Cooled quickly, venison is great-tasting, healthy food

For deer hunters, taking a deer is a satisfying culmination of several weeks of practice, scouting, and preparation. However, once the deer is down and tagged and photos snapped, the real work begins -- caring for the meat.

No matter the weather, cooling a deer soon after the kill is important. When weather is mild, hunters must take special care to ensure their hard-earned deer is fit for the table. When cared for correctly, venison provides tasty, lean, healthy meat.

As soon as the deer is recovered, it’s important to field dress the animal so that the carcass can begin cooling. Be careful to keep dirt, hair, and debris away from exposed meat while dressing and when dragging the deer to the vehicle. Ideally, hang the deer in a clean, cool building. Depending on the weather, it may be best to remove the hide so that meat can continue to cool. If the will be deer processed by a commercial butcher, it’s a good idea to contact them as soon as possible to make arrangements for delivery.

For those who butcher deer themselves, a cool, clean processing spot is essential. Many hunters like to age their deer, but a cooler is often necessary for this. Ideally, venison should be aged at 35-39 degrees. Cooler than this, and the meat may freeze; warmer, and the meat can spoil.
With a little extra effort and time, successful deer hunters will enjoy months of rewarding venison meals. Remember, field dress the deer quickly, cool the meat, and keep it clean.