As the leaves start to turn and the days grow shorter, deer hunting season is just around the corner. For many hunters, this means a time of year spent in the woods tracking down deer and bringing home fresh meat for the freezer.
However, if you’re new to hunting or want to ensure you get the best meat possible, follow these tips to get the most tender, delicious venison this season.
Shoot at the right spot
Where you shoot is the most critical factor in getting good meat from a deer. A clean deer shot placement to the heart and lungs will ensure that your deer are killed quickly and humanely but will also minimize the amount of adrenaline released into the animal’s body.
Adrenaline can affect the taste of the meat, so it’s essential to ensure you get a good shot. In addition, any shot that goes into the stomach or intestines can cause the meat to become contaminated, so it’s best to avoid shots in those areas.
Let the deer rest
Once you’ve taken the shot and the deer is down, it’s essential to let it rest for a few minutes before beginning to field dress it. This rest gives the deer’s muscles time to relax, making them more tender when cooked. It’s best to wait an hour before beginning to butcher the deer. While this isn’t always feasible, the longer you can wait before processing your kill, the better.
Cool and bone out quickly
Once you’ve field dressed your deer, it’s vital to get the meat cooled and boned out as soon as possible. Working quickly will help keep the meat fresh and ensure it doesn’t spoil. It’s best to hang the deer in a shady spot and keep it cool, or if you can get ice, place iced packages of meat in a cooler or even store them in the freezer.
Once you’ve cooled the meat as much as possible, it’s time to bone it out. You will remove all the big pieces of meat from the bone while leaving as much fat on the meat as possible.
Age the meat properly
Once you’ve harvested your deer, it’s essential to aging it properly. You age deer by hanging the carcass in a cool, dry place – ideally at temperatures between 34-38 degrees Fahrenheit with good air circulation. It’s essential to keep the deer away from direct sunlight and any sources of moisture. You should age the deer for at least five days before using it, making the meat more tender and flavorful.
If you don’t have time to age the meat, you can also “quick chill” it. This method is done by cooling the meat to temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit after harvest and then allowing it to rest for 24 hours. This chilling will help give the venison a better taste and texture.
Dress the deer carefully
Once you’re ready to butcher the deer, ensure you do so with care. It’s essential to remove any bullet fragments or bone chips that may be lodged in the meat, as these can cause contamination and spoilage.
Removing the hide and fat from the deer as quickly as possible is crucial as this can cause spoilage if left too long. Finally, keep the meat as cool and clean as possible during the butchering process. An excellent way to do this is to work in a cool and covered space while wearing gloves.
Prepare your venison wisely
Once you have your venison cut and packaged, it’s time to prepare it for eating. Venison needs to be cooked well to kill any parasites or bacteria present, so make sure you cook it at least medium-well.
Venison can also be relatively lean, so adding fat or oil to your cooking will help keep it moist and tender. Finally, don’t overcook the meat—venison can become tough and dry if cooked too long.
Season your venison
Venison is a blank canvas for all sorts of flavors, so feel free to experiment with different seasonings and marinades. An excellent way to bring out the taste of venison is to use a dry rub or herb-based marinade.
You can also add acidity to the meat with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, which will help tenderize the meat and add depth of flavor. One of the best ways to enjoy venison is to smoke it, adding a delicious smoky flavor and making the meat incredibly tender.
If you want to smoke your venison, use a low-and-slow cooking method and keep an eye on the temperature. You should cook it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll get the best venison this hunting season by following these tips. From aging and cooling the meat to properly preparing it, many steps are involved in getting the most out of your deer. But, with some know-how, you’ll enjoy your venison in no time.