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Deer Meat Care in the Heat

Taking care of an early season harvest takes planning. Here's a general guide.

Deer Meat Care in the Heat

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. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

Meat care after a successful deer hunt actually starts before leaving home, especially in warm weather. Have a plan in place to take care of the meat to optimize quality.

Having two large coolers with ice in them allows you to store a quartered deer. Keep the meat off the ice and suspended above water in the bottom of the cooler.

In the backcountry, use the gutless method to quickly break down your deer. Bone out the meat and spread it out in a shaded area to get it quickly cooling. Hanging it on tree bows or from limbs allows air to circulate from all angles, cooling it quicker. From there, get it into game bags and into cold storage as soon as possible.

Related: Taking Care of Early-Season Venison

Should you have the luxury of getting a whole deer out of the woods, field dress it fast and hit the road. To prevent spoilage on those 100-degree days, the hide should be off the deer within a couple hours. If you can hang the whole deer on the bone for five days in a cold storage locker, in 33 to 42 degrees, this will optimize the aging process and result in tender, tasty meat.

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If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler, a quartered deer can be aged in a refrigerator. Be sure to stand up the quarters and don’t stack loose meat, as you want to optimize airflow around every cut.

Never transport or age game meat in plastic bags, as it will spoil. If you can’t immediately age the meat, consider cutting, wrapping and freezing it right away. Come time to cook it, remove the package of meat from the freezer, unwrap it and let it thaw in the refrigerator.

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