How to Care For Your Deer in the Field

November 4, 2015 by  

For many deer hunters there’s no spring, summer, fall or winter – only deer season and preparing for deer season. That’s a testament to the level of respect and importance many hunters attach to North Dakota’s deer hunting heritage.

In the coming weeks we’ll see pictures, hear stories and weave memories like the farm-to-market dusty roads which, for a couple weeks in November, have their own version of “rush hour” traffic. Many of these trails are hardly used the rest of the year, but like the trusty .30-06, the importance of the short 16.5-day deer gun season is undisputed

Whitetail Deer Field Care

With such a level of interest, and a deer population which isn’t high enough at the moment to meet the demand of nearly 100,000 potential hunters, the venison enjoyed throughout the year is a special connection to the season.

I learned in a recent discussion that back in the day, sharing one deer for a group of three or four was common practice. The mixing of pork in with deer meat to make sausage became a standard for making the venison go further, so to speak. It wasn’t simply just a means to add some fat to this lean meat, as many of us probably think today.

I appreciate the versatility of venison, as I’ve eaten the usual steaks, roasts, jerky and sausage – some good and some not so good. When it comes to the not-so-good, it’s seldom that we can blame the deer.

It’s no secret that with any wild game, if you start off in the field with poor care of the meat, there’s no seasoning, searing or masking that can make it taste better. Most of the worst tasting wild game is because it wasn’t kept clean and cool in the field.

Most of us already know this, but here are some reminders on proper game care in the field.

  1. Take your time when field dressing an animal so you don’t contaminate any meat with the inner contents of the deer.
  2. The carcass should be cooled as soon as possible. If the outside temperature is warm, elevate the animal above ground to facilitate air circulation around the entire body. This can be accomplished by hanging the animal in a cool, shady place.
  3. If the carcass is dragged out of the field, keep dirt, grass and other possible contaminates out of the open body cavity.
  4. When it comes to aging of venison, this is best carried out only when you can hang the carcass where the temperature is consistently maintained around 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. If you are going to make sausage or just grind your venison into burger, there is no reason to age it. It will be better if it is fresh.
  5. Unless cooking the meat fresh, it should be quickly frozen after butchering. Meal-sized quantities of meat should be placed into plastic bags. Most of the air should be removed from the plastic bags before sealing. When the meat will be stored in the freezer for more than a few days, the plastic bags should be wrapped in freezer paper; the freezer paper should be sealed with tape; and the packages should be labeled appropriately.
  6. Meat prepared and stored in this manner can maintain good quality for more than a year. Vacuum-sealed bags probably improve the storage process, and vacuum-sealed bags may not require a second layer of freezer paper.

Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected].


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