10 Tips for Processing Elk

10 Tips for Processing Elk
10 Tips for Processing Elk

MISSOULA, Mont. — Hunting season is well under way. You finally tag an elk or deer but now the local butcher is swamped, forcing you into a crash course in processing your own meat.

Fear not, says the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which offers the following tips and diagram to guide you.

“Many hunters don’t venture into butchering until they’re forced, either by economics or necessity,” said P.J. DelHomme, hunting editor of Bugle, the Elk Foundation’s member magazine, “but once they try it, it often becomes an enjoyable extension of the hunt. Converting a game animal into food is another way to connect with land and habitat and wild places.”

  1. Consider getting the meat cut, packaged and into the freezer ASAP. Hanging meat for aging and tenderizing is usually preferred but if you don’t have a temperature-controlled environment between 35 and 50 degrees, the process can be risky.

  2. Wild game can be aged and tenderized later using an alternative process. Remove a package of meat from the freezer and allow it to partially thaw. When the meat is beginning to soften and covered with slushy ice crystals, put a tally mark on the package and refreeze. Then repeat. When a package has three tally marks, it’s ready for cooking.

  3. The four basic tools for butchering are simple around-the-house tools. You will need a good sharp knife, a whetstone to keep the knife sharp, a hacksaw and a cutting board. You may also wish to use rubber gloves.

  4. Cleanliness is crucial. Rinse the skinned carcass (or quarters) and pat dry before you begin cutting. Wash your tools with soap and water before you start and clean your knife after each sharpening. If it’s not too cold, set up a cleaning table outside and use a hose with a high-pressure nozzle.

  5. The goal is to simply reduce the animal to individual muscles or groups of muscles, per the diagram. Start by removing the legs. Rear legs are jointed and fit into a socket in the hip. Front legs fit onto the chest mainly with muscles and tendons. The rest of the animal basically is ribs, neck and spine, and meat can be filleted from these areas. Remove back straps by slicing down the center of the back and boning along spine outward onto ribs. Don’t forget to take the tenderloins from the inside spine.

  6. Don’t try to make chops. Without professional-grade saws and butchering tools, consider simply cutting meat off the bones to make steaks, roasts, stew meat and jerky. When cutting a muscle into finished pieces, remember to cut across the grain of the meat.

  7. Trim away bloodshot meat, connective tissue, membranes, cartilage, fat — anything you don’t want to eat — and toss it into a bucket or trashcan lined with a plastic bag. Use another bag or tub for clean trimmings or cuts for grinding into burger. Freeze this bag of meat and take it to your butcher for grinding later when he or she isn’t swamped.

  8. If you have a vacuum-type food sealer, use it. Otherwise, wrap meat in cellophane and then butcher paper. Double wrapping is better. Mark each package with the date and type of cut. Expect finished meat to weigh less than 50 percent of the animal’s live weight.

  9. If your deer or elk came from a CWD area, special instructions may apply. Refer to the web site of the RMEF-supported Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, www.cwd-info.org, for information.

For more information, photos, charts and breakdowns of cuts, go to the RMEF web page www.rmef.org/hunting and click on “Carnivore’s Kitchen.”


Hunter's Meat Map

The following diagram outlines the different cuts meat:


Hunter's Meat Map

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Mustad

Mustad's Inkvader Octopus Live Jig

From big fish to small, just about any saltwater game fish out there will love the new Mustad Inkvader Octopus Live Jig that Mustad's Russ Whisler shows to OSG's Lynn Burkhead.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them. Reels

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them.

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the Garden State's hottest bass fishing. Destinations

7 Best Bets for New Jersey Bass

J.B. Kasper - October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the...

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

Said the hunter: ‘We knew he was big, but not world-record big.' Big Game

World Record Rocky Mountain Goat Approved by Pope & Young

Game & Fish Digital Staff - February 20, 2020

Said the hunter: ‘We knew he was big, but not world-record big.'

The challenges of the late season can also yield ruffed grouse success. Waterfowl

Late-Season Ruffs When It's Tough

Matt Soberg - December 18, 2019

The challenges of the late season can also yield ruffed grouse success.

Winter is here. Focus on these frozen food sources to improve your chances of scoring a giant buck. Whitetail

Focus on Frozen Food for Winter Deer

Bob Robb - December 27, 2019

Winter is here. Focus on these frozen food sources to improve your chances of scoring a giant...

A shot commits you to finding the animal. Your success depends on how you read the hit and the track. Whitetail

Aim True, Track Smart: Harvest Recovery

Wayne van Zwoll - December 26, 2019

A shot commits you to finding the animal. Your success depends on how you read the hit and the...

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.