The only way to learn how to butcher a deer is to do it!
Nothing is quite as rewarding as butchering your own meat from your deer harvest.
Butchering and deer processing seems like a daunting task. But it isn't as difficult as you think.
You can save a lot of money from hiring a professional butcher when you butcher a deer at home.
Before you totally discredit the idea, hear us out on why you should try butchering your own venison this year.
How long does it take to butcher a deer?
This is a common question and likely a big reason most people get back from deer hunting and haul their harvest straight to the butcher shop. The thing is, if you have time to get out there and hunt for wild game animals, you certainly have the time to learn how to break down and process them. Stop making excuses!
The first deer you butcher is probably going to be the most time-consuming because you'll be figuring out all the little nuances. Things like skinning, figuring out how to remove that silver skin from the backstraps, how to remove all the connective tissue from the joints, or figuring out what portions will be jerky and which will be stew meat are all big tasks the first time around.
Cutting up your own deer is going to be lengthy process at first. Own it. Use it as an opportunity to learn the different muscle groups and figure out where the tenderloin or sirloin is. It may take you a while to figure out the best ways to remove all those little pieces of meat from the rib cage and front legs or how to clean up the neck meat.
Cleaning up a deer carcass isn't exactly something you can learn overnight. It's going to take time. Our advice is to not worry about how much. It may take a whole day the first time.
But the time you invest will pay off and each time you do it, you'll get a little faster. Some hunters can butcher a whole deer in an hour or less. Do you think they got that good overnight? Nope, they had to practice, practice, practice!
Make it easier on yourself with good equipment
You don't need an expensive electric bone saw, meat grinder or many of the other things common in a professional butcher shop. They might make the job easier, but this doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor.
You can get by with a good skinning knife, fillet knife, some cutting boards and a clean space to do the dirty work. A cheap plastic table to work on might set you back $30-50 at the most, but you can keep using it on your whitetail harvests for years to come. Get one with an adjustable height, and you can raise it to work on while standing and save your back from bending over.
Obviously, the sharper your knife, the easier this is going to be. Buy a good sharp knife and keep a sharpener on hand if things start getting difficult. It's not that the deer meat is getting tougher, it's likely your blade is getting duller. Don't make things harder on yourself by using substandard tools.
Watch plenty of "how-to" videos beforehand
Thanks to this wonderful thing called the internet, it is now easier than ever before to learn how to butcher a deer at home. Our own site or obvious places like YouTube are loaded with videos that will walk you through everything you need to do, step-by-step from removing the antlers to canning or vacuum-sealing your meat.
They will give every detail you need for deboning, removing the front shoulders and brisket to how to butcher a deer hind quarter. Seriously, you need to tap into this vast vault of knowledge.
While it is true that the men and women in these videos usually make things look a lot easier than they are, watching them will give you a better idea of what to do than a book or magazine article will. The best videos, like this popular one aboe from the "Bearded Butchers," goes over what each of the cuts of meat is best for and how to slice each piece of meat for maximum yield.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes
Too many hunters obsess or worry about what others think. I've seen plenty of butchering or field dressing videos on the internet with people screeching in the comments about how the person in the video "Hung the deer on the gambrel wrong," "Used the wrong fillet knife," or "Separated the pelvic bone wrong."
Look, if it yields big game meat on the table, does it really matter HOW it's done? It takes time to learn how to cut with the bones and follow the natural seams in the muscles with your knife. Odds are, you're going to mess something up along the way. If you make a mistake, the meat can still be salvaged most times and thrown in the pile for stew meat, jerky, or at worst, in the grinder for ground meat. The only thing you should be concerned about is utilizing every portion of the animal that you can.
As long as you're doing that, who cares if you found and used a different style of cutting to butcher the hind leg or remove the shanks? Make mistakes, learn from them and do what works for YOU. No one else matters.
Most of all, don't be afraid to at least try it. You're not going to be perfect the first time you try it, but this is something every hunter should try at least once in their hunting careers.