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ageing your venison for table fare?

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Unread 12-14-2007, 07:50 PM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: OK
Posts: 2,132
Sounds like you guys all have a pretty good handle on getting your deer cooled and cared for.

When I first started hunting back in the mid 80's I couldn't get the deer cut up quick enough. Seemed like once it was killed it was time to take care of it. If they hung for 2 days that was long for me then. Venison always seemed "chewy" and I thought that was just the way it was.

I worked for the local locker when I was 20 helping with the deer processing. Thats when the full time guys gave me the education on aging meat. The one thing they emphasised was to keep the meat dry so a fungus didn't grow on it. A couple years later a friend took me to his place and he had 5 deer hung in his cooler a week after deer season, I was thinking he was a little goofy. After he cooked some well aged steaks for me I started to pay attention.

The next year I had the perfect oportunity to age my deer, I had an uninsulated garage with a cement floor that kept a pretty consistant temp from daytime highs to night time lows. I let that deer hang for 12 days in temps that swung from 32-38 degrees. The result was no longer "chewy meat"

Since then I have been aging my meat, hide on, for different lenghts of time varrying on the temps from day to night. One year the lows were down around 32' and the highs were hitting the 50's. I had the deer hanging in a pine tree wind break so they were out of the sun. Like blackco, once the carcass had cooled I wrapped it in an old sleeping bag to keep the cold in during the day. I cut the meat up after just 5 days due to the warmer weather. This year I shot a 4.5 year old buck. The first night he hung outside in 26' temps. After that he hung in my insulated shop were it was 42'. I left him for 6 days and cut him up, I have ate several steaks off that buck and they are as good as any. I have also aged deer in a cooler out of necessity, after being boned out on hunting trips and hauled back home, I would leave them in dry coolers for 4-5 days weather/temp permitting. If conditions are good, low-highs from 28-40 degrees I usually leave them hang for 7-10 days.

I haven't had an aging horror story yet, but I keep a close eye on the carcasses during the hang time.

One thing I learned is that after a week of aging the hide pulls off relativly easy, due to the "relaxing" of the conective tissue.

Just my experiences I thought I would share with you, may-be they will help you age your deer. At one time I thought I would quit shooting deer because they weren't that good and they were tough. 20+ years later and I put up about 5 deer a year, and my whole fammily enjoys the tender and tasty steaks that aging helps to produce.
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Unread 02-11-2008, 10:27 PM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: West Central Idaho
Posts: 1,219
Iím gonna stick my neck out here and probably get some people thinking that I donít have a clue but for the last 50 years (as Iím 64 now) I have been taking care of deer and elk in all kinds of temperatureís and here is what I have learned and done.

Grew up hunting blacktails and hogs in the coast range of California where during deer season the average temperature is 90 degrees mid day with a low of 65 or so. If I killed a hog then it was all about getting him out of the mountains and cooled off. Dang old pig will spoil right in the back of the jeep if left to long. Now deer were totally different. Have shot deer early morning removed the paunch opened him up so he would cool stuffed some Bayleaf (grows wild in the coast range) in the chest cavity to keep the flys out get him in the shade and left them that way all day and have never lost an ounce of meat. The trick is getting the body heat out of them. The animal has to have a steady cool down. As long as he is cooling down the meat wonít spoil.

Now you get that same buck back to camp that night. Hang him using a single tree by his hind legs. Skin him and cut the head off. Cut his brisket removing whatever was missed that morning along with the wind pipe. Split the pelvis and remove all the cruddy stuff. Trim all of the blood shoot meat away. Now hopefully you have a nice clean deer with no hair or filth on the skin. If he was gut shot you need your butt kicked for terrible shooting and need to go practice!

I was taught from my grandparents who grew up before refrigeration was around to not use water on the meat. The meat has to crust over in order to keep. I abide by that rule today with one exception. If the animal was gut shot (by one of the kids) I will take a damp towel and wipe all the bad stuff out. I remember as a kid my grandmother jumping all over me for using water and more so for nicking the meat while skinning a deer. All has to do with it crusting over.
Let the deer hang all night then before the flys are moving the next morning put a meat sack on him so the flys canít get at him wrap him in a heavy tarp and just repeat that until your hunt is done. If you unwrap at night and re-wrap at daylight that meat will stay good. Just use your nose to check for any souring right where you split the pelvis. You can smell any change long before it spoils. In warm weather meat can hang 5-10 days depending.

