With deer season finally here for everyone in the country — Alabama was one of the last to open, right? I think? — that means there literally are tons of deer meat being cleaned and processed.
The gamut of how this gets done spans a wide range. Some guys are DIY specialists who don’t want anyone else helping. Be it tradition or because they’re fussy, that’s what they do. Others use a processor, dropping off and never seeing it again until pickup. And some are a little of both, handling the guts-skinning-cleaning portion but letting a processor do the grinding and packaging.
Whatever your method, here are some easy tips to help if you do happen to be a DIY guy:
Get It Off The Ground
I know some guys like to cut ‘n gut their deer on the ground, rolling out the organs to discard and then dragging out the deer or strapping it to the ATV. I know it works. Seems a bit troublesome trying to keep the legs open and all while you’re cutting, but I know the process works.
I grew up putting the hind legs on a gambrel, hoisting it on a winched cable and going from there. I always wondered why we did it with the hind legs instead of the front, which would let the guts sink toward the pelvic area instead of collecting in the ribcage. But my father was a butcher, that’s how he did it and that’s what I learned.
So, if you’re a hoister, getting the deer high enough to cut, skin, trim, dump and clean is a key. By spreading the legs you also open the cavity for cooling. We usually used a garbage can or tub for the guts and hauled them away. Dad didn’t eat liver, heart or other innards.
Cut It Cleanly and Efficiently
One thing I love about deer hunting is the variety of opinions and methods. The good ones, the civil conversations … not the aggressive ego-fueled garbage about antler size and why your hunting method-weapon-setup-idea is the only way. But I digress.
I’ve watched guys clean deer with a Case Trapper-style knife and nothing else. Others with knives great and small along with saws, power tools and the latest “cool” gut-butt-skin-hide gizmo. Hey, whatever floats your boat as long as it works well for you, I guess.
Having a great knife in the kitchen is a must, of course. In 2013 when I was in Ohio hunting with Heartland Wildlife Institute, our camp chef Ty Hartman was helping with the skinning-cleaning chores. He said an improper knife can be dangerous and time-wasting, which is why he might use more than one blade for different things – removing the hide, trimming away fat and sinew, or cutting up bigger chunks from the carcass.
If you’re a one blade kind of guy, multiple options abound. Or you may want a kit with knives of different sizes, saws and more. The good thing about a kit is you have everything in one place in case you want or need something different than a single blade.
Get The Deer Open, Cooled and Cut
After getting removing the guts, esophagus and anything else you take out, cutting through the thick pelvic joint and the ribs or sternum is the last chore for most hunters.
If you have a camp skinning shed with saws and whatnot, it’s not a problem. Whirrrrrrr … zaaawwwassszzzzz and the bones are apart. You can try to cut through the tough connective joints (not the bones, but the softer-but-tougher joints) with a knife, but that’s kind of dangerous, to be honest.
Or you can use something like a Viking Deer Splitter that whips through them in a snap.
“Stop dulling your expensive knives by splitting a deer’s sternum and/or pelvic bone during the field-dressing process,” says Dan Schmidt, Editor in Chief of Deer & Deer Hunting. “This handy tool allows for easy one-snip cuts for opening a deer’s chest cavity for fast and easy field dressing. It’s also small enough to carry in your pocket or backpack. I highly recommend it!”
Check out the video to see how easy the Viking Deer Splitter works:
Find these and other cleaning tools along with venison cookbooks and more in ShopDeerHunting.com.