In the last two post I talked about the Hunt up to dragging the deer home. I talked about gutting, skinning and quartering the deer. In this one I will talk about deboning, processing and slicing the deer. We started by soaking the deer in refrigerated temperature salt water for 24 hours. We changed this water 3 times using a full container of Morton table salt each time. This was to get as much blood out of the meat as possible. The meat doesn’t actually absorb much salt.
The first thing I worked on was the back legs or hams. The first thing to do is to use the skinning knife to remove this slimy fat and membranes. This seems a bit tedious. On wild game there is this liquid gel looking fat. I’ve been told this comes from eating acorns. After it’s cleaned of this, I sliced on the inside down the bone and to each joint. I found the knee joint and cut it apart. I trimmed around the joints and bone removing huge chunks of muscle as I went. Aside from huge chunks, there will be bits and pieces, scraps and scrapings from the bone. These become stew meat. The bones are saved also for simmering to a broth. The pieces that will become stew meat I cut into small bite size pieces. I pretty much always cut across the grain. The only time I might cut with the grain is to make a piece that I turn around and then chop across the grain again into stew meat.
I bagged these in two 1 gallon zip lock bags and labeled them “Ham, Butt, Rump” with a Sharpie. I put the stew meat in a 5 gallon stainless steel stew pot as I went. I next worked on the front legs. I began cleaning them. These have 2 joints to cut through. The two lower sections will all become stew meat as they are tough meat to chew. The upper portion has a shoulder blade that, if cut across, makes T-Bone steaks. I filleted this instead. Again I made stew meat. Anything that could not be identified as roast, steak or other became stew meat. Anything I messed up while cutting became stew meat. Bones were saved for broth. I bagged this from near the shoulder blade and labeled it “front shoulder meat.”
Next I took the rump end of the back bone and began cleaning it. The first thing to do was to cut off the tenderloin. You begin near the top of the back bone on either side and fillet along the bones. Roll this meat as you fillet. It makes a nice roll as it comes off. You will get one from each side. I then trimmed meat from around the rump area and pelvis area. Much of this became stew meat. I sawed off the pelvis with the Wyoming Saw. I then threw all the pelvis bone away. Underneath the back bones and ribs is a large piece of tender meat as well. I cut those out and laid them to the side.
I took the tenderloin which has a rather thick membrane on one side and laid it on that membrane. As Gary instructed me I made butterfly steaks. You cut 3/4″ from the edge inward a cross sectional cut down to the membrane but not through it. Then you cut again 3/4 cross cut down and completely through the membrane. The membrane holds the two pieces of the butterfly steak together when you fold it. Once I got both ends of the back done we had 23 butterfly steaks from the tenderloin. I fried some up and oh man the best deer I had ever eaten. It was not tough at all and every bit as good as any good beef steak that you have ever had.
I scraped up scraps and bits and made more stew meat and threw it in the stew pot. We were getting quite a pile of stew meat by this time. Next I worked on the belly meat and the ribs. I cleaned and cut up the belly meat first and placed that on the tray. Gary says he usually cuts that up into stew meat as well but I left it in whole pieces. I then began cleaning ribs and cutting them in half with the Wyoming saw. I cut and threw away any bruised or bloody meat around the wound area.
I was having a lot of trouble holding the meat while sawing. I found myself lifting the saw pushing it forward and then dragging it back to saw. This worked but it would always hang and smash and push the meat when going forward with it. I then looked at the blade and noted the saw teeth were pointing forward. I thought I might reverse the blade and see what effect it had. Amazingly it worked perfectly as expected after I reversed it so that the teeth were pointing towards me. I could saw easily in both directions and when the teeth would bite in, it was against my pushing the meat and bone which worked as you would expect.
The loppers would have worked well here too and even some garden shears for cutting the ribs. I next used the bone saw to cut the neck into 3 neck roasts of a few pounds each. I put the neck roast in bags labeled “neck roast.” I put the tenderloin steaks in 4 bags labeled “tenderloin butterfly steaks.” I put the belly meat in a bag labelled “belly meat.” I put the ribs in 4 bags labeled “ribs.” I put the meat that came from under the back bone and ribs in a bag labeled “underneath meat” for lack of better naming. Then I put the rest of the stew meat scraps from that in the pot, I next bagged up 3 handfuls of stew meat into a bag which made 4 bags of stew meat.
Other cuts that could have been made are pork chop like cuts and leg chop cuts. To make pork chop cuts a jig saw or sawzall could have been used to split the back bone right down the middle. Then again to cut the bone across the spine. These cross sectional cuts on each side would be like pork chops. The tenderloin in this case is part of the chops instead of making butterfly steaks. If you cut across the ham leg bone or below the shoulder up from then you get leg chops with the round bone in the center of each one. Also we should have chilled this deer with some ice an hour or so before I began processing it. It needs to be brought up near the freezing point to stiffen the meat up good. I would think this would especially be necessary when making these cross sectional chops.
The next morning I got the $70 slicer out that I had just bought from Lowe’s Hardware store. I set it up on the freezer and pulled out the ham/butt meat. For jerky meat you want to select the leanest cuts. I took the largest pieces of this and sliced it as thinly as i could across the grain for jerky meat. I ended up with two 3 lb bags of jerky meat. This will make 1.5 lbs for each bag when dried. The slicer would make a ratcheting noise if you pushed it too hard, or if the meat, skin, sinew or membranes caused it to bind. It also turned a lot slower than the slicers we used in the restaurant business, however it did the job fine. The rest I put back in the bags they came out of and put everything back in the freezer.
Before I did all that, I pulled everything out and weighed it on the scales. This is the scales like you might get from Walmart for weighing yourself on. I weighed in at 220 lbs. I picked up the cooler of meat with bone and it weight 305 lbs. I took the bone out and it weight 13 lbs less. The only bone left in it was the ribs and neck bones. This was 72 lbs but wait, I weighed the cooler and it was 20 lbs. So I’m going to say we deboned and dressed this out to 55 lbs of meat. I had taken a few pounds over to my camper before I did the weighing. We estimate by this that the deer must have weighed in at 110 to 120 lbs. This makes it a pretty good sized doe. This 50 lbs of meat or so filled a 5 cubic foot freezer about 1/4 full. We can assume we could kill about 5 deer for the season if we eat some as we go.
I will have to kill a few more to get more than my money back on all the hunting stuff I bought. But this one doe I would say, if compared to beef prices, would be worth $250 in the freezer. Now ask me if I think the processor fee of $60 to $80 is worth it? If you have the money it most surely is. I had almost decided to take it to a processor nearby but I wanted the experience of cleaning it myself and I wanted to spend that money on the 5 cubic foot freezer instead. All in all it wasn’t that bad and I’ll probably do it myself a few more times before I take one to a processor. It took me 5 hours to process the meat after soaking and another 30 minutes the next morning slicing the jerky meat. Again, next time I expect it to go twice as fast. If you had someone helping, the time could be cut in half yet again. For example two people skinning, quartering, processing, slicing, maybe 2 to 2.5 hours max.
One last note about the Rossi Tuffy 410. I did not practice a lick with it. When I went to shoot the deer I simply pointed, aimed down the barrel and shot. I’d say that says something about the gun as a survival pack gun. I mean think about it? Shouldn’t that little 410 be as good as a Indian bow, long bow, cross bow, compound bow, recurve bow? It should be as good as many pistols used for deer hunting right? But we will see as I use it more. Call it what you want, “kids gun”, “toy gun.” I call it a very light weight survival tool.