Whitetail Processing - First Time

Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
913
Location
NE PA
SHARP knives (and a way to keep them sharp). Technically you could get by with one skinning and one boning, although more is better (skinning, 8" flexible curved boning, 8" stiff curved boning, 12" flexible straight boning, cleaver or good long heavy spine knife; are my personal choices). A grinder of sorts (one to two sizes bigger than you think you need would be beneficial, I own a MEAT with a foot pedal), a vacuum packer and bags, a good large cutting board, and a couple of LEM Meat Lugs with drain boards and lids. Obviously a place to hang your deer and cut/sort/trim/clean, etc...

Butchering your own deer doesn't have to be equipment intensive; but if you do it enough, equipment that simplifies and speeds up the process will be appreciated. I only do 4 or 5 deer a year for myself, but I help a few buddies from time to time.
 

Yoder

WKR
Joined
Jan 12, 2021
Messages
1,488
I use a boning knife, heavy fixed blade Buck knife to cut through the spine. I have a meat saw but you can use a Sawzall if you don't have one. Just use a new clean blade. For skinning I use a big pair of channel locks to grab the hide to pull it and whatever folding knife I have at the time. A Gambrel to hang it is nice, especially the ones with pulleys if you are by yourself. A hand crank grinder, which is easier than you would think. It's not bad if you are only doing a couple deer a year and a vacuum sealer. It's a cheap Food Saver brand from Walmart.

All you really need is a good knife and a place to cut it. Everything else just makes it easier.
 
Joined
Jul 20, 2014
Messages
1,064
Location
Kirtland, NM
Ok, here’s my advice to get started. One 6” curved semi stiff victorinox knife. One 8-10” curved victorinox breaking knife. Sharpening stone either wet stone or oil. A fine steel, deboning meat hook, cut resistant glove, cutting board. As big as a grinder as you can get. Definitely plastic wrap and freezer paper not butcher paper, a stand to hold the paper, freezer tape. A chamber vacuum sealer is nice but bags are expensive and the bag will become brittle in the freezer and lose its seal or get pin holes in it and lose its seal. I have meat from 2013 that’s still as good as the day it went into the freezer by wrapping tight in plastic then freezer paper. We wrap all our commercial processed meat this way. Hb is stuffed into poly tubes and then taped closed. I have a giant vacuum sealer but use that for bacon, ham, jerky and snack sticks. You can get the larger rolls of plastic film that has the sliding cutter with it. My plastic sets on a machine that has a heat rod that cuts it and a heat pad that seals it but for diy you don’t need that. Good luck and I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
 
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Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
10
We skin and quarter our deer, from a hanging position on a winch in a barn. Depending on how you process it, hanging or on a table, you may need different tools at different times.

I have skinned and quartered with a havalon scalpel. Its sharp point can lead to poky accidents while quartering a hanging deer. I think the scalpel blades work best for field dressing and skinning. The thin point of the blade can also break off on ball socket joints.

I have tried a 6-7" Dexter breaking knife, and feel like it's too long and unwieldy for quartering a hanging deer. A compact folding buck style knife, or a compact fixed blade like a Schrade sharpfinger seem to work really well quartering a hanging deer. We get the quarters into coolers and trim them a couple of days later.

I really do like the 6-7" Dexter filet knives for parting up and trimming shoulders and hams. They're not expensive, like a $20-30 cost, a pretty good value. But could also use any kitchen or filet knives you have for parting up and trimming roasts.

One of my hunting buddies works at a steel plant. They change out ceramic piping on some type of heating element every year. So we use these small sections of ceramic pipe to touch up our knife edge as we're working. Any sort of ceramic rod works really well for maintaining an edge. I don't think a honing steel does as good a job maintaining an edge.

A hacksaw can be used to remove the neck roast, but a saw zaw makes much quicker work of it.

I use the food saver style vacuum and bags, and sometimes they don't seal wet meat well. Butcher paper and Ziploc bags work fine.

I would skip on the grinder my first year and figure out your knife and packaging system.

Essentials:
1 skinning knife
1 compact breaking knife
1 filet knife
1 ceramic sharpening rod
1 magic marker for labeling
1 pair of kitchen shears
Bags and butcher paper
 

SloppyJ

WKR
Joined
Feb 24, 2023
Messages
1,106
First off, good for you. It's what I feel like is a logical step for people who hunt seriously for the right reasons.

My journey started when I was a poor college kid. I've learned a ton and process 5 to 10 deer per year now and help a lot of my buddies too. Here's how I do it now.

