Keeping Deer Carcasses Cool in the Fall?

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Bow season has come and gone and DH never got a deer because shotgun season, which comes prior, got them all spooked. He could hunt earlier in the year but it is still warm here in October. Any tricks for hanging game in less-than-ideal temperatures? We could cut it up and put it downstairs in our spare refrigerator, but we'd have to skin it first and then it would dry out.

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

Just found your post. Hubby and I do skin ours, cut them up and store them in plastic containers that fit the shelves of our spare fridge (just cheap containers from Wal Mart). If you can't do that, I've seen a process described where they gut the deer, wash the inside thoroughly, pack it with ice and store it in a cool place. Hope this helps.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Don't you lose quality, though, if you can't actually hang your deer? How long do you leave it in the fridge?

In the second process, I take it that they don't skin it first? The cool place is the problem...

Mentor, OH

I stopped gun hunting 31 years ago and strictly archery hunt. I have taken many deer in much warmer weather than I would prefer. If I'm more than an hour from home, I pack a couple bags of ice inside the body cavity. As soon as I get home ,I hang, skin and quarter the deer. I put it in plastic bags and put it in a spare refrigerator or large ice chest with a lot of ice. I'm usually too tired to do any more that night. The next day, I process and package it and put it in the freezer. I've talked to several meat processors and every one is of the opinion that the meat will age just as well in the freezer as it will hanging up, without the worry of spoilage or contamination. I once read that a fancy restaurant in Chicago would hang pheasants in an uncooled basement for several days without field dressing and with the feathers still on. They knew they were ready to be cooked when they plucked some feathers and meat came off with the feathers. The meat also needed to have a slight green tint. Thanks, but I think I'll pass on the pheasant under glass. Dan

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Dan, everything I've read, including The River Cottage Meat Book by Fearnley-Whittingstall and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, states that aging improves the tenderness and flavor of the meat. I had heard before, and McGee agrees, that after two and a half hours for a large animal like a deer, rigor mortis sets in, making the meat tougher and stringier. McGee writes in his book (p. 143) "Carcasses are hung up in such a way that most of their muscles are stretched by gravity, so that the protein filaments can't contract and overlap very much; otherwise the filaments bunch up and bond very tightly and the meat becomes exceptionally tough. Eventually, protein-digesting enzymes within the muscle fibers begin to eat away at the framework that holds the actin and myosin filaments in place. The filaments are still locked together, and the muscles cannot be stretched, but the overall muscle structure weakens, and the meat texture softens. This is the beginning of the aging process. It becomes noticeable after about a day in beef, after several hours in pork and chicken."

I was advised a few years ago that when we butcher our chickens we should let them rest in a refrigerator for two to three days before freezing them to make them tenderer, and it has really made a difference in the quality of the meat. Prior to that only crock-pot or pressure cooking would make them decent eating! McGee also answered my question about how the farmyard cockerel killed right before cooking could have been edible; he explains that rigor mortis doesn't set in in chickens for about an hour. I had been wondering about that!

So we're still looking for a way to hang our deer in a cool place in warm weather. DH hunts from a deer stand in our own woods, so we can get the deer out and hung quickly; the only problem is where to do that when temperatures are mild.

Mentor, OH

I have a friend who always hangs his deer for a few days but he only hunts the muzzleloader season ( Dec./Jan. ) so temps are usually no problem. I have taken several of mine to a processor the past couple years. I had 4 weeks vacation and every one of those days was precious and I'd rather pay $65 for processing and free myself to go back into the woods and try to get another one. One of the processors who said he didn't think hanging was necessary takes in several hundred deer each year and I'm sure he doesn't have time to age them. Maybe this is what sways his opinion. The only deer that I've let hang for more than a day were ones I got in January bowhunts. The only problem then is thawing them enough to skin. I only have an unheated tool shed. I can't recall ever eating venison that was really tough, but I use a mallet-type tenderizer and just "beat the devil"out of it. LOL Two years ago a friend said he saw a guy driving around the neighborhood showing off a big buck in the bed of a pick-up on a Friday afternoon. On Monday he still had this same deer in the truck. This was in early October. I don't even want to know how that one tasted. I wish your DH luck next season. Don't ever give up the bow !!! Dan

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Dan! We have never had a tough deer either, but we always hang them and DH usually goes for does where possible. We don't tenderize, either; the steaks are usually wonderful as long as you don't cook them too long, but that toughens beef steaks, too.

We like to cut our deer up ourselves because we take everything off the bone. Saves freezer space and makes it easier to cook, too. And we're retired so time isn't as much of a problem as it was when we were working, although we're still very busy.

We have friends with whom we often cut up meat. The husband is a retired veterinarian and he's left carcasses hanging so long that it has mold growing on the ribs and he has to discard them. The meat tasted fine but it wasn't pleasant to think about!

Gladwin, MI(Zone 5a)

Just got back to dg after a couple years off.

I agree hanging is the best. Our falls have been quite warm lately. I won't even go out hunting, it is is too warm. We have a cool garage, but....I like the idea of ice in the cavity. Also, I have a friend that put ac in a shed and cranked it down To the lowest setting.

We process ourselves also. Getting the hide off right away is better no matter the weather.

Hanging from the back feet instead of the head up, is the best due to the blood running to the head instead of the good cuts of meat.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

We do hang with the head down, but don't you find that getting the hide off immediately toughens the outer layer of meat?

Colorado County, TX(Zone 8b)

We skin, gut & quarter them before tossing them in a large cooler with 40 - 50 lbs of ice here (all done within 30 minutes of harvesting). The faster you get the meat on ice the better.

We drain the water & replenish the ice daily for 4-7 days & then process them into steaks/sausage/jerky/ground meat. Upon completion, everything is vacuum packed after smoking. Here is some pics from last year.




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Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

You must have an enormous cooler!

Colorado County, TX(Zone 8b)

No different than most folks here... They are all in the 150-165 quart size.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Wow, I had no idea that they were made in that size.

Colorado County, TX(Zone 8b)

Actually they make coolers up to 400 quarts...

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

What about using a spare refrigerator? The reason we haven't is because once you skin the deer the meat gets tough on the surface. Or if you use a cooler instead, does the ice in the cooler keep it moist?

Gladwin, MI(Zone 5a)

Ranch, those tenderloins look great. Look like what we do. We keep the backstraps whole, then grill them to pink in the center. Very tender and yummy.

Usually it is no problem for us keeping a deer cool. Problem is them freezing mostly.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

In our part of New Jersey it's still warm during bow season - that's the problem.

Yuma, AZ(Zone 10a)

Here in the Sonoran desert temps can and usually does exceed 100 degrees during our hunt,we hide and bone the meat as fast as humanly possible and get it into the Yeti,the larger deer (elk) with their heavy hides will cook themselves even with sub zero temps,no hides on here

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

So do you age the meat? What's a Yeti?

Colorado County, TX(Zone 8b)

Meat ages in the cooler while on ice.

A Yeti is higher-end cooler, as is a Grizzly.

Yuma, AZ(Zone 10a)

Depending on the duration of the hunt, when the animal is taken and travel time,the meat may be aged as little as five days or as much as two weeks.Most animals we harvest are older and have aged to long on the hoof and more suited for the grinder.Yeti cooler, munitions,arrows or tag will u-turn my truck every time if forgotten,some tools you just can't survive without

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

My DH looks for fairly young does so they don't need a lot of aging, but we usually let them hang at least a week if we can.

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