Hunters need to be skilled in many things to successfully harvest deer, including sighting-in, scouting for signs of deer and recognizing mast conditions, to name a few. However, preparing to harvest a deer does not end once you are able to find a deer and pull the trigger or release the arrow on an animal. There’s a popular saying: Once you pull the trigger, the real work begins. Hunters also need to be prepared to properly handle and care for the carcass, so they can process and preserve the meat for table fare. 

With all the effort you put into bagging a deer, don’t fall short on the proper care of the carcass after the harvest. Before heading into the woods for a hunt, make sure you have a hunting knife and set of disposable gloves with you to field dress a deer. We recommend that you wear rubber or latex gloves when handling deer to reduce the likelihood of possible bacteria from your hands contaminating the meat. 

Locate the harvested deer as quickly as possible and remove the entrails, which allows the carcass to cool down and aid in preventing spoilage. Take extra caution to avoid puncturing the stomach or intestines. Complete and attach a field tag to the carcass before moving the animal from where you found it. If you have cell phone coverage, you can check-in the harvest online here. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until you get home. 

Once you get the deer to your vehicle, transport the deer to a local game processor or to your home to process it yourself. Be mindful of how you transport the deer. At one time, it was popular to put deer on your car or truck hood and to drive around to show off your harvest. However, this warms up the carcass and causes spoilage of the meat. 

If you drop off your harvest at a processor, your work is done. If you plan to process the animal yourself, hang the deer, if possible, to allow air to circulate around the carcass until you are ready to begin the butchering process. 

Once you have the carcass home, skinning and quartering the animal are the next steps. Continue to be mindful of the temperature and refrigerate the quartered portions if temperatures do not permit hanging. According to the West Virginia University Extension Service, you can hang the carcass outside if the temperature is 42 degrees or lower. 

Deboning the meat and removing viscera are important steps in creating pieces of venison for further processing. The Extension Service advises against cutting or using bones in recipes due to the possibility of disease transmission. Deboned pieces can be handled many ways, including tenderized, cut into jerky strips, ground or kept whole for use as roasts. Venison may be canned in a pressure canner, dehydrated or frozen for future use. Packaging meat with freezer paper or vacuum sealing with plastic can provide your family with venison for months. 

Now that you have venison in the freezer, you may be scratching your head on how to prepare it for dinner. Venison is low in fat, so keep that in mind when adapting venison to beef recipes. If you need some ideas, try one of our tasty recipes.

Featured Articles

Five ways you can help protect wild woodland box turtles

When was the last time you saw a box turtle in the wild? Did you, like so many of us, enjoy watching its slow, steady plod through the grass? Were you treated to the sight of a turtle stretching its…

WVDNR highlights habitat and stream restoration project in Monongahela Forest

GLADY, W.VA. — More than 2,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Monongahela National Forest is being restored thanks to a collaborative project between the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and United States Forest Service. The work is being…

What you can do to help West Virginia’s official butterfly

The next time you notice a monarch butterfly, with its brilliant orange and black wings rimmed with white dots, take a good long appreciative look. Monarchs used to number in the billions. Since 1976, the world population of monarch butterflies…

40,700 pounds of trout stocked in 38 waters throughout West Virginia

The year might be coming to an end, but there’s still plenty of fish to catch in West Virginia. In October, we stocked more than 40,000 pounds of trout in 38 waters around the state. The final trout stocking of…

Updated license system makes buying license and checking game easier

Buying a hunting and fishing license and checking game in West Virginia just got a lot easier thanks to our upgraded electronic licensing and game check system.

Second split of WV’s fall turkey season to open Oct. 25

West Virginia’s second split of the fall wild turkey hunting season will open in select counties on Oct. 25. The first fall season, which included all 55 counties, opened on Oct. 9 and closed on Oct. 17. “The first week…

2022 West Virginia Wildlife Calendar available to purchase

In advance of the holiday shopping season, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is reminding hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts to purchase their copy of the 2022 West Virginia Wildlife Calendar while supplies last. The popular and award-winning calendar…

Want to get your art featured in the WV Wildlife Calendar? Here’s how.

If you’re an artist who’s painted popular game or fish species or other West Virginia wildlife such as snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders, bats, songbirds, small mammals or non-game fish, the WVDNR is seeking artwork for next year’s calendar and offering…

Trout stockings return to West Virginia lakes and streams Oct. 18

Don’t pack up your fishing gear just yet. Fall trout stockings return to nearly 40 lakes and streams around the state starting Oct. 18. Fall trout stocking only lasts two weeks, so make sure you plan a trip while there’s…

Why you need to buy RB/RRB stamps before the deer archery season

The start of West Virginia’s 2021 deer archery season is Sept. 25, which means time is running out to purchase your hunting license and RB/RRB stamps if you want to harvest additional deer. Hunting licenses and stamps can be purchased…

West Virginia’s archery/crossbow seasons start Sept. 25. Get ready with this preseason checklist.

If you’ve spent the last few weeks anxiously waiting for the fall hunting seasons to start, your patience is about to be rewarded because West Virginia’s archery/crossbow seasons for deer, bear and wild boar open on Saturday, Sept. 25.  If…

WV State Parks reconstructing original gateway entrance at Coopers Rock

An iconic wooden gateway that welcomed visitors to Coopers Rock State Forest in the 40s and 50s is being reconstructed as part of a series of improvements at the popular state forest. The project is a collaboration between the West…