Now the above is what I was taught to do when itís warm. If you pay attention to the meat you will learn when it needs to be packaged and put into the freezer. If it is humid watch it close as you canít age it as long in warm weather. I now live in west central Idaho and have for the last 18 years. I still use the same technique the only difference being that I never worry about the meat spoiling. In October the nights are usually around freezing as my ranch is at 3700 feet and the days are cool. I usually hang both deer and elk in a big shady White Fir for about 15 days give or take a few of course checking them daily.

I cut and wrap all my own meat. All the fat and tainted meat that was missed at the time of skinning is removed and discarded. Takes me 2 days to cut and wrap an elk but once done it is fine eating.

If the meat had to be boned out and brought out with a backpack then I put it in a refrigerator laying it on towels for about a week only. Have to watch it close as it will sour pretty fast. Boned out meat has never been as good as well aged meat so shoot them where a horse can go and bring them out whole or if an elk properly quartered. Itís certainly not rocket science to end up with good meat. Kill him where he stands, keep the meat clean, and let it age.

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. Sir Winston Churchill.

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. Einstein
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Unread 03-28-2008, 05:25 PM
Gold Member
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: York, Pa.
Posts: 611
Time is on my side

It is very important to clean the animal ASAP after the kill. Next is chill it as fast as possible and this may be putting frozen (water) milk jugs in the cavity. Pa and Md bow is usually very warm and the gun too sometimes. I always age for at least 7 days or longer. The meat from Tx hunts is kept in coolers for 7 days or hung in my buddy's fridge on s hooks off the shelf for this time.
I do all my own cutting..noboby does it better!
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Unread 04-20-2008, 07:58 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado
Posts: 239
I guess I'm the only oddball when it comes to aging meat. First thing I do after killing an animal is skin it and bone it out on the spot. I don't even bother gutting them, just peel the hide, cut off all the meat, and then flip them over and do the same to the other side. If I'm not able to get it in camp that same day I hang the meat in trees to cool out. First thing I do once I hit camp with the meat is throw it in a big plastic garbage bag and poke a bunch of holes in the bag and tie the top shut. Then I carry it to the creek where I've dug a hole deep enough to submerge the whole bag. It stays in the creek til I break hunting camp. Don't have to worry about the bears, or the flys, or the temperature. The water washes away all the blood and breaks down the meat. You can fry a thick steak and cut it with a fork, don't even need a knife its so tender. Been doing this for over 25 years. You can do this to an old bull and he'll be as tender as a young cow. Try it out............you definately won't be sorry!!!
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Unread 04-23-2008, 10:25 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 426
Just my 2 cents. We hunt elk. We gut, skin and quarter them on the spot. Put them in game bags. Pack them out on pack frames. Hang them from trees. Wash and pat dry and apply new game bags. Hang them in 40 degree weather for 5 to 7 days (In Oregon 40ļ is usually a given during elk season). Make sure you hang em and the air can get to them.*It makes the outer flesh like a hard crust and keeps the good meat inside clean. Then butcher discarding all the air exposed flesh. I have done that since I was 12 it has always been a delicacy when finished.
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Unread 04-24-2008, 09:00 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,088
Since I only hunt whitetails and not too far from home, I like to get the deer cut up the same day.
First, anyone that has ever skinned a warm deer knows that the skin comes off as easily as taking off a jacket!

Second, I have a fridge in my garage for deer meat. I like to quarter the deer and leave for about a week. Loins and backstrap never seem to make it that long though

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Unread 07-03-2008, 04:49 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Indiana
Posts: 34
Chaser offers good advice....offering some additions here.

Ok, maybe not an Expert but...I have aged and butchered OVER 3000 whitetail. Successfully enough that when the uh.....lady of the house....took off and left me hanging, the loss of my shop has created TONS of very HONKED OFF hunters wanting to know WTH are we supposed to do NOW?

Aging the meat is not just a great idea, it's MANDATORY for good , tender, flavorfull venison. At least IMHO.

The rules are simple.

