How To Properly Hang Your Deer After Harvest

How To Properly Hang Your Deer After Harvest

Deer poleOnce your big game critter has been tagged, how do you hang it, before you do any processing? When you look at the albums of hold hunting camp pictures, the meat poles generally display their harvests with the heads hanging down.

Usually a knife makes a cut near the knees, and a wood brace, or gambrel, is used. A rope was attached to the brace and the critter was hoisted high. The idea was that any fluids, old blood, or drainage would settle into the head. No loss of flavor was an issue since no one ever ate the head. Gravity causes the drainage to flow downward.

In other pictures, the critters are hung by the neck. Maybe this modeled an execution, or neck hanging seemed logical. For many hunters, this method was less respectful in appearance.

So, what is the correct way to hang your critter for the most tender results?  The answer is not about up or down but where! Rigor mortis occurs during aging, and is about the tightening or stiffening, of the muscles. Gravity, and the weight of the critter, will apply a stretch, or tension, to the meat. If the meat, or muscle is stretched, contracted, and tightened, it will stiffen and be less tender. The less stretch applied, the more relaxed the muscles, the more tender the cuts

Hanging critters vertically is about aging the meat. The body carcass needs to cool down, and dry. Laying the carcass on the ground makes for uneven drying, and potential spoilage. Aging meat makes the cuts more tender. Depending on the weather and temperature, critters often can hang for 2 weeks!

If you leave the head on the critter, hang it head down. Do not hang it by the knees, or Achilles tendon. This will stretch and toughen your cuts of meat. Try not splitting the pelvis. Normally, the pelvic bone is sawed or cut to open the area where the bladder and rectum are located. Carefully clean this area using a long-bladed knife or tool. Now the space makes for a point to attach a meat hook. You can also drill, or cut, a hole through the rear meat and backbone. This will create an attachment point. The weight will be suspended by the skeleton and not the meat. No muscle is being stretched, tightened, or becomes tougher.

If the head is removed, you can hang the critter neck up, or down. Remember that your goal is to suspend the critter by the skeleton and not the muscle., or meat. Make a cut at the top of the chest rib cage and attach a hook there. In this way, the primary hams, loins and roasts will not be stretched.

Using this hanging technique speeds up the aging process. 2-3 days will equal 2 weeks of traditional aging. This hanging technique is not done by butchers. They need to pack their coolers full, and reverse hanging takes more space. Two weeks of hanging also allows them more time to fill their orders at a higher storage cost, and on their schedule, for the consumer.

You can hang the critter with, or without the hide. If the hide is removed, bugs, and dirt can get to the carcass. Cover the carcass with a cheesecloth for protection. If you have a cold locker, or way to control bugs or contamination, hide off is fine. Be careful not to freeze the carcass.

Tenderloins are also important to consider. Remember that there are 2 pairs of loins. The 2 large loins are located along the back from the neck base to the rump. There are also 2 inner loins, or “fish”, that are inside the body cavity in the rear. These cuts are smaller but the most tender meat on the critter. Many inexperienced hunters throw these out. Removing them when you gut the critter is a good idea. Place them in a bag for immediate transport. The rest of the carcass can be aged without the loins in place.

Once you process the meat, take care to wrap and freeze properly. A vacuum sealer works great. Label and date the packages. You can also wrap the meat in plastic wrap and then place it into freezer bags. Trimmings, and meat to be ground, can be stored a day or so longer. You can then take it to a processor or grind it yourself. Pork shoulder is perfect to mix into the grind. Fill bags to one pound each, label, and freeze.

Wild game meat is delicious and healthy. If you still have meat in your freezer after 6 months, you need to reorganize it. Don’t let the meat sit in the freezer for years. The best quality and flavor is when the meat is under a year old. Don’t waste what you have worked so hard to provide.

Come and get it!

Montana Grant

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