Oct 16, 2010

Hunting, Part 11: Hang It, Slice It, Dice It

In Part 10, you field-dressed your deer.

The hard parts are all done. Really.

Load it in the truck and head for home. Report your take if your state requires it. (New York does.) Some folks will tell you to rinse out a deer. I say don't - unless you punctured the bladder and spilled urine, or it was gut-shot and the abdomen was full of stomach contents. You're going to hang the deer for a little bit, and meat that's exposed to air will spoil quickly. The layer of blood on top helps keep the meat from spoiling.

If the forecast for the next week won't keep your deer cold enough (35-40F is ideal, warmer than 50 during the day presents potential problems), or you want a mount made, skip the next part and take your deer straight to your butcher (or butcher it yourself).

Find a good place to hang the deer. Somewhere under cover is the best - in a garage, shed, or barn. You're going to need a solid eight or ten feet of overhead clearance in order to get a pulley and gambrel up and still have room for a deer.

Get the deer on the floor under the gambrel, and put a slice in each back leg. This should be above the "knee" and between the bone and tendon, about 2-3" long, and all the way through the leg. Put one arm of the gambrel on each side, and start hauling that bad boy up. You want it hanging high enough to keep the entire body - including the forelegs - off the ground. Lash it off, put a piece of cardboard or newspaper underneath to catch drips, and go clean up. Have a cup of coffee, a big breakfast, and relax.

How long to let a deer hang is one of those classic hunting-camp debates; right up there with .270 vs. .30-06. I've done the "straight to the butcher" route, and I've let them hang 4-5 weeks (in appropriate weather). In my opinion, right in the middle is ideal - 3 days if you're on the warmer side of things, and 2 weeks if nights are below freezing. After that time, load it back in the truck and drive it to your butcher of choice.

If you are having a mount made, as mentioned above, make sure you tell your butcher! Most of them take the hide as part of their payment, but if you are getting a mount, you're keeping the hide - so you will pay a bit more for the processing.

Have your taxidermist picked out well in advance. Ask friends for recommendations, and if possible, look over their work. If there's an "Outdoorsman Show" in your area, local taxidermists will often have a table with samples of their work. Be prepared to cough up a large chunk of change - good work is expensive and takes time, but is well worth it.

You'll be allowed (encouraged) to look over existing mounts and through catalogs to pick a pose that suits you and the mount - so have a place for the mount in mind ahead of time. Long gone are the days of straight-on shoulder mounts. Head level, head down, head up, head left or right, and any combination of these. Ask the taxidermist for recommendations. A good one will have a good idea of how a particular mount will look best and should ask you a little about where it's going to hang.

A mount is a very personal thing. It's a reminder of a day in the woods, or a child's first deer, or, yes, a trophy. I have one mount - and it's not a spectacular deer. It was a large (250+ estimated live weight) eight-point with a broken brow tine, but it was a spectacular day in the woods as well as my first buck. It cost significantly more than a decent shotgun - and I wouldn't trade it for the world.


I think that (finally) wraps things up. Eleven posts, a whole lot of words, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If there are questions you still have about hunting, let 'em fly - I'll answer to the best of my ability.

Astute readers may note that in Part 9, I switched from "we" to "you". This was a conscious change on my part. A friend can go scouting with you, help you hang stands, clear lanes... but only one person can pull the trigger. You.

1 comment:

Weer'd Beard said...

Awesome Dude, I haven't read them all yet, but so far its AWESOME information. Thanks

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