Nov. 17, 2011
Shot selection, quick cool-down, clean conditions essential
PRATT — Have you ever heard someone say that deer meat isn’t worth eating, that it’s “gamey” or “wild tasting”? Many people who have tried improperly-cared for venison, and many who never eaten deer, labor under this misconception. But avid deer hunters realize that these folks just don’t know what they’re missing. Many believe that whitetail deer is the best red meat on the planet. But ensuring that the meat they take lives up to this standard requires care, and when care is taken, the ultimate satisfaction of the hunt comes when the meat is served to family and friends.

Follow these simple rules, and your venison will be fit for a king.

The first step is a quick, clean kill through the lungs or heart, and this requires knowing one’s range and equipment, combined with careful shot selection.

Next is cooling the meat. No matter the weather, cooling a deer soon after the kill is critical. When weather is mild, hunters must take special care to ensure their hard-earned deer cools quickly. As soon as the deer is recovered, it’s important to field dress the animal so that the carcass can cool down.

Be careful to keep dirt, hair, and debris away from exposed meat while dressing and when moving the deer to the vehicle. Those who plan to process their own deer should hang the deer in a clean, cool building. It’s often best to remove the hide so that meat can continue to cool, particularly if the weather is warmer than usual. Hunters who plan to have the deer processed by commercial butchers should contact them as soon as possible to arrange for delivery.

A cool, clean place is essential for butchering. Although not necessary, many hunters like to age their deer, but a cooler is often needed for this. For those who prefer this method, venison should be aged at 35-39 degrees. Cooler than this, and the meat may freeze; warmer, and the meat may spoil.

With a little extra effort and time, successful deer hunters will enjoy months of rewarding venison meals. Remember: make a clean shot, field dress the deer quickly, cool the meat, and keep it clean.