The elation you feel upon harvesting a deer is tough to match, especially when you remember that at that point the work is only just beginning. Once you have made a kill and tracked that deer to its final resting place, the task begins of removing that animal from the woods and properly caring for the meat to keep it safe for consumption. One must remember that various environmental factors will affect the quality of the meat and it is up to you to prevent spoilage. Because of this, it is essential that you skin, gut, and transport your harvest safely and efficiently.
The three enemies of meat in the field are dirt, moisture, and heat. Dirt can introduce bacteria to the meat as many microorganisms can live in soil for years, making what appears to be innocuous ground into something else entirely. Once that ground bacteria is has made its way onto a deer carcass, adding moisture makes the meat that much more hospitable for those bacteria to thrive and grow. Factor heat into the equation and that makes for quicker spoilage due to the ability of warmth to speed up the spread of bacteria.
The longer meat is exposed to higher temperatures, the more of a potential spoilage problem you might have. Anytime the mercury rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, spoiling begins. The larger the game, the more likely this is to occur.
In order to keep your harvested meat in the best condition possible for as long as possible, there are a few steps you can take. Even if you plan to take your deer immediately to a processor, it is still vital that entrails are removed prior to transport. Be sure to properly discard these away from roadways and homes where they might draw other animals which might then carry those parts to various locations. Before becoming mobile with your harvest, be certain to properly tag and transport all deer within accordance with Missouri laws.
To process the animal yourself, you will want to begin by skinning the animal so the cooling process can begin and the natural body heat will dissipate more rapidly. To aid this process along, it may be helpful to do so in the shade and with the animal hanging. When washing or rinsing the carcass, be sure to use water in moderation due to the relationship between carcass bacteria and water.
Once rinsed, allow meat to fully dry before packing. It can then be wrapped with cheesecloth to keep it clean. During this process, be aware of flies that may be attracted to the meat as they will lay eggs in flesh that is exposed; rubbing black pepper on the carcass will aid in deterring such pests. Quartering the animal may prove useful as well as this will allow you to pack it into coolers and keep it on ice.
Another skinning essential is a high quality, sharp knife. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to skin a deer with a dull blade. Additionally, the extra time it will take to work with a dull knife could be all it takes you jeopardize your harvest.
Should you need some skinning and gutting inspiration, check out the video below. Do take note, of course, that this video is graphic in nature, and it is not necessary to risk injury to yourself in order to skin a deer quite this quickly.
Do you have any rules to live by during the process of skinning and gutting your harvest? Are there any pointers or recommendations you would like to share? Let us know in the comments.