My preference is to dry age the meat. I built a PVC rack that fits in my cooler. I'll dump 40 to 60lbs of ice in the bottom under my rack and place all quarters and meat above the ice. I drain it 2x per day. Normally I'll shoot one on the weekend and I'll age it until the next weekend replacing the ice as needed.

All you really need are some cheap Victorianox (sp?) boning knives. I debone it all and then trim. I trim everything off if I'm grinding or using it for my family. For jerky or sausage I'll be a little less picky.

It took me three years but I finally have everything I need. I started with a 3/4hp LEM Big Bite grinder. It's a beast and will handle everything I throw at it. Research tips to grind meat better. It has to stay cold/frozen. This is your biggest cost. The biggest tip I can give is to buy a foot pedal from Harbor Frieght that you plug the grinder into to be able to turn it on and off with a touch of the pedal. Again, you're trying to elimate as much heat as possible.

I bought a slicer for jerky and do about 2 whole deer per year in jerky to share and eat at home. It's one of my favorite things to give out around Christmas and snack on while I'm hunting. I use a LEM slicer and their huge 10 tray dehydrator. My favorite seasoning is the LEM Pepper blend and I throw in some red pepper flakes and some of my own debhdrated jalapenos.

What I'm currently trying to get better on is sausage. I can do good snack sticks and just OK summer sausage. I'd really like to nail down my linked sausage. Seems my problem is finding quality fat to add in and keeping it from rendering out. I run a LEM 5lb vertical stuffer.

This might be frowned upon but for ground meat cut it 50/50 with pork butt. I'll stock the freezer throughout the year when I see them on sale. You can also get good case prices at Sam's/Costco or the like. To me, this gives some of the best tasting and textured deer meat I've ever had.

Good luck and shoot me a message If you need any help.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2024
Messages
10
This might be frowned upon but for ground meat cut it 50/50 with pork butt.
I think it is pretty typical to at least grind in some beef or pork fat.

My FIL really likes straight deer burger. He bags and freezes it in single servings. Then can grab a pattie from freezer for a burger at lunch, or a couple of patties to throw into soup or spaghetti sauce.

I have ground a brisket point with deer trim which made pretty good burgers for a cookout.

This year I ground up most of my trim with 30% pork fat to make breakfast sausage. I just picked up lard trim, cheap, from the butcher after deer season.

For anyone in the market for a grinder, or meat processing equipment, in the future. If you're the type that contributes to charity, or already have an OnX subscription. There are regularly 10-20% discounts for BHA and RMEF lifetime or OnX elite) members on Weston, Meat Your Maker and Walton's. Of course it's not worth $1000 just to get a $40 discount, on a Meat grinder from a lifetime membership program. But if you've already spent $99 on OnX, that discount makes up half the value of your membership if you could get a deal on a Meat Your Maker grinder. So check what membership discounts are available to you, if applicable.
 

WRO

WKR
Joined
Nov 6, 2013
Messages
3,079
Location
Idaho
I find beef fat lasts allot longer that pork fat in the freezer, and my freezer is stuffed with a bunch of random game meat that’s up to 3 years old.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

akcabin

Lil-Rokslider
Joined
Feb 10, 2023
Messages
204
Plastic produce bags work very well for wrapping meat before wrapping it in butcher paper. The blood does not leak out. And food safe. We have done tons of moose meat this way. A roll will do several moose. We leave a roll up in the kitchen so leftovers on a plate can be slid into a bag and put into the fridge. So they get used daily. They are inexpensive to buy and a roll lasts a long time. I believe my beautiful wife bought the last roll off of net but your local grocery store may sell you a roll.
Real nice that you are learning to process your own meat. Great skill to pass along to the kids n others
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2022
Messages
376
Location
Carolinas
Lot of good suggestions for equipment already.

Print out a half-paged sized picture of front/rear quarters that show the different cuts, laminate them, punch a hole in the corner and run a zip tie or ring through it to make a flip book of all the different cuts of meat. It makes for an awesome reference book while your processing and because it’s laminated, you can get it bloody while you’re working and wipe it off with paper towels when you’re done 👍
 

2-Stix

WKR
Joined
Oct 7, 2020
Messages
492
Lot of good suggestions for equipment already.

