Process Your Own Deer Part 1—Butchering

Meat laid out on a table

If you were with us for Part 1, your deer has been quartered and you’re ready to turn a cooler full of whole parts into trimmed, cut, ready-to-eat meat. First, a disclaimer—there are literally endless options for how to divide and conquer a deer carcass, and there is no right or wrong way. Some hunters prefer to keep large cuts whole, freeze them and then cut into steaks and prepare as roasts—or grind for burger, slice for jerky or cube for stews—months down the road. While some hunters opt for using only the choices cuts for steaks and reserve everything else for the burger pile, others steak up everything down to the hocks. It’s all about preference.

The methods outlined here are a bit of a hybrid from all of those camps, with an emphasis on keeping things simple and fast. Once you get down the basics, it’s easy to tweak the process to better fit your preferences and needs.

1. The Tub System
Set up four receptacles: One for tenderloin meat, one for steaks, one for chunks or stew meat, and one for scraps.

deer meat in bowls on a table

2. Tenderloins A
Using a sharp knife and cutting board, trim the fat from the edges of the tenderloin. Don’t get too carried away with small particles of fat, they’ll get cleaned up further in the next steps.

deer tenderloin

3. Tenderloins B
Next, cut your steaks to thickness. We like ours about 2 inches thick. Just cut through them as if you were slicing a loaf of bread.

cutting deer tenderloin into sections

4. Tenderloins C
With the steaks cut and separated, each steak is trimmed of bits of fat and connective tissue.

deer tenderloin being trimmed of fat and connective tissue

5. Tenderloins D
Be very meticulous at this point. Remove all fat, particles of silverskin and connective tissue. It’s best to take your time here to get these as nice as you can.

deer tenderloin being trimmed of fat and connective tissue

6. Tenderloins E
Here’s a perfect tenderloin, no fat, no silverskin and ready for the grill!

man holding up deer tenderloin piece

7. Hind Quarter A
This image shows the cuts of meat as they come away from the leg bone. These will be illustrated in the next few steps.

deer hind quarter pieces

8. Hind Quarter B
To make the terminating cut, slice downward along the back of the hind quarter, just above the joint.

a deer hind quarter being sliced just above the joint

9. Hind Quarter C
Remove the large portion of meat as you cut along the top of the leg bone.

a large portion of meat being removed from the top of the leg bone

10. Hind Quarter D
This shows the sections coming apart from the leg bone on the hind quarter.

deer meat sections coming apart from the leg bone

11. Hind Quarter E
Make a terminating cut near the joint on the fore part of the hind quarter.

cutting the deer hind quarter near the joint at the fore part

12. Hind Quarter F
Slide your knife along the top of the leg bone, continuing to the terminating cut you made at the small end of the quarter and remove those muscle groups.

knife sliding along the top of the leg bone

13. Making Steaks A
Now we’re making steaks! Set the quarter down on its flat side and crosscut your steaks to the thickness you like.

slicing the deer hind quarter meat into steaks

14. Making Steaks B
Here’s where the mystery unravels. This is a good cross section view of all the muscle groups in a hind quarter. You can identify each small steak that will emerge after silver skin is removed. Removing silverskin at this point is the most efficient way to get at it.

cross section view of all the muscle group in the hind quarter

15. Making Steaks C
Separate those muscle groups, making small individual steaks of each. As you get down to smaller cuts, we recommend tossing those small nuggets of meat into the chunks bin. Remove silverskin from each piece with your sharpest knife.

muscle grops being seperated on the deer hind quarter

16. Shoulder A
Most of the meat from the front shoulders end up in chunks for stew meat or grinding. Here we are removing damaged tissue from a bullet. This will go all into the scrap bin. Don’t use any meat that has congealed or looks less than perfect.

Removing damaged tissue from a bullet in the deer shoulder

17. Shoulder B
Here we are boning out the front shoulder. All these bits of meat will be used for chunks. Finding the ridge of the shoulder bone, run your blade along the bone, and then remove.

boning out the front shoulder

18. Shoulder C
On the outside of the front shoulder is the scapula. It’s a dish-shaped bone, and by running your knife blade along it, you can peel the meat from this area to remove it. Again, these cuts go in the chunks bin. Remember to remove any fat and connective tissue.

cutting along the scapula to peel off the deer meat

19. Shoulder D
More chunks are removed from the opposite side of the foreleg. These can get pretty small, and end up in the chunks bin, too.

chunks removed from the sopposite side of the foreleg

Freezer Time
With our three bins of meat full, it’s time to start packaging for the freezer. Now is the time to determine how much meat goes into each package of steaks and chunks. A family of three might want to put four small steaks into a freezer bag, and keep bags containing chunks to a predetermined amount. Either way, it’s a good practice to clearly label them with the date, cut and amount.

deer meat in a freezer

All that’s left is to enjoy! For ways to enjoy the product of your hard work, visit our Wild Eats page.