1. Get the "innards" OUT.............NOW. No waiting till you get the deer back home.

2. Cool it out ASAP. Got an old chest FREEZER?. Drop that sucker in there for a day. That hide keeps their body temp (108 degrees) for a LONG time in various parts. Think of what kind of weather they can live in and do the math on heat loss.

THEN, keep that carcass between 32 and 36 degrees MAX for 2 weeks, 3 is possible and GREAT IF AND ONLY IF, you got the heat out.....FAST!

SOME want to cool it faster by skinning. YES....this does BUT.. TRULY aging it will take a MINIMUM of 7 days for a small one and will only age approximately 60-70 percent. WITHOUT THE HIDE....dehydration sets in and you'll lose meat and quality. Bacteria has an open door to the meat once the hide is off as well. LEAVE THAT HIDE ON!

3. LONGER IS BETTER. 14 days is rock bottom for me with the right place to keep them. Enemies are A. HEAT B. SUNSHINE C. AIR on the meat D. BACTERIA.......and a special note here if you would allow.

GROUND WATER, CITY WATER is NOT.....repeat NOT ......bacteria free!
Ever READ a water test report? They ALLOW certain levels of things you DO NOT want to put on your meat. Spend 5 bucks for bottled water to wash it out if you must BUT, I am here to tell you that ONLY if I am stupid and have broken intestines (not lungs) will I WASH THEM OUT AT ALL.

58 whitetail have fed my family......maybe three have been washed out. IF YOU WASH THEM OUT....watch carefully. The bacteria in the water is not fast but once it starts........BUTCHER THAT DEER!

4. MOLD.....(ok, don't freak on me)is NOT "bad" on the inside the rib cage. Light mold WILL grow on the inside a properly aged carcass. I dont eat the ribs and the outside rib meat is fine. If you wash it out from the garden hose, you will NOT be able to age it as LONG, but you will be able to age it some. Bacteria goes INSIDE the meat..MOLD grows OUTSIDE where it gets air.

5. If you're mounting it......GET THE CAPE OFF, within a couple hours max, get it to your taxidermist THAT DAY OR FREEZE IT in a couple bags with AIR SQUEEZED OUT,then drape a CHEAP white or clear trash bag over the neck and shoulders. BEWARE! Many better name "trash" bags have "anti bacterial" ingredients IN THE BAG. READ the label and do NOT use bags with such. I prefer CHEAP, WHITE 50 gallon bags. Letting the meat cool SOME, like overnight isnt a bad idea before bagging. Bagging REQUIRES getting the heat out NOW by freezer method mentioned above.

6. Ok, more info that you asked about but there is one more thing to do for REALLY good meat. When you package it, get the AIR OUT of all bags containing meat and wrap it in LINED or COATED FREEZER PAPER. Brown butcher paper works fine, but the process above will make the meat last YEARS if needed. Freezer burn comes from AIR getting to the meat.

Not all here will agree to my methods but I can tell you that I had hunters driving 70 miles ONE WAY to bring me deer because before I butchered one for them........they and / or their family COULD NOT eat venison and they gave it away!

I shot a 193lb (dressed out) 9 point with a 35 Rem XP100 and used the processes above, hung it 21 DAYS at 34 degrees. Steaks could be cut with a fork after FRYING.

Aging also greatly improves the flavor of the ground meat. Added beef fat should come from a butcher not from grocery store hamburger that you have NO idea how long it has been sitting around.

Last tip on meat, even though its NOT deer............BEEF is NOT aged like it used to be. Aging a beef a long time creates dehydration because they skin it first. Up to 10 percent of the WEIGHT is lost without skin. Since sold by the POUND, they cant allow that. Average beef aging now is 7 days, period.

Want a GOOD porterhouse? Buy it, wrap it air tight, cover it in freezer paper and throw it in the frig for another 7-10 days.

I'll be shooting and eating whitetail and with God's help other big game of the deer class. ALL OF THEM will be butchered as above if AT ALL possible.

light bulbGive it a try......once will convince you. MANY people have refused to believe what they were eating WAS venison from my shop.

Feel free to contact me during the process this or any fall. If I don't reply I ain't breathing anymore, lol

Now if you will excuse me.......I'll get off my soapbox. Sorry for my ranting. This is still a sore spot with me resulting from some the MORONS I dealt with.

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