Intro to Archery: Processing Venison Yourself

I bought another chest freezer yesterday in anticipation of the upcoming bow season. We’ve had an incredible garden harvest this year – our first big garden haul ever – and I’ve processed summer squash, zucchini, peas, kale, corn and tomatoes – and still have more to do. Yet both the freezer in the house and our other small chest freezer is literally at capacity.

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So what happens when we get a deer or two this fall? Good thing we decided on the new freezer purchase.

A few months ago, I talked to Hank Shaw about deer processing for my article, “From Field to Table: Five Steps to Better Venison Processing,” which appears in the October issue of Deer & Deer Hunting. One of his main points really resonated with me. He said, “All mammals are generally built on the same chassis with little differences.”

Obviously most of us also eat beef or pork – or other big game animals – and can see his point. But until he said it, it never occurred to me. Looking at deer this way takes the intimidation factor of processing it myself down a notch. Last year, while I didn’t harvest a deer, my husband did and, like many, we were too busy at the time to even consider doing any of the processing ourselves. He was in the middle of teaching a college semester and I was swamped with grad school, writing assignments and shuttling our daughter to and fro.

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This year, though, now that my first bow season is behind me and I know what to expect for the most part, I may give it a try – with the small caveat being what Weston Products CEO Mike Casper recommends: baby stepping into it. He says:

“Don’t butcher a whole deer your first time through. Take it to a processor, have them handle all the steaks and roasts and set aside the scraps to grind yourself. Just focus on the sausage and jerky and other recipes. The next time you can get a little braver. Have the processor keep all of the main muscle groups whole, then cut the steaks and roasts yourself. Once you start to get comfortable with that, then you can try and do a whole deer on your own.”

I have the game knives, the vacuum sealer and am not afraid to get my hands dirty. Everything will depend on two things: 1) I need to actually get a deer and 2) I need to have the time to do it. Knowing that it is something that I would like to try, I hope I can make both of these two things happen.


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