Beat the Heat: Taking Care of Early-Season Venison
Due to the warmer temperatures of the early deer seasons, learning a few new field-dressing and meat-care tips will help deliver quality venison from the field to the freezer. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
For much of the country, the heat is on. Even though it is finally October and deer season is now open – at least the early archery version – from coast to coast.
But so far this year, instead of cool days with early season frost blanketing pumpkin patches and raked piles of fallen leaves, temperatures are well into the 80s – and even the 90s in a few places – across many portions of the land.
Even with the unseasonable warm temperatures, deer are still hitting the ground from well placed shots.
But when those bucks and does are being tagged, the early-season heat can make proper meat care, of hard-earned venison, a bit more challenging than it will be later in the season.
With that thought in mind, here are some early-season meat care tips, gleaned from various Outdoor Channel hunting personalities, designed to beat the heat and ensure a fine meal of venison when the hunting is all said and done:
Michael Hunsucker, Heartland Bowhunter
"Hunting (as much as we do) during the early season, there are a lot of times we are faced with the challenge of field dressing, caping and quartering an animal in the field and (doing so) in a hurry," said Hunsucker, who has already found 2015 success in the West and the Midwest.
"The best thing that you can do to help cool the meat down is by quickly removing the guts and skinning the animal," he added. "This will allow the heat to escape from the meat.
"And as quickly as it's possible, we like to get the meat in the YETI Cooler and packed on ice to remove the rest of the heat. Once it's iced down and cooled off, then we can trim it up and pack it up for freezing."
Shawn Luchtel, Heartland Bowhunter
"When we're on the road, it's important to preserve the meat that we harvest from game animals," said the co-host of Heartland Bowhunter. "I typically use my YETI Tundra 65 cooler to hold ice and to preserve my de-boned meat from the deer I shoot.
"This allows me time to travel home as the meat stays cooled down," added Luchtel. "With the meat chilled properly, I'm then able to process the meat when I return home."
David Morris, The Bucks of Tecomate
"I pack a small bone saw like the "Wicked Tree Gear" bone saw so that I can cut through the pelvis bone," said Morris, the co-host of The Bucks of Tecomate and the founder of North American Whitetail magazine. "That allows me to access the bladder and to facilitate a thorough clean out and drainage.
"After that, I like to quarter the deer up and to strip the (tender)loins as soon as possible, especially in hot weather," added Morris. Then I put the (venison) on ice in a YETI Cooler to prevent spoilage and to keep the flies off."
David Holder, Raised Hunting
"A lot of times, we gut and drag our deer out pretty much like everyone else does," said Holder, who has watched the various members of the Holder crew fill up the freezer so far this fall with elk, pronghorn antelope and whitetail deer meat.
"But when we are quartering animals up for transport, we don't gut them at all. By using the "gutless method," there's no mess and it saves valuable time."
Mark Drury, THIRTEEN
"The best tip that I could give anyone for whitetail field dressing is to make sure that your knife is scalpel sharp," said Drury, who is on the board with a 160-class whitetail buck taken during the early days of Missouri's archery season.
"A sharp knife is a necessity for quick and clean field dressing," added Drury. "When I'm field dressing a deer, I also love to use the rubber gloves that extend past my elbows.
Simple field-dressing tips and shortcuts aside, having the proper tools already acquired and ready to work will make carcass processing more efficient and help ensure meat quality remains top-shelf. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Kandi Kisky, Whitetail Freaks
"We wear rubber or plastic gloves when field dressing a deer," said Kisky, who along with her husband, Don, is just now settling down into deer stands and ground blinds after fall farming chores and grain harvests have been completed.
"YETI Cooler's are perfect for us anytime we're on the road traveling," she added. "When we're on the road, we'll debone our game and put it into a YETI until we can get it to a meat locker. With ice and a YETI, it stays cold for a long time."
Brent Chapman, Major League Fishing
"I use my YETI Cooler to carry frozen two-liter bottles to put into the cavity of a deer after I've field dressed it," said Chapman, who hunts on a farm that he co-owns along with other family land scattered throughout eastern Kansas.
Because Chapman's home is only an hour or two away from where he usually hunts, getting the buck or doe field dressed and the body cavity chilled down usually makes more sense than trying to quarter up or debone meat like others have to do when they are out and about on lengthy road trips.
"When I've taken a deer, those frozen bottles will really help to chill the carcass down after I've taken one and (the weather is still) warm," said Chapman.
While there are certainly a variety of challenges to overcome when the early season heat is on and a great meal of venison is desired, it's worth all of the effort in the end.
Just ask Jordan Shipley, co-host of The Bucks of Tecomate, who has already tagged two Rocky Mountain bull elk and three white-tailed bucks on his early season adventures across the Western U.S., the northern Great Plains and even north of the border in Canada.
Not to mention the bucks and bulls that have been taken by other Tecomate show talent like his wife Sunny and David Morris.
Jordan Shipley, co-host of “The Bucks of Tecomate,” harvested this nice buck during Wyoming’s warm early season. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Shipley Facebook page)
The simple truth is that doing the work of properly taking care of game meat while in the field is a chore that will undoubtedly lead to some backslapping good times and superb meals back home in Texas sometime later this fall.
Especially when Shipley's favorite venison recipe is employed.
"My favorite way to cook deer meat is to chicken fry it," said Shipley. "I'm from the country in Texas and that was always my favorite meal with my cousins when we'd get together."
Mind you, there's a little more to it than just dredging the strips of venison in flour and dropping them into an iron skillet bubbling with hot oil.
"The secret to the best chicken fried venison is to use buttermilk," said Shipley. "My grandmother would cut it into chunks, beat it to death with a meat mallet, soak it in buttermilk overnight and oh my goodness!
"After doing that, look out, it is something special," added the former Texas football great.
"What the buttermilk does is to help break down the meat's tissue and tenderize it. Get your egg wash and flour ready, put in a little Tony Chachere's seasoning, some garlic powder, some onion powder and some salt, then double-dip the meat and throw it in the fryer.
"As they say, it's so good it will make a puppy pull a freight train!"
Which is plenty of reason to go the extra mile this fall, especially given the nation's unusually warm early autumn weather, to take quick and proper care of game meat in the field.
So that some backslapping good times around the table can follow in the weeks to come as October warmth gives way to the chilly breezes of late autumn and early winter.
All of which can provide a chance to enjoy the bounty of great venison table fare from one side of this deer hunting nation all the way to the other.