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Polka-Dotted Venison?!

Jan 29, 2013

One day back in November I was duck hunting when my phone rang. Getting cell service at Grand Pass was unusual enough, but the call was even more extraordinary.

A friend was calling to ask my advice. He had shot a deer the night before and was in a quandary over whether the meat was fit to eat. He said the loins and hams were covered with dark red spots. When he cut through the loin he discovered the red spots weren’t just on the surface. They extended right through the grain of the meat.

Bob has processed dozens – maybe hundreds – of deer since he began hunting at age 13, yet he had never seen anything like this. I hadn’t either. I understood why he was hesitant to eat the meat and suggested that he contact one of a Conservation Department deer biologist. He did, and Resource Scientist Jason Sumners told him the meat was okay to eat.

Sumners says this is the most common question he gets from hunters who process their own deer. He says blood spotting can result when a deer doesn’t die quickly after being shot. Bob had shot this deer in the head, so it is likely its heart continued to pump blood even though the deer dropped in its tracks when shot.

I did an Internet search for “blood spots in venison” and found the same question on several hunting forums. In every case, the hunter mentioned having shot the questionable deer in the head.

So if you ever encounter this condition, rest assured the meat is okay to eat.


This photo shows a cut of venison with dark red spots on the surface.
Blood-Spotted Venison
Bob wasn't sure whether this blood-spotted venison was fit to eat. Conservation Department deer biologist Jason Sumners assured him it was.


A cross section of venison loin shows small, dark-red spots.
Spotted Loin Cross Section
The spots on Bob's venison went right through the grain of the meat.


Take it easy Jim. I thought Michael had a very good point but then again I guess we're just underlings to the the great MDC authority and we should all learn our place.

Michael, I was the one who wrote the spotted-venison post. When I was writing the item, I asked Jason Sumners what could cause the spots. He said it could be several things, but the most likely was that the deer didn't die immediately on being shot. Whatever the cause, he said the meat was safe to eat. Giving a COMPLETE answer, with all the possible causes, would have turned into a book. I hit the high points, because most people don't want to read a long dissertation in a blog. I take strong exception to you implying that Jason and other MDC biologists are lazy, unintelligent, over educated bureaucrats with no practical experience. If you knew anything about MDC's staff, you would know how foolish that makes you sound. - Jim@mdc

I have processed lots of deer also, have not seen this, but I still like to keep an open mind. I would be wondering if once again the determination of the cause was to quick and therefore more of a shot in the dark than having the guts to say they were unsure of the cause, the MDC today is comprised mostly of people without practical outdoor or even farm related experience with animals. Pork has more of this tendency than most any other animals, and is more noticeable in non-heritage types. Since the recent hemorrhagic fever/midge fly event of this past year that weakens blood vessel/artery walls; could this be a deer that survived or still had a prolonged condition from an infection of that type? – an open mind would actually consider possibilities not just give a answer to get off the phone or to ignore other possible causes because there might be more work involved in an answer that took more than 1 minute of rational thought. I think the MDC has done many good things and will do more in the future, but they are currently a victim of their own privileged individual status and many in the MDC have been promoted and or educated beyond their own intelligence and therefore common sense does not figure into decisions and actions as often as it should. Would this Biologist have feed this meat to himself and his own family? (Yes the meat was probably ok to eat if cooked to a proper temperature, but getting a sample of meat and blood vessels and arteries to test would have been a more common sense action to be taken by the department)

just to give you heads up with the polka dotted meat. It can be a deer that survived EHD too. Its tiny hemorages causing the spots. Safe to eat just doesn't look good.

i shot several deer in the head over my years of hunting and droped them in there tracts and have never seen that in the meat it might just be something in the blood line passed on or like blood clotting in the meat over time

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