Harvesting a deer to put food on the table is an accomplishment many hunters seek out every hunting season. But, how do you store the venison after you down the deer? Here are five tips on how to care for your venison after you’ve made a successful harvest.
1. Skin the deer as soon as possible to begin cooling.
After you’ve tracked your deer, taken your shot, and made your harvest in your Stump blind, you’ll need to skin the deer as soon as possible to allow the meat to begin cooling down. The internal body temperature of a deer is around 100˚F. Bacteria begins to grow when meat is stored above 40˚F. Storing venison before it’s had a time to cool down can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Ridding the deer carcass of its skin will remove that level of insulation and begin the cooling process.
2. Venison should only be aged for two weeks.
A lot of hunters enjoy aging their venison before freezing it. By keeping the meat above freezing, the meat has time for its natural enzymes to break down the connective tissue, causing the meat to become more tender. Aging your venison can surely heighten the taste, but it can also create bacteria if it isn’t handled correctly. Avoid aging your venison for more than two weeks. If left above freezing temperatures any longer than that, the meat will begin to rot or go bad.
3. Age your venison at no more than 40˚F.
If you decide to age your venison, keep it above freezing (34˚F) but no hotter than 40˚F (the temperature at which bacteria begins to form.) This will delay the freezing process but keep the meat cold enough to ward off any bacteria growth. This means you should store the venison in a separate area from the freezer, like the refrigerator or another temperature-controlled environment.
4. Avoid puncturing the meat during the field dressing process.
When field dressing the deer, you want to avoid puncturing the meat. Any holes created in the meat could allow air to get into the meat and promote bacteria. Try to trim the meat with careful slices. Save yourself time in the future and sort the cuts of meat before you begin storing it.
5. Store your meat in a sealed container to avoid freezer burn.
When you’re ready to place your venison into the freezer for the long-haul, make sure it is stored in an air-tight container to avoid freezer burn. You can use air-tight bags, containers, or freezer paper. Label the containers/packages with the cut of meat, or the special occasion you plan on using it for. Also label the packages with the date they were harvested and/or the date the venison was placed in the freezer. This will help you keep track of how old the venison is.
A freezer filled with venison can feed an entire family for months. If cut, aged, and stored properly, venison has a long shelf-life in the freezer. Follow the above tips for caring for your venison, and your hunting season can do more than just fill a tag.
How do you make sure your venison is taken care of? What steps do you take during the post-harvest process? Let us know in the comments below!