Skip to main content

10 Tips for Processing Elk

10 Tips for Processing Elk
10 Tips for Processing Elk

Check out the Hunter's Meat Map below

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

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

It may be 125 years old, but the .30-30 Winchester retains its status thanks to modern loads.Turning .30-30; It's Better Than Ever Ammo

Turning .30-30; It's Better Than Ever

Richard Mann - October 27, 2020

It may be 125 years old, but the .30-30 Winchester retains its status thanks to modern loads.

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters really stand out for monsters.The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish Catfish

The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 21, 2020

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters...

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers Striper & Hybrid

3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe Wild Game

Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

It pays to think small for early season duck hunting.Take a Minimalist Approach to Your Duck Decoy Spreads Waterfowl

Take a Minimalist Approach to Your Duck Decoy Spreads

M.D. Johnson - November 04, 2020

It pays to think small for early season duck hunting.

Plan your own successful grouse hunt with advice compiled over the years.Tips & Tricks for More Eastern Ruffed Grouse this Season Upland

Tips & Tricks for More Eastern Ruffed Grouse this Season

Scott Linden - November 06, 2020

Plan your own successful grouse hunt with advice compiled over the years.

For less than $100, you can put together a repair kit that's easy to pack into the field.A Compact Rifle Toolkit to Save the Day During Your Hunt Hunting How-To

A Compact Rifle Toolkit to Save the Day During Your Hunt

Richard Mann - January 04, 2021

For less than $100, you can put together a repair kit that's easy to pack into the field.

Use these presentations to boat more cold-water bass as the season winds down.3 Active Ways to Grab a Cold-Weather Bass' Attention Bass

3 Active Ways to Grab a Cold-Weather Bass' Attention

Mike Pehanich - December 17, 2020

Use these presentations to boat more cold-water bass as the season winds down.

See More Hunting How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now