Like many hunters, I have unfilled deer tags and an unfilled freezer. Still, I have strong hopes of putting some venison in the freezer prior to the December 15 closure of the Northern Zones Late Muzzleloader Season in WMU 6C. In light of those hopes, todays column takes a look at the various steps a hunter can take to ensure his or her venison maintains its quality for the dinner table.
A quick, clean kill is the first step to tasty venison. Traditional wisdom calls for placing that shot just behind the front shoulder in the heart, lung area. Some hunters opt for a shot to the shoulder although this typically results in the ruination of some meat, and I have one friend who recommends placing the shot in the lower neck just ahead of the front shoulder.
A poorly placed shot causes the release of chemicals into the bloodstream and then into the muscles while pushing a wounded deer will result in a lactic-acid buildup in that deers muscles. Both of these actions can result in lessened meat quality.
Clean is the key word when it comes to field dressing, and a sharp knife and careful approach are advised. To prevent tainting any meat, a hunter should avoid cutting into the stomach, intestines, bladder, or muscles. Too, be certain to clean the chest cavity of all entrails and to drain the cavity of blood.
Venison can also be tainted during dragging and transporting. When dragging a carcass, be conscious of keeping the chest cavity out of dirt and water. When transporting a deer, common sense calls for positioning the animal out of the sunlight, away from engine heat, and away from vehicle exhaust. If a carcass has been mishandled in any way, most experts advise washing the chest cavity with a hose and then drying the area with a cloth or paper towels.
Rapid cooling is critical to quality venison. Hunters can facilitate the cooling process by using a stick to wedge open the body cavity, and if temperatures are on the warm side, people can place ice bags in the chest cavity to speed up the cooling.
Sanitary conditions are important for hanging and cutting up deer so be sure you have an area cleaned prior to undertaking those actions.
Some individuals choose to hang their deer by the head, but using a gambrel to hang the deer by its hindquarters is the more accepted hanging method. Walk in coolers with temperatures in the 35 to 40-degree range are the ideal hanging places. Otherwise, hunters should monitor the carcass daily as warm temperatures can result in spoilage while cold temperatures can result in freezing, and a frozen carcass is a nightmare to skin and cut up.
Garages are common hanging sites. When using the garage in warm weather, open the doors and windows in the evening and morning to allow cool air to enter. Similarly, keep things closed during the warm temperatures of midday. When temperatures flirt with the freezing mark, reverse the process of opening and closing doors and windows.
To avoid meat spoilage in warm temperatures, some hunters opt to skin their deer immediately upon hanging, but most authorities advise leaving the hide attached, though, to prevent the venison from drying out and to prevent meat contamination. No matter when the hide is removed, the skinner should take steps to keep hair off the meat. To remove unwanted hair from the carcass, some individuals singe that hair with a propane torch.
Taking ones deer to a professional meat cutter guarantees the venison will be properly cut up and cared for. If cutting up the deer up at home, hunters are advised to do a bit of preparation by getting the cleaning area and gear ready, and that gear should include a couple of razor-sharp knives. In the cutting process, it is advisable to make the cuts according to the separate muscle groups. Most authorities recommend filleting meat off the bones instead of using a meat saw as such sawing might allow marrow to contaminate the meat. Prior to packaging and freezing, make sure that all fat, tallow, and connective tissue are removed from the venison. Outdoors Calendar
Monday - One-day closure of Canada Goose Season in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.
Tuesday - Public hearing on boat launch facilities at Massena Town Hall at 7 p.m.
November 30—Traditional bass season closes in New York State.
December 8—Regular Deer Season closes in Northern and Southern zones.
December 9-15—Late Muzzleloader Season is open in WMUs 5A, 5G, 5J, 6A, 6C, 6G, and 6H.
December 9-17—Late Bowhunting and Muzzleloader seasons are open in Southern Zone.
December 15—Waterfowl Season closes in Northeast Zone.
December 15—Canada Goose Season closes in Northeast Hunting Area.