Please Stop Skinning Your Deer "Bass Ackwards":
Here’s the correct (and frankly, more efficient) way to do it. You hang the deer upside down by its hind legs. You accomplish this by using the aid of a gambrel or deer skinning hanger and by making incisions lengthways between the bone and tarsal gland of the animal (either between the Tibia and tarsal or Astragalus and metatarsal works fine).
Here's a 10 minute How To video demonstration
Assuming the animal has already been field dressed you zipper the inner thighs like a triage surgeon working to remove Blue Jeans from a patient in an operating room. Working at roughly 45 degree angles you place your blade underneath the hide (blade outwards) and work from the pelvis up towards the deer’s ankle. Then, ring the ankle by cutting the skin 360 degrees around the bottom of the small part of each leg. This separates the hide below the gambrel deer hanger from the thinner skin found on the leg above the hanger.
It is wise - albeit not necessary - to incise the hind legs, make the series of cuts outlined above, and detach the uppermost portion of the hide from the legs prior to slipping on the deer hanger and hoisting the animal into the air. In either scenario once you have the animal hanging vertically off the ground you’ll not only have more leverage to complete the task, but you’ll also find it much more comfortable to work on skinning and/or caping while standing instead of being crouched or bent over during the whole ordeal. As you work the hide lower down the torso towards the neck and ground, simply raise the animal a bit higher into the air. Or, if you prefer, you can use the ‘golf ball method’ in conjunction with a good size skinning hanger.
Whitetail Butchering Back to Basics
In addition to improved leverage and being able to cape a trophy animal without putting a bunch of holes in the hide (for you or your taxidermist to sew up later on), there are other benefits of hanging your game by the hocks instead of the head. Even if you didn’t harvest a trophy buck and even if you don’t plan on having the trophy mounted, you still benefit from using a gambrel in several ways.
- Sanitary meat for family consumption:
- Far less fur and dirt will find its way on your meat when you use a deer skinning hanger and position the animal head towards the ground.
- A large portion of the meat comes from the hindquarters and so, you need to keep the rear end of the animal off the ground (the bones of the hind legs don’t stretch like a neck does).
- Sure, you can wash the meat when it gets dirty, but here’s the thing about bacteria. Bacteria loves water, in fact it thrives in it. Any water introduced to your meat will speed up natural decomposition and you will therefore need to work on processing the animal much faster than if you simply keep it clean and dry.
- Also, the fur around a deer’s neck is really thick. This is due to evolutionary biology. Cutting thick, matted hide produces piles of fur even when done correctly with the blade under the hide. This creates an otherwise avoidable situation that you then have to deal with. Fur that is falling on your meat from above.
- If you want your family to enjoy the venison you provide then give yourself a head start and keep fur, dirt, and bone chips out of the meat that is otherwise used to prepare delicious meals.
- It’s much easier to quarter a deer leaving the largest cuts for last:
- Managing a deer hanging by its head means once the fur has been removed you’ll need to turn your hacksaw or Sawzall upside down to split the pelvis in two (thus quartering the animal by separating both hind legs).
- This not only means you’re working against gravity, but you’ll also need some help to both hold the hind leg and make the cuts without dropping it.
- It’s so much easier - and this can be accomplished by yourself - to let the dear hanger hold each hind leg at shoulder height and keep it out of the dirt while you make the cuts with the assistance of gravity and in a downward motion.
- There’s also the added benefit of being able to save all of the neck meat to be used later as a roast or trimmed for venison grind. By hanging the animal by its neck it’s quite possible that you’re losing valuable meat by not skinning the animal’s hide all the way to the back of the ears.
- For anyone who owns a butcher shop or a six (6) foot, stainless steel table that’s great if your skinning and quartering are completed in two different locations. The bottom line is most people can’t or choose not to invest in such luxuries when a single gambrel hanger does just fine (and I would argue is a more efficient way to accomplish the same task seeing how there’s no need to transport the skinned animal and instead quartering is handled all at once and at the same location).
- Let’s face it. It’s unsightly:
- As if Anti-hunting groups needed any more ammunition. Bodies, strung by their necks are the fodder of dystopian novels and Psycho thriller movies.
- If it comes down to pictures for social media and respect for the animal, and to be sure it does, then I would much rather not have a corpse hanging from what could appear to be a noose.
- Yes, the old time black and white photos predominantly show deer strung across buck poles, noses to the sky. What was also true back in those days was everyone wore matching red flannel wool to deer camp and walked uphill in the snow both to and from school.
- Luckily for us those days are long gone. We get to wear badass camo. We get to use state of the art bows and rifles. And yes, we get to use fancy new Deer skinning hangers that double as extra large cutting boards to skin and quarter, then process the wild game we’re fortunate enough to harvest.
- Bottoms Up - It’s how the Pro’s do it:
- Dr. Grant Woods with ‘Growing Deer Tv’
- Brian Murphy with QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association)
- Robert Erickson with ‘Deer Meat for Dinner’
- The ‘Bearded Butchers’
- Rick Fetrow with Hunters sharing the harvest
- The Team at HangryOutdoors (IG)
- The list goes on and on and on…
Here’s what the Team at HangryBrand wants you to know. No matter how you decide what’s best for you in terms of your specific situation for displaying and processing game animals, we’re proud that you put forth the effort. Whether the animal was taken on shared Land, private property, or while hunting public, we’re equally proud that you had a successful hunt and that you too are a provider. You’re certainly in good company.
Welcome to the club,
Mike (Lover of the Process) Hiller