Enjoying the Harvest

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

muscles of stressed deer, such as one that has run long distances. Waste products of enzymatic activity produce conditions that give the meat a stronger flavor and increase the rate at which the meat will spoil.

Shots that penetrate digestive organs are especially a problem. They often do not produce immediate death and result in digestive fluids spilling into the body cavity, potentially contaminating surrounding meat. The key is to take only shots that assure a quick, clean kill. This not only is responsible, ethical hunting, but it also results in better meals.

Field dressing-Your deer should be field dressed immediately, taking care not to puncture the digestive tract or the urinary bladder. Wipe the inside of the body cavity with a clean rag. This removes potentially contaminating material and minimizes bacterial growth.

Some hunters like to wash the body cavity with water to ensure a clean carcass. This may remove some potential contaminates, but the moisture enhances the environment for bacterial growth. If the deer is to be processed immediately or if the cavity has been contaminated with stomach contents, washing is OK; otherwise, do not rinse with water.

If you drag your deer out of the woods, consider cutting up to-but not through-the chest cavity and pelvis to reduce the amount of dirt that enters the body cavity. When transporting, never tie your deer on the hood or other location where heat may build up and prevent cooling.

Aging-Hang the deer so that blood drains and the carcass is cooled to 50 degrees within six hours of harvest. Leave the skin on to keep the carcass clean and prevent it from drying out. Some people like to hang their deer from the hind legs, some from the head. Stretching muscle fibers in the process of hanging can have a tenderizing effect. Hanging from the hind legs may be best because this will stretch muscles in the hams, a major source of meat on a deer.

To ensure tender venison, do not freeze it within six hours of the time it was harvested. Some important chemical reactions stabilize the muscle within six hours of death, preventing a toughening process called "cold shortening" that happens when meat is frozen shortly after the kill.

Does venison need to be aged beyond the six-hour period? The answer is no, if you plan on having all of your deer made up into deer sausage or ground meat, or if you

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