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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have always had my deer processed commercially in the past. I used to be a part of a hunting camp where we butchered the deer ourselves, but I was young at the time and didn't pay too much attention. I was relegated to cleaning the hamburger meat. I would like to know if any of you know of a book, or other resource, that gives details on butchering deer. I need info on what parts to make into what as far as steaks, roasts, etc, etc. Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated. It's only six weeks till the open of bow season and I'm REALLY ready for some venison. My wife has been cooking so much darn chicken, I feel I'll start sprouting feathers soon!

I did a search on Yahoo for this and found a couple of books, and a video from a place called Bubba Boy Productions.
 

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Dan Fitzgerald has a pretty good tape. It has been out a long time. You may be able to rent it at a local sporting goods store.
 

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Best advice I can give you is learn to make sausage. You will end up with a lot of 'leftovers' in any butchering job. That gives you something to do with them, other than make hamburger.

Speaking of ground meat - if you have some scraps that you plan on grinding, DON'T grind then freeze. They'll go stale quickly. Instead, freeze small packages about the size you would want to use, but just the chunks of meat. Grind as you need it.

You are doing the right thing looking for a tape, because it is difficult to describe in print. Maybe you can also get a whole pork shoulder or something similar and practice a little?

Basically, what you need to be able to do is the following:

- Separate the muscles (lengthwise) and then cut steaks, chops, etc., across the grain.
- Learn what's tender and what is not. One of the recent 'Successful Hunter' magazines had an article on this. Basically, the more tender cuts are higher up on the animal and farther back. On our little whitetails in Texas, anything below the knee/elbow joint is just dog food, more connective tissue than meat.
- Deal with the 'leftovers' which are pieces too small to do anything else with.

Another thought - if you are going to grind at home, FIRST step needs to be a short ride through a good food processor. What you end up grinding is the ends of the muscles and they are full of connective tissue. The connective tissue WILL choke about any home grinder, but a little time in the food processor helps a great deal.

I separate out the big muscles, then either cut small steaks out of them, or slice them lengthwise for jerky. Backstrap makes GREAT jerky, you get long pieces that don't have connective tissue in them.

If your state laws allow it, I'd quarter in the field and take the backstraps off of the backbone, and maybe bone out the ribs. A lot less stuff that you will just end up throwing away at home.

Ask any questions that come to mind.....
 

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I have found if you have the art of cutting meat, better to do it your self, you can take your time, and do it right, I like to de-bone and butterfly most of my cuts, the back-strap(Tenderloin)I make steaks or jerky for good chewing;) The neck or any of the tuff meat, I make sausage or burger, The best thing to do if you can is to learn from a butcher, learn your cuts, its not hard once you know what your doing, I like to cut the meat semi frozen, this way you don't loose allot of blood, blood is flavor, also cuts better. If you can't do that there is many books on cutting big game, if this seems to overwhelming, have a butcher do it for you, but watch him, if you can, he will do a better job if your over seeing the cut. Good luck. Aim small hit small. RAMbo.
 

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It's very rewarding to see your big game from the field into the freezer. As mentioned before, butchering isn't rocket science and really, with a little practice it doesn't take long to butcher a deer properly, boning the whole thing out as you go, so all there is in your freezer is boneless meat.

Too, doing it yourself you can make divisions of your meat that best suit you and your family. Perhaps you enjoy more roasts than steaks and chops, it's simple to cut roasts out of what would be marginal steak meat anyhow.

Lastly, if you do it yourself, you know how the meat was handled at all times, the conditions it was hung in, and the sanitation of the workplace. Details that might not be so apparent when taking it to a processor. Too, I've taken game to meat processors in the past either when I simply didn't have the time to deal with the carcass, or ambient temperatures were too hight to hang the meat for any significant time, and in at least four instances I either didn't get my meat back (known for sure, as I found a jacketed bullet in a roast once, and hadn't used a jacketed bullet on game for many years), or was so very short of meat when weighed as compared to the hanging, cleaned carcass that was delivered. Once I took a mature mule deer to a local processing plant when we first moved to Idaho, and received back exactly 37 lbs of meat when I picked it up! The answer from the butcher was that there's waste from bone and of course from bloodshot.... I asked what bloodshot, the deer was head-shot! Go figure.

Anyhow, I would encourage you to pick up your knife, your whet-stone and go to work on your next critter!

God Bless,

Marshall
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Marshall and all,
I WILL be butchering my own venison this year. I've had spotty results with processors over the last few years, and it's getting so they want $150 by the time the hamburger is made. I know I can get a decent power grinder and most of what I need for what it would cost to process two deer. I can shoot as many deer as I want here, literally, in the management areas. And I always do wonder why that young tender doe I shot on a management tag is so tough when I get it back home! I've started using my smoker alot, so I might try some sausage and jerky this year as well. I also like the idea of being able to vacuum seal the meat after it's processed. I don't anticipate being able to watch a butcher do the first one, so I'm still looking for a video if you've got any suggestions. I've seen a few books on Amazon, I may pick one up and see if I still have any questions beyond that.
 

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kciH
Good advice given here. My wife and I butcher all of our game, but we grew up doing it.
Ask your library for an interlibrary loan and get a copy of Francis Sell's book The American Deer Hunter, good pictures and advice.
If you get the American Hunter the January 1994 issue had an article by Finn Aagaard on butchering game. About the same information as that offered above.
My grandfather used to tell my Dad that what doesnt come out in one piece comes out in another.... He was just saying that to make him feel better though! Dad was a little rougher on me as a kid.
Save the bones and make stock from them. You will be pleased. Your house will smell great and during the winter your soups and spaghetti etc will taste much better!
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Equipment - you didn't ask but I use Kitchen-Aid. Sort of worked out well that the wife already had it, and she figured if I broke it, then I'd just have to upgrade to the next nicer model! Their food processor is pretty powerful, never had a problem with it except one time the blade hit a bone. Didn't hurt the blade but broke a plastic bushing/fitting that transfers the power from the motor shaft to the blade. New one was a couple of bucks. Have been more careful and no problems since.

The food processor has other uses too. Quite often a sausage recipe will call for some sort of vegetables (like onions, garlic, jalepenos, etc.), liquids (milk, beer) or grain (oat flour helps hold in moisture). It is hard to get spices mixed evenly into the meat when they are dry. But if you can mix them up in the processor, in some sort of liquid, then its a lot easier to get them evenly distributed in the meat. Half a bottle of Shiner Bock really improves the flavor of about 10lbs. of sausage and you know where the rest of it ends up....

Knives - most kitchen knives are pretty worthless for real butchering. Frankly, I just use my hunting knives.

Grinder is an attachment that goes on the front of a Kitchen-Aid mixer. I would rate it as 'medium duty'. With running the meat in a food processor first, the grinder has no problems. Had a hard time finding a stuffing tube, ended up making one out of PVC. Works great! Nice thing about using the mixer to power it, the mixer has about 12 speeds.

I like to grind fresh peppercorns for my sausage. For this, a little coffee grinder is the best. Mine is the 'Krupps' brand (same folks who made artillery for the Germans????). Rest assured you'll NEVER want to grind coffee beans in it again!

Can't grind peppercorns in the food processor, tried it, makes an impressive racket but doesn't do the job!

Reason I mention the Kitchen-Aid stuff is 1.) it's pretty good for home usage, and 2.) if you wife has any lingering doubts about this project, spending money on nice appliances she can use will be appreciated! Just don't break them...!!!

Like you, I try to shoot a 'tender' deer, but if the meat is tough you might see if you can find a butcher who will just let it hang in his cooler for a while. I don't know much about hanging game meat, it's exceptionally rare that you can hang a deer overnight in Texas and have it be edible. Some people will get an old refrigerator or freezer and take out the shelves for this. I just take a 120gt. cooler with 50 lbs. or so of ice with me on every hunting trip, and try to cool the meat as soon as possible. It is not unheard of to be deer hunting down here and it's 80 or 90 degrees, especially early in the season.

If anyone has any recommendations on vacuum sealers, please pipe up. I have a crappy one and need to find something that works well.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
MikeG,
I've got a Foodsaver brand, it works pretty well, but you do NOT want to get liquid (like blood) into the suction mechanism. Thankfully they sell them at Wal-Mart so you can easily exchange it if you happen to suck fluids into it. I bought this for sealing up fish, as most of my fishing is through the ice, and I like it to be in good condition when I go to eat it during the rest of the year.

If I where to buy another one, it would be one with the vacuum hose attachment for sealing jars. My bud has one of these and you can vaccum seal a container with meat and a marinde in it and it's done in less than than a half hours. The suction opens the pores of the meat and draws the marinade in, cuts marinading time by about 80%. Whateveer it does, it does work well.
 

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What do you think of this brand:

http://tilia.com/index.cfm

It has an attachment (some models) like you describe, and also some verbage about handling excess liquid.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
MikeG,
That is the same brand that I have, and it is the EXACT model I was referring to when I said that's what I'd buy if I had it to do again. The only place you used to see these things was Cabelas, so when I saw the same brand for $100 at Wal-Mart, the groceery bill increased by $100 that day. That one is about $130, and I would advise spending the extra $30. It has the bag roll stored inside and also has some kind of cutter, so it should be more convenient and easier to use also.
 

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Just looked, and what I have is a Rival Seal-a-meal. It has two serious problems. First, it isn't powerful enough, you never get all the air out of the bags. Maybe part of that is technique, or not loading the bags properly, or who knows what, but I can't figure it out. If I can run a shotshell loader you'd think that a vacuum sealer wouldn't be much more difficult. And I've actually read the directions.

Second problem is probably the bags themselves. The bags that came with it (a roll actually) seemed to lose their seal over time. What started out as a fairly tight fit got loose and then freezer burn started. Not sure if these were just cheap crappy bags (possibly) or if any moisture along the seal kept the two sides from bonding properly.

Will check at Wally-World and inspect what they have. Thanks for the tip.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
MikeG,
I was at the store tonight and I noticed that the $100 models even have the jar vacuum atachment now. The one I have works great if you follow the instructions, heck it even came with a video tape! The bags are the most expensive part of the proposition, that's the only thing I don't like about the vacuum sealers. The biggest thing with the style I have is to cut the bags square, or it can cause you some unwarranted grief. I don't know, I'd hate to not have one around the house.
 

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I'm going to get another one, just needed some input after the poor experience with the one I have. Thanks for your commments.

On the web site, it says that the bags are washable (dishwasher safe) and resealable. I guess you just cut off the sealed part and re-seal them a little shorter?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
MikeG,
I haven't tried to do that, but the bags are heavy enough that it probably wouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't use the dishwasher to do it, but I think it would be reasonable to say that it could be done. It would probably be a good idea to use a mild bleach solution for the cleaning just to be safe. One of the things mine gets used for is repackaging "family packs" of meat since my family consists of two adults a 12 and 2 year old. I wouldn't want to take a chance with something that had pork chops or ribs in it after lying on the counter for a few hours before it was cleaned. I don't know if that's a big concern, but food poisoning and other bacterial maladies aren't my idea of a good time. I'm a little paranoid about that since it took me getting sick a couple times before I realized that Omaha isn't a good place to eat "fresh" oysters. Also a recipient of "Montezuma's Revenge" a time or two in Mexico, that's likely the reason I don't reuse bags that where used to store meat.
 

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Two main things make the Tilia Foodsaver a far better unit than the Rival - First, it uses an actual vacuum pump instead of the cheesy little fan in the Rival, and the second key is the bag itself. You'll notice the Tilia bags are "textured" on the inside, that allows the last little bit of air to be sucked out around the food. It is not your technique, Mike, the Tilia is a much better machine in every way. The Rival was also sold under the Daizey name. I know way too much about this stuff because I used to be the housewares manager for a department store.:(
 

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ID, thanks very much for the 'inside' information! Now I know what to look for. I wondered about the texturing on the bags.

Hick, agree re: storing meat in bags, my thought is that I could wash these things, and store them in the freezer, and only use them for sausage links, etc. That way I know the food will be thoroughly cooked. In my house I'm pretty well 100% in charge of dead animal handling, from ants up to moose, not much chance of someone else getting the bags and using them for salad by mistake. I assure you the wife doesn't dig around much in the freezer!

When we repackage pork chops, etc., from the grocery store my wife usually puts these in Ziplock freezer bags so she knows what they are and how long they've been in the freezer. Of course we don't try to wash those, they get tossed. I am also pretty good about keeping the bags marked, which is important.

Bleach would be the best cleaner, if it doesn't degrade the bags. I'll have to experiment a little.
 

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MikeG,

With respect to your question:

"On the web site, it says that the bags are washable (dishwasher safe) and resealable. I guess you just cut off the sealed part and re-seal them a little shorter?"

I've had the Foodsaver Professional for years now, and that's exactly what you do. A large Roast bag after use becomes a medium roast bag, becomes a whole Pheasant bag, becomes a duck bag.......

you get the idea.

Ka6otm
 

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KciH, I started out using an old cook book that had a picture of a beef that had lines at where to cut. I surmized that anything with four legs could be done the same and thats pretty close to the truth. While the meat is getting ready to de-bone I take my sawzall and cut right down the back bone then the neck comes off then the ribs, hind quarter, front quarters ec. etc.. I now have smaller pieces to work with on the kitchen table. If you live in an area cold enough to let the deer hang for awhile[one week] it's alot easier to cut it up when parcialy froze. For the deer burger I go done to the local butcher and get fresh pork scraps and grind it in with the deer burger. I use one part pork too three parts deer.
Bob
 

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Ka6otm, thanks for confirming. I found one of the genuine Tilia vacuum sealers at a warehouse store (Costco) and I believe that you can also find them at Sam's club. Someone told me to look at the SuperTarget stores but I haven't been there yet.

The model I saw was the 1075 and it was about $140 I think, which is about $40 cheaper than the suggested retail price on the Tilia web site. Also the bags were much cheaper at Costco.

It's definitely on the list of things I need!

P/S, I have read a good suggestion for field butchering which was to use a corldless sawzall. Sounds like what you describe. Need one of those also!
 
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