The first and foremost thing I cannot stress enough to hunters is this: your number one goal when hunting shouldn’t be to shoot the biggest deer or bag the trophy buck. Your number one goal should be this: keeping your meat CLEAN! This means free of dirt, debris, sticks, leaves, gravel and hair. Any sort of foreign contaminants such as these listed all welcome bacteria to start to grow on your carcass. Some hunters tend to forget, you are going to eat this meat eventually. It is our job as processors to do exactly that, process your deer. Not clean your deer, that is your job as a hunter. Try to refrain from putting any water on your carcass and if you need to, make sure you use clean, fresh water. Water from a lake, stream, or pond is full of bacteria and will increase the growth of bacteria on your carcass. Moisture AND foreign contaminant (dirt, hair, etc.) are the breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria. If you do get your carcass wet, let it dry or wipe it dry before it is placed in your deer bag, ice chest, etc. If you gut shot your deer, a solution of equal parts vinegar and water may be necessary to wipe out the cavity to make sure there is no stomach material left inside.
These two deer are proof that it IS possible, regardless of your conditions or the size of the deer. These deer were brought in by our customers, already skinned. And I commend these hunters on taking pride in keeping their carcass clean!
Once your deer has been field dressed and skinned, you now need to cool the carcass down. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT simply field dress, skin, and quarter your deer and throw it in the ice chest and drive home. If the body heat is not allowed to dissipate, your meat will be spoiled, even if you put ice on it. This is especially imperative in a large animal such as an elk or a bear. Bear meat sours the easiest of all game animals, it is so important to get bear carcasses cooled down as quickly as possible. In all species if improperly handled and not allowed to cool, the meat will sour from the inside out, starting at the bones. And in extreme cases will look like this:
In non-extreme cases, although the meat may not visibly look spoiled, it does not mean there isn’t bacteria there. Smell is the number one indicator of spoiled game I‘ve learned. In order to avoid this, the best way to allow the body heat to escape the carcass is to hang it in a cool, dry spot. In a tree with some sort of clean object used to prop the body cavity open works while you are still at camp. Once your deer/elk/bear has cooled down, it is NOW okay to put it in an ice chest if the need be. We recommend using dry ice over wet ice. Wet ice melts and like I said before, moisture creates breeding grounds for bacteria. If you are going to put your deer in an ice chest, make sure the ice chest has been cleaned and sanitized before you put the carcass in it. Or in extreme cases, if you can’t clean your ice chest, put your deer bag with the meat inside it in the ice chest. Then use some dry ice for long trips home. The BEST option, however, is to invest in a re-usable deer bag or a twin bed sheet works great as well. Once you put your deer into the bag, take care into making sure it is sealed. This does one of two things, first is that it keeps dirt and other debris out but more importantly, it keeps flies out. With much of our hunting season starting while the weather is still warm, flies will get into your deer bag and lay eggs on/in your carcass if left exposed. It sounds gross, but it is the truth. If you do not know what fly eggs look like, educate yourself. I will save everyone the image of that. Once you are ready to head back from camp, take care in transporting your deer. Do not just simply throw it in the back of your pick-up exposed to the sun as well as dirt and debris. Transport your deer in the coolest and covered spot you can in your vehicle. And make sure your deer is contained in the bag.
Upon bringing in your deer, you should be given a deer letter (sometimes we aren’t on the ball). If you weren’t here it is:
. It essentially gives you all the information about what we offer for processing. Our basic process charges are as follows:
Deer weighing under 96 lbs.: $115.00 flat fee
Deer weighing 96 lbs. and over: $ 1.20 per lb.
This fee includes steaks, roasts, stew meat, ground and/or fresh sausage. Now let me explain, you don’t HAVE to get all of these things. These are just what is included, you can choose to get all steaks and ground (no stew meat or roasts). Just like other animals we process, we want to cut your deer so you will USE it. If you won’t use roasts or stew meat, don’t order it. And the same principle applies, once you’ve had one done, you will be able to know what you don’t use. If you are a repeat customer, please tell us what you didn’t use and there are always other options out there!
Ground on your deer means meat ground with no spices, identical to ground beef except it’s deer. We typically add 10% beef fat to deer grind. And why we do this is because it adds some fat back into the meat. Meat without any sort of fat tends to be dry as well as falls apart in the pan while you are cooking it. Pork can also be added to ground but I always advise that burger with pork must be cooked to 160 degrees internal temperature.
