This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by P.H. Schmutz, HGIC Food Safety Specialist; R.D. Willey, Extension 4-H Natural Resources Specialist; and E.H. Hoyle, Extension Food Safety Specialist, Clemson University. (New 01/99. Revised 03/07.)
ABIDE BY GAME REGULATIONS FOR HUNTING, TRANSPORTING AND STORING GAME.
Be Prepared for the Hunt: Remember to bring a sharp hunting knife, a small hatchet, a whetstone or steel, about 12 feet of light rope or nylon cord, plastic bags, and clean cloths or paper towels. Other essentials include proper clothing, binoculars, a canteen of fresh water, a compass, a map and matches. In warm weather you may want to bring a can of ground pepper and some cheesecloth. The carcass may be sprinkled with pepper and covered with cheesecloth to repel flies.
Video: To see video instructions, request White-Tail Deer: Field Care and Handling, Tape 7780 from PSA Publications, Clemson University at http://cufan.clemson.edu/olos/asp/showCart.asp
Note: As of September 2006 there has been no evidence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in South Carolina white-tailed deer. For information on continued surveillance by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources see http://www.dnr.sc.gov/news/Yr2006/sept11/sept11_waste.html.
Bleeding the Animal: Usually it is not necessary to bleed the animal, because the bullet or arrow has caused enough damage to the animal to bleed it sufficiently. However, if the animal is shot in the head it will need to be bled. If you think the deer needs additional bleeding, field dress the deer, then cut the main artery next to the backbone.
If the animal is a trophy buck that you plan to mount, do not sever its throat, because this will cause problems during mounting."
Field Dressing: There are three major rules to follow as soon as the animal is dead.
When field dressing an animal, plastic surgical gloves are recommended. Clean your hunting knife often with clean water and a cloth to prevent contamination of the meat.
Hanging to Drain & Clean: Put the carcass on logs or rocks if it cannot be hung.
Chilling: Improper temperature is meat's worst enemy. The surface of the carcass may be contaminated with bacteria that can spoil the meat unless chilling stops the growth. During warm hunting seasons special care should be taken to keep the carcass cool. It should be kept in the shade and allowed as much air circulation as possible.
Aging Meat: Aging meat is the practice of holding carcasses or cuts of meat at temperatures of 34 to 37 °F for 7 to 14 days to allow the enzymes in the meat to break down some of the complex proteins in the carcass. Aged meat is often more tender and flavorful. Do not age any game carcass if it was shot during warm weather and not chilled rapidly, if the animal was severely stressed prior to the kill, if gunshot areas are extensive, or if the animal was under 1 year of age. Aging is not recommended for carcasses with little or no fat covering because they may dry out during aging, and are more susceptible to deterioration through microbial growth. If the meat will be ground into sausage, aging is unnecessary.
Cutting: Many freezer locker stores have power saws and capable meat cutters who cut and wrap meat. Some hunters cut their own roasts and have steaks or chops cut by an expert meat cutter. Cutting is not a haphazard operation. For easy cutting, hang the carcass by the hocks or hock tendons. Split lengthwise along the backbone from tail to neck, saw with a meat or carpenter 's saw, or chop with a cleaver or hand ax. Keep halves well spread while splitting. Cut between the last two ribs and through the backbone to divide halves into quarters.
The simplest way to cut meat is to remove all flesh from bones following along natural seams of muscles. Loins are removed from the back as they lie between the upright vertebra and down-turned ribs. The long, sausage-shaped piece can then be trimmed of loose tissue and cut into steak-sized pieces (similar to cutting a loaf of bread). On smaller animals, a cut twice the desired size is made, then cut almost in two again, leaving connective tissue enough to fold out the cuts to resemble a butterfly.
Wild game provides wholesome, nourishing food, but should be preserved carefully to retain quality. Like domestic meat, wild meat is perishable, so care is needed to maintain its quality. Freezing meat is the most accepted way to maintain top quality.
To Store in Refrigerator for Immediate Use: Wrap the meat in moisture-proof plastic wrap or place in a clean plastic storage bag. Store the meat in the refrigerator and use within 2 or 3 days.
To Freeze Game Properly:
Other methods for preserving game meats include curing and smoking, drying, corning, canning and sausage making.
To Thaw Frozen Meat: Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave oven. Game meat is often high in bacterial content. Thawing at room temperature enhances bacterial growth. Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Refrigerator-thawed meat should be used within one or two days.
Game animals lead active lives. As a result, their muscles are relatively lean. This makes game meat drier than domestic meat or poultry. Therefore, it is important to use cooking methods that add juiciness and flavor to game meat.
Trim off all game fat; rub with bacon drippings or similar fat. Season with salt, pepper and desired herbs. Place on a roasting rack in an uncovered pan, bone down. For added flavor, place bacon strips on top of the roast. Baste with additional fat as needed, but do not add water. Roast uncovered at 300 ºF. Allow 20 to 25 minutes per pound. Since lean game meat usually cooks faster than beef, use a meat thermometer, if possible. Game meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 to 170 °F.
Broiling Loin & Rib Steaks or Chops: Preheat the broiler to 350 °F. Trim all natural fat from steaks or chops. Rub meat with bacon or similar fat, and season it. Place steaks or chops on the broiler rack with the top surface 3 to 5 inches below the heat source, depending upon the thickness of cut. Leave broiler or oven door open a few inches unless range directions advise otherwise. If meat smokes or spatters, the flame is too high or the meat is too close. Brown meat on each side. A one-inch steak will require about 15 to 20 minutes cooking. Baste with butter and serve at once.
Pan Broiling Loin and Rib Steaks or Chops: Partially heat a heavy frying pan. Rub the medium-hot pan with suet or a small amount of fat. Cook meat quickly over medium high heat.
Braising Less Tender Cuts (chuck or shoulder, leg or round, breast or plate): Season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Rub with flour. Brown all sides in moderately hot fat. Add a small amount of water (about 2/3 cup). Cover tightly. Cook very slowly (simmer) until tender (2 to 3 hours). Turn the meat occasionally; adding water, if necessary.
Stewing (shank, neck): Cut the meat into one-inch cubes. Sprinkle with flour and season. Brown on all sides in medium-hot fat. Cover meat with boiling water. Cover kettle tightly. Simmer until tender (about 2 to 3 hours). Do not boil! Add vegetables just long enough before serving time so they will be tender.
Marinades: Marinades can tenderize, enhance or disguise game flavors to fit your preference. Cover meat with one of the following marinades and allow to stand in the refrigerator at least 24 hours. Broil, roast or braise.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.