So, in my ongoing presentation of “what I did in class”, the next step is deer butchering. That’s right- butchering a deer. With the stone tools we made, of course. Now, a few years I would have been freaked out by this proposal. In fact, I would have been outright opposed to the concept. I used to be one of those people who was rather violently opposed to hunting. In my previous stages, I thought it was wrong to kill animals for food. So people would argue that we needed to kill the deer because there were too many. The problem wasn’t the deer, I said, it was that we killed off all their natural predators and destroyed habitat. Ah, how things have changed.
I won’t go into a long spiel. Suffice to say it is our fault that there are so many deer, and that they cause so many problems, especially for farmers. We did kill all their natural predators. Except us, of course. So yeah, we do still need to hunt. We also need to stop developing the planet so that the natural predators can come back. One day perhaps I’ll get more into this subject.
For now, I’m going to show you how to butcher a deer. If you’re not down with blood and guts and stuff, skip this post entirely. I’d say it’s not that bad, but my mom got squeamish when she saw them, so.
These carcasses have already been bled and gutted, as in, all the organs have already been removed. I wasn’t there for that bit- you really should do it right after you kill the deer, not later. Anyway, when that’s all done, you start by taking apart the rest- removing the hide and the meat and all. Stone tools are a lot sharper than you might think. It takes a little while to figure out which edge is the sharp one (and then you keep forgetting every time you set the knife down), and a lot of them are sharp on both edges (and you don’t have a handle…). But they do cut amazingly well.
First step! Removing the hide. Start with the legs:
Slice up the inside of the leg until about the knee, then ring the whole leg and start peeling the skin back. You’ll be surprised, unless you’ve butchered before- it’s not really attached all that much- you can basically peel it with your fingers, though the occasional slice can be helpful.
After the skin is pulled off the legs, you start on the body- one side, and then the other.
Isn’t that cool? I had no idea the skin would look like that on the inside. Keep the deer laying on the skin- when you flip it to do the other side, use the skin as a sort of drop cloth, so the meat doesn’t get covered in grass.
Peel, peel, peel. Once you get the concept down it actually will become fairly logical to you. At least until you get to the ends.
At the end, you have to get it off the neck- you do like you do around the legs, cut in a ring around the neck. Depending on the size (and whether someone wants to keep the head for some reason), you can either cut at the top or about mid way. Also cut around the tail on the other end.
Ah look, laying out the skin to make a drop cloth, as I said. If you haven’t figured it out by now, there are several different deer in these pictures (four).
Ok, so skin is off, right? Now you have to start taking off the meat. There’s a cut along the top that comes off first- it’s the loin, which is the most prized by hunters (apparently). You’ll see a line separating it from the rest of the meat, and underneath is a bone, so you can kind of use that as a guide.
Can you see the bone underneath?
Then you cut off the neck meat…
For some reason I took no pictures of people cutting off the legs- at least none that were usable. If you’ve ever cut off a leg (even a chicken leg) you know you have to slice through the tendons. In the back leg of a deer, you might have to dig around to find this, but it’s there, in a little pocket sort of thing. The front is easier. The best way to do it is to hold up the leg- or have someone else do it- so it starts to separate from the body. Then slice slice slice until it comes away.
And then you have this!
And then you can cut out the ribs! And eat those too.
The chickens on the farm where we were were of course very interested in the procedure. Like all the chickens I know, they were happy to gobble up the bits that fell on the ground.
A pile of meat!
This is backstrap sinew, which is great for making fiber. You can cut it off the loin.
And last but not least, the head.