When you consider that last year Pennsylvania sold 373,700 archery deer licenses, not to mention those hunters participating in the early muzzleloader hunt as well as the early antlerless hunt for both juniors and seniors, that I consider it important for those going afield to know the basics of how to handle venison during warm weather.
Visualize this if you can. After hours, days or even weeks of waiting, youíve finally gotten your chance and have successfully tagged that whitetail doe or buck that you’ve been pursuing. It’s 50 degrees, maybe even warmer. What can you do to protect the meat from spoilage?
During warm weather it’s very important to cool your deer as quickly as possible. This means field dressing and skinning the animal as soon as you can. The quicker you can reduce body heat, the better. Remember that animal’s life was taken to feed you and your family so it is only right that it should be honored by being given the best possible care.
Do you typically take your deer to a processor? If so, you better have checked to learn their hours and days of operation. What if they are closed? Are you prepared to store the meat until they re-open? I know several hunters who ran into this dilemma last autumn during the new Sunday hunts.
Assuming you’ve field-dressed the animal and skinned it, it’s now time to decide whether or not to wash down the carcass. There are mixed views on this subject, as water can prove to quicken contamination. Personally, I like to wash down an animal with cool water to remove loose hair and any leaves or grass that might have come into contact with the meat. Not only will this make things cleaner, it will help with cooling. Immediately after rinsing, dry the meat using either paper towels or towels and a combination of an electric fan or strong natural breeze. The meat must be dried thoroughly to keep it at its best.
If possible, it’s now time to quarter and refrigerate the animal. If that can’t be done, make sure the meat is stored out of direct sunlight. Look for a place that is cool and sheltered. If the meat will be kept on ice in a cooler, keep the meat from coming into direct contact with the ice or you will be risking contamination by water. If your deer is gong to be processed at home or at camp, do so as soon as the meat has firmed up, making it safer to cut.
Hunters taking a bear during warm weather should follow similar instructions, being even more careful as bear meat, being similar to pork, can easily pick up serious contamination leading to illness or even death.
Following these simple guidelines can help you to confidently preserve your venison until it can be used for such purposes as steak, burger, jerky, dried beef, bologna, summer sausage or a number of other treats that you, your friends, and family will enjoy.
Hunters are to be reminded that, due to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, certain body parts of your deer may not be removed out of an affected Deer Management Area. Be sure to carefully read your Rules and Regulations Summary, or better yet contact your regional office of the PA Game Commission to learn if these rules apply to your area. These rules also apply to animals harvested out of state.