Print out a half-paged sized picture of front/rear quarters that show the different cuts, laminate them, punch a hole in the corner and run a zip tie or ring through it to make a flip book of all the different cuts of meat. It makes for an awesome reference book while your processing and because it’s laminated, you can get it bloody while you’re working and wipe it off with paper towels when you’re done 👍
That would be a great product to sell.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2018
Messages
1,910
Location
VA
Essentials:
2 Sharp knives- 1 boning 1 skinning (i prefer a carbon steel blade, but magnacut seems to be growing on me)
Brown Butcher paper
Big cutting board
5 or 10 gallon SS pot


Niceties:
grinder-allows you to maximize your carcass yield
Vertical sausage stuffer- great for filling meat bags and doing sausage links
vac sealer w/bags
meat mixer(last butchering item I'm yet to buy)
a 2nd or 3rd 5 or 10 gallon stainless steel pot (mixing sausage and butchering) allow you keep stuff clean and out of the way
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2022
Messages
376
Location
Carolinas
That would be a great product to sell.
My uncle made me one about 30 years ago, still have it, probably one of the most useful bits I’ve ever been given. Made three for my daughter, nephew, and a niece for their first hunts.

I’d never considered making them for profit…🤦
 

2-Stix

WKR
Joined
Oct 7, 2020
Messages
492
My uncle made me one about 30 years ago, still have it, probably one of the most useful bits I’ve ever been given. Made three for my daughter, nephew, and a niece for their first hunts.

I’d never considered making them for profit…🤦
Even if you just made a PDF for us all to download and use it would be very helpful.

My great grandpa was a butcher in WW1.
 

Yoder

WKR
Joined
Jan 12, 2021
Messages
1,488
Even if you just made a PDF for us all to download and use it would be very helpful.

My great grandpa was a butcher in WW1.
That's cool. My grandfather was a butcher during WWII. He told me during basic training, they lined everyone up and asked if anyone was a butcher. Him and a few others stepped forward. He said after that, he got some special treatment for volunteering. He said they would make them do some long run up a miserable hill. Reminded me of Band of Brothers when then ran up Currahee. He said they would drive him and the other guys that volunteered to the top in a jeep, they would check in and then get driven back so they could get back to work cutting meat. I miss my grandfather. I'm the first son in four generations that wasn't a butcher for some period of time. My family used to run a small farm with a butcher shop.
 

Wolfshead

FNG
Joined
Aug 10, 2022
Messages
75
I haven’t yet read all the posts so far, but I’ll add my 2 cents here amongst the others.
Starting out I would recommend a vacuum sealer, some kind of grinder (don’t really need one, but makes life easier), and a sharp knife.
Honestly you don’t need much else.
I was given a department store vacuum sealer as a Christmas gift my first year hunting, 12 years or so ago and still use it.
Last year I used this knife on my Doe, for everything up to vacuum sealing the meat. Field dressing, skinning, quartering, and cutting into package sized pieces. Without sharpening once.
IMG_4773.jpeg

As years go by you’ll understand what you want to help with how you like to do things that will make your life easier and you can add them over time as you like, but for now you really don’t need much.
 

MOVA

FNG
Joined
Jun 8, 2023
Messages
22
Great info so far, not much new to add but here's what we do for 10+ a season...

Gut fast, open cavity. We skin out and cut hanging on a pulley gambrel close by. Cooler with ice to throw meat into right off the animal. We take everything off the bone while hanging.

Vacuum sealed same day, always if not eating or cooking that cut in next 24 hours. Late nights last 2 years since committed to this but worth it. Losing 3lbs out of 30 on a doe is 10%.

Prioritize backstrap/tenderloins first.

3HP grinder. Beef tallow not pork fat, grinds way easier, doesn't stick/get wrapped in grinder and tastes better. Batch cook taco, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, etc and freeze in single serve quart ziplocs.

Giant cutting board. 18x30 mentioned above is great.

We use cutco hunting knives with their DD/"serrated" edge mostly, they are good for a few deer each before dulling and resharpened/replaced for free after the year. Very sharp, good handles etc.
There's a members daughter on a thread a month or two ago who is active.

Good boning knife, straight edge for fine trimming. Walleye fillet on backstraps.

Vacuum seal on "dry" setting for a tighter seal. Pat down meat with paper towel first to remove excess moisture/water from rinse. 2 people make a smooth operation with one doing the fine trimming and the other sealing and packing. Straight into chest freezer with label.

Don't forget the heart and liver!
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2013
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Somewhere between here and there
Plastic or metal tubs, trays are nice for dividing steaks, roasts, and grind pile as you go. Really handy for elk.

We still do plastic wrap and freezer paper. Every once in a while we’ll find a pack that is 3-5 years old and we’ve never had an issue with freezer burn.
 
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