4 tips for great-tasting deer meat
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Even though deer meat may have a reputation for tasting "gamy" in some circles, it doesn't have to be that way. Depending on their age, sex and diet, certain deer will taste better than others. More often than not, though, poor-tasting venison is a result of improper meat handling.
Fortunately, you can maximize the potential of any deer you kill if you properly care for your meat at the end of the hunt. Here are a few tips to ensure that you have the best-tasting venison possible.
1. Make a good shot
The first step to having great-tasting venison is to make a good shot that quickly and cleanly kills the deer.
Put simply, more stress results in the deer producing more adrenaline, which makes for worse-tasting meat. A deer that did not even know a hunter was near and dies within seconds of the shot will taste much better than a poorly hit deer that ran for miles before expiring.
On the other hand, shooting a deer through the shoulders often kills the deer quickly and makes for easy tracking, but can result in the loss of a substantial amount of shoulder meat. This is especially true when using a high-velocity cartridge. There is not necessarily anything wrong with shooting a deer in the shoulder, but just be aware of the potential consequences.
So, choose your shots carefully and make sure you spend plenty of time at the range before hunting season to give yourself the best chances of making a shot that quickly takes down the deer while ruining as little meat as possible.
2. Cool the meat quickly
As soon as the animal expires, it begins to decompose. The warmer the temperatures are, the faster this occurs. How far you break down the carcass depends on the circumstances, but you should always field dress your deer as soon as possible.
If it's really warm outside, then it might be necessary to skin the deer and put the meat on ice immediately. Don't ever drive around with the deer carcass in the bed of your truck for hours before field dressing it. If you shoot a deer in a remote area where you can't quickly transport the meat to a cool location, hang the meat up off the ground where air can circulate around it in a shaded location.
3. Keep the meat clean
The hide is actually the best protection for the meat, so leave the hide on if you can until it arrives at its final destination. However, you may need to skin the deer immediately if it's too warm.
If you need to skin the deer to cool the carcass, you can cover the meat using breathable game bags that still allow air to circulate, but help prevent dirt, debris, and bugs from contaminating your venison. Additionally, do everything possible to keep the meat dry, as water — regardless of whether it's from rain or melted ice in a cooler — promotes bacterial growth and increases the risk of the meat spoiling.
4. Consider aging the meat
Aging the meat allows the natural enzymes present within the meat to break down some of the complex proteins. This results in more tender and better-tasting venison.
The enzymes cannot do their work if the meat is frozen. So, it's best to age meat at temperatures in the mid-30s, with the bone in and the hide on for a couple of days. If it gets too warm though, forget about aging the meat and fully butcher the deer or take it to a meat processor immediately to prevent spoilage.
As long as you take good care of your venison, it can be some of the healthiest and best-tasting meat you'll ever eat. Just make sure you take a little bit of extra time when handling it out in the field, and you won't be disappointed in the results.
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