Fresh sausage on your deer means a bulk, breakfast style sausage which is seasoned and ground (much like we saw at the end of the Pork Post) The sausage flavors we offer are multi-use sausages, one mild (Regular) and one country style sausage (Southern Style Sausage). I personally use the country sausage for meat loaf, lasagna, spaghetti, breakfast scrambles, and breakfast patties. We usually add 30% pork to our deer sausages and you will be charged for the pork at market price.
Anything else you want on your deer is ADDITIONAL and will be billed according to our prices. These additional items we make and their prices can be seen listed on the deer letter shown above. Please also when specifying specialty products, take note of what the yields are. The easiest way to estimate how much you want to spend is by giving us NET weights (meaning finish product weights). So say you want 5 lbs. of FINISHED pepperstick, you know you will be spending an additional $50 on your deer.
Once you bring your deer in, it is not cut RIGHT away. Usually we let deer hang for at least a week, sometimes it may be a little longer depending on what we having going on at the time. Deer that have been properly handled will be able to hang for this amount of time. Above are two examples of what deer will look like right before we cut them. It also shows you why it is important to keep your deer clean, very little loss will occur on these deer. On average, deer yield 50-60% of their carcass weight. Meaning you get 50-60% of fresh meat cuts back on your deer, depending on how you have it cut. This percentage can go up and down based on the condition of your deer when it is brought in. Here are a couple examples of yields from actual deer we cut.
Carcass Weight: 81.5 lbs.
Whole Muscle Cuts: 29.0 lbs. (anything that will make a roast or cut for steaks)
Total Trim Weight: 18.5 lbs. (anything that doesn’t make a roast or steak)
Total Weight: 47.25 lbs.
Percentage Yield: 58%
Carcass Weight: 99 lbs.
Whole Muscle Cuts & Ribs: 36.15 lbs.
Total Trim Weight: 29.05 lbs.
Total Weight: 65.20 lbs.
Percentage Yield: 65% (but keep in mind the ribs are bone-in, meaning they add weight). If I took the ribs off, the percentage yield would be around 61%
Deer in which have not been properly handled (dirty, gut shot, etc.) will not be able to hang for a week. If left to hang for that amount of time, they will come out moldy and slimy due to bacteria going to town growing on the carcass. Deer such as these have to be sifted out and cut before the time they are supposed to (regardless of when they were brought in). One thing that I don’t think people realize is that taking proper care of your deer will ensure that your yield of meat back on your deer will be at its highest. Deer which have been handled improperly will result in sometimes a large loss of meat. If your deer is dirty or full of hair, we have to trim off each surface in which there is debris meaning you will get back less meat. Here is an example of a yield off of a deer in which was improperly handled (dirty and hairy)
Carcass Weight: 83 lbs.
Total Whole Muscle Cuts: 24.30 lbs.
Total Trim Weight: 15.54 lbs.
Total Weight: 39.84 lbs.
Percentage Yield: 48%
Notice the percentage is considerably lower. So even though we may indeed be able to clean off all the debris you brought in with your deer, it also meats that we have to trim off more of your meat than if your deer was clean. If you don’t believe me about dirty deer, here are some examples. We’ll call this our Chico Locker Wall of Shame (and if this is your deer, I’m sorry for using you as an example, next time bring us a clean deer! )
If you do happen to get your deer dirty during some stage of the process, take the time to clean it off BEFORE bringing it to us. Please don’t just bring in your dirty deer along with some excuse because believe me, we’ve heard every one in the book. And really there (to us) there is no excuse for treating your food like that. But let’s end with a little fun… I’d like to present to you:
The Top Ten Excuses Deer Hunters Give As To Why Their Deer is Dirty:
10. I thought you could wash it off
9. I was tired and in a hurry.
8. My knife was dull.
7. It was either me or the deer.
6. It started raining OR it was too hot
5. It was my first time OR I didn’t know
4. I had a couple of beers
3. It was dark and I didn’t have a flashlight.
2. My buddy did it (This one ALMOST made it to number 1)
And the number one reason hunters give as to why their deer is dirty….
1. You should have seen where I shot it!
Stay tuned for Chapter 2… The truth on some common myths people have about bringing deer in to us!