off the bone.)

I spent the next two hours chopping meat off the carcass and bagging it in meal-size portions.  I'm a terrible butcher, and I suspect this part could be done much better by someone with a bit of knowledge.  Still, it's hard to complain when a third of our fridge is now full of free range meat bought for the cost of a single bullet! 

We ended up with 24 pounds of meat for us humans, which includes the kidney (but not the heart, since I seem to have missed that.)  Nearly half of the meat is from the front legs and lower parts of the back legs and will be turned into roasts or sausage.  The rest is steak-quality meat, I hope.

All told, from my pre-dawn wake-up call to the last wiping down of the counters, it took six hours to kill and process my first deer.  If our chicken killing experiments are any indication, this time could be halved with practice.  Still, I think I'll wait a while before trying my hand at another deer!

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

The photographs are too disturbing and violent, I just couldn't bear them.
Comment by Buying Steaks Fri Dec 3 05:20:12 2010
I'm sorry you feel that way, but I wonder if you put any thought into how the steaks you're selling get that way. :-)
Comment by anna Fri Dec 3 08:50:06 2010

what are you a girl, cause hey i am and this is hunting this is how it's done.

Comment by lanni Mon Mar 28 03:46:28 2011
Glad to hear from another girl hunter! :-)
Comment by anna Mon Mar 28 07:41:14 2011
I'm only twelve and I have done it many of times it's not that bad trust me try it once and if u can't handle it than ur a wimp
Comment by Tim Mon Oct 28 23:21:32 2013

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.