What useful parts of deer do you throw away every year?
We’ve all heard stories of poached animals left to lie in waste and felt disgust deep in our hearts. The fact that someone could take the life of an animal and simply let the carcass rot does not bode well with the hunting and non-hunting communities alike.
Fortunately, most states have passed wanton waste laws that discourage potential waste from occurring with the animal’s meat. People are even allowed to donate meat, or gift it to a friend, so the meat of the animal does not go to waste.
So the next logical question is, how much of your deer did you waste this year? Even the most slicked off skeleton only tells part of the story. You can make precision cuts to remove every fiber of meat, but much of what the deer has to offer still goes unused.
If you are looking to get more out of your deer harvest this year, or ever find yourself in a survival situation, here are three of the most important byproducts of a harvested deer.
1. The Hide
Any discussion about the uses of deer in survival situations has to start with the hide. Probably the most easily identified resource available, hides are generally processed into two different products; rawhide and buckskin.
Rawhide is much easier to make than buckskin, and has many uses but works especially well for binding. Think of it as a form of welding for a caveman.
Buckskin, on the other hand, takes quite a bit of work, but can be turned into anything that requires a supple material. Clothing, archery equipment, even a backpack, can all be produced using buckskin.
If you don’t have the time or the desire to make use of your hide, contact your local fur buyer after you have the deer skinned. Fur buyers generally take deer hides, but don’t necessarily pay. For instance, my local fur buyer will trade a deer hide for a pair of gloves or possibly a bit of cash.
Rather than throw the hide away, try and get some use out of it.
One of the lesser known resources of deer is the sinew fibers they contain. Sinew is the tissue that connects muscles to bones. The easiest piece of sinew to identify and process is the large piece that covers the backstraps.
Whitish in color, this thin tissue can be easily removed while the muscle is still on the carcass by inserting a knife between it and the muscle and filleting it the entire length of the back. Once removed, it should be cleaned of all remaining meat and dried until ready for use.
Sinew can also be processed out of the large tendons of the front and back legs. These pieces take a bit more work to process, but serve the function that back sinew does.
Sinew is a versatile resource that is most often used as a thread in bushcraft skills. Strands of fibers can be pulled apart to sew products together, bind things together, or can add extra strength to primitive bows by being glued on as backing.
Most folks remove the sinew anyways (since it makes the meat easier to eat), but end up discarding it with fats and other non-edible tissues. In a survival situation, this is an essential material to keep track of and process. It might be the only material you have around that can serve its function.
At this point we’ve identified two easy to remember uses of deer in survival situations, but this last one may surprise even an experienced woodsman. With your deer hanging in your garage, you have all the necessary ingredients to make a primitive glue.
Glue can be created by combining scraps of tanned leather, sinew, rawhide, and dew claws with a bit of water and heating over a fire. After boiling for several hours, the water should become a bit thick and sticky and will make a fine glue for whatever your needs may be. Most often it is used to glue sinew or other backing materials to a bow, or secure fletchings to a primitive arrow.
This glue has great potential for a variety of uses, but the fact that it is water soluble makes it impractical for very wet environments. On the other hand, the fact that it is composed of scraps makes it an intriguing bushcraft skill and especially useful in a survival situation.
So whether you are stranded in the mountains somewhere, want to practice your bushcraft skills, or are simply curious about learning what other things your deer has to offer, these three uses are a great starting point. In a true survival situation, every part of the deer could potentially be used, depending on your needs and creativity.
In the end hopefully this year you will not only save the meat from your kill, but also begin to realize all the other uses of deer present when you approach a downed animal.