Introduction: How to Skin a Deer When Your Parents Ask for Help

Picture of How to Skin a Deer When Your Parents Ask for Help

First, a warning: I don't want anyone to be surprised by the photos in this instructable. It shows a deer that is dead and it shows lots of muscle and blood but is graphic only in it's reality. If you are at all queasy and maybe you're just looking for pretty pictures of deer, don't go any further in this instructable.

My parents asked me to help them with their deer this season. My dad is in a wheelchair and my mom just had her second hand/wrist surgery a few months ago. But rather than let this deer season pass by and leave them at the mercy of meat from wal-mart, I decided that it would be a good way to spend a day or two. And, I was happy to take payment of half of the meat for my little family of three. Shortly after my parents moved to Arkansas, we were vegan and nobody had any designs on shooting anything. After a fateful bite of some grilled venison tenderloin in a secret sauce, my dad was pushed over the edge. My mom loves to hunt, and has shot the majority of the deer for the family. They are at the point now where it is simply unhealthy for them to eat beef, and chicken is oftentimes not much healthier. Venison meets their requirements of being completely organic, free range, hormone free, and lean like crazy. This is why it is the main meat that they eat during the year. Taking care of your meat needs directly from the source also has some spiritual advantages. Seasoned deer hunters will look at the way we cleaned this deer in shock. Everyone has different purposes for getting a deer. My parents like to eat backstrap steaks and grind the rest of the meat for use in chilis and lasagne etc. My job was to complete the task to their specifications.

There are many ways of skinning a deer, almost as many ways of cooking the meat. This way is a relatively clean way that avoids getting into the body cavity of the animal. There is some meat inside the body cavity that you will be missing doing it this way, but when you hear the coyotes cry out in the middle of the night, you will know that the meat was not wasted. You will see us use two different types of knives in this instructable. You don't have to use any special type of knife. Certain shapes of knifes make it safer and easier to clean the deer, but the only real requirement is that your knife be sharp.

Step 1: Prepare Your Equipