Large Whitetail Buck with huge antlers

Venison Processing Tips

Archery hunters and gun hunters will have many chances at deer this season. There will be literally tons of venison ready for preparation in the Midwest alone over the duration of a hunting season.

The processing of all this deer meat can get to be an expensive proposition. Let’s just assume that your family gets two deer. That is pretty realistic. The processing cost will likely be in excess of $100. Now let’s say you spend that $100 almost every year. In five or six years you have spent enough on deer processing to buy a new slug gun or a better bow. Let me show you how to put that money to better use.

Processing your own venison is an easy and simple task. You do not have to be a professional meat cutter or have thousands of dollars worth of processing equipment. When you are processing your own meat, you are the only one you have to satisfy.

Skinning Techniques
We should start with proper skinning techniques. Removing the skin from a deer does not have to be a wrestling match. A properly hung carcass can be skinned quickly with a properly sharpened skinning knife. I mention the knife because you MUST NOT butcher your deer with same knife you used to skin it. There is just too much chance of transferring contaminants from the hide to the meat. After getting used to skinning your own deer, you will find they are easier to skin than squirrels.

Once you switch knives and begin the actual butchering, things go really quickly. Again, there does not have to be a diagram posted to make sure you cut the meat right. Basically, you make the cuts that suit you. Chops, steaks and roasts can all be cut without the use of a bone saw. If you have such a saw and choose to use it, great. But just know that it is not necessary to do the job.

The first cuts you should make on a skinned deer are to remove the loin from both sides of the spine. To do this, run a sharp, heavy-bladed knife along one side of the spine. Then run the knife in the same direction just on top of the rib cage, making sure the second cut meets the first one. Repeat these steps on the other side and you should be able to remove both loins in long sections, ready to fillet or butterfly. Do not forget to also remove the inner loins, just next to where the kidneys were.

Cut The Shanks Off
Next, cut the shanks off both hind legs. Bone-out the shanks and bone-out the neck, as well. All of this meat is excellent for stews. Now cut both hindquarters away from the carcass. This is where you will get your rump-roasts and many of your steaks. The steaks will be easier to cut with a meat saw, but it can be done without one.

The author says he grinds the trimmings into ground venison burger in about 20 minutes. (Photo by Mike Roux)

There are no real cuts that come from the flanks, but there are still many pounds of useable trimmings there that can be ground later. The spare ribs, however, will come off the front portion of both sides of the deer. You really do need a saw if you want bone-in ribs. Otherwise, just cut-off the trimmings for grinding.

Pretty much all that is left now is the chuck roasts you can cut off the front shoulder. But after all of the major cuts of meat have been removed from the carcass, there is still much that can be cut away and ground into excellent venison burger.

And the vast majority of venison consumed in the United States is in the form of ground meat. Chili, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, meat loaf, sloppy joes and grilled burgers are, by far, the most popular venison meals. Therefore, I think we should look at grinding venison a bit closer.

Try an Electric Grinder
We routinely grind the trimmings from a whole deer into perfectly ground venison burger in about 20 minutes. Before grinding your trimmings, however, I suggest you chill the meat thoroughly. This will stiffen the meat, causing it to grind cleaner. Warm venison that is run through a grinder tends to turn to “mush.”

Be sure to wrap your freshly butchered venison properly in freezer paper and mark it with the date.

Following these few tips will provide you and your family with quality venison meals for years to come and save you lots of dollars in the process.

Editor’s Note: Here’s a link to an Infographic Chart that explains which parts of a deer are used or consumed and where the different cuts of meat come from.

Shop The Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Game and Meat Grinders and other Big Game Processing Accessories!

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18 Responses to “Venison Processing Tips”

  1. Greg Thinnes

    I found that a «clean» sawzall really comes in handy when quartering up deer along with the ribs removal and if you have a bandsaw it makes cutting steaks a breeze and electric knives make short work of any thing you butcher

  2. maurice peterson

    Been cutting my own venison for years, all kinds of help on the internet and not that hard to do and it will save you lots of money. Sportsman Guide has lots of products to help you with this project, good luck and good hunting.

  3. Jerry House

    My family has processed our own deer ever since i first started hunting about 35 years ago. One year I decided to carry one to a commercial processor and did not like the way they cut it. A good boning knife and grinder is all we use.

  4. Michele Downs

    Great article. We would like to purchase a large milk crate cooler to be able to put an entire deer in when processing. When we have are deer processed right now I ask them to just half grind and half cube and put in large bags I pick up right away and pressure can it or put it in the food saver bags. Cheap since they don’t have to package it.

    • Gary Orlando

      Put add in your local bulletin wanted pop cooler there cheap and have 4 adjustable shelves for when you’re having a party and need an extra fridge then mount two pipes up on the top with escutcheons that you can get at Lowe’s that three-quarter inch black pipe will screw into buy quarter inch rods made of stainless steel and make your own meat hooks I love my pop cooler around archery season when the temperatures are warm they don’t take much room neither most or 27 inches wide and about 6 foot six high

  5. Kevin

    Thanks for the tips, maybe I’ll try this.

  6. Richard Wolfrath ( wolf )

    There are so many different things you can do with your venison… Roast, Steaks, Chops, Canned Venison, Pickled Heart, Ribs, Jerky, Hot Dogs, Brats, Dried Venison for Rubens, Sausage, Stews, Hamburger,
    I Could Just Keep On Going and Going…
    I Always Try To Find More Things To Do With It Every Year. And The Lean Meat Is Very Good For You Too….

  7. Steve Wilbur

    There is nothing more satisfying than processing your own deer. It is easy and you have the peace of mind that it is your deer and not someone else. Freeze it in Foodsaver bags and it will not freezer burn for a couple of years.

  8. Mike Banks

    Love the article. I like to process my own now, know what I am eating will be good. Found out ka long time ago some processors mix meat when grinding which could mean you receive something you did not expect, Some people do not know that mistakes made in the field after the shot can not be corrected in the Kitchen, and you may receive meat unfit for any table.

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  13. Chris Griffin

    Really? My wife would kill me if I cut the meat from the bone. I live in Virginia where we can legally harvest up to 12 deer per hunter. I normally process 4 to 6 every year. If I had to pay for processing I would be broke!

  14. Robert Whitaker

    Been processing my own Deer for years. I’ve found that boning the Meat makes for a better tasting cut No saws or cutting of Bones at all. I think the order of the processing is right on. Always cut out the Backstraps and inner loin first. then go to the legs..

  15. Gary Orlando

    Making a ring .If you ever cut horns off right under the burrs use metal cut off saw.Then cut again 1/4 inch more off of bone left in skull it will look lik ivory and make ring out of it

  16. patrick leary

    Processing your deer harvest,to begin with the deer meat needs to be soaked in ice water for two to three days.The purpose is to remove as much blood as possible by doing this it removes most of the gaming flavor.Prior to processing the meat it will need to be soaked in butter milk for about 24 hours.Now you are ready to start grinding your meat.You will need to blend beef fat with the deer meat using about 30 per cent fat.Grinding the meat combining both the fat,deer and whatever spices you will want to use.After the first grind I like to grind it one more time,now it is ready to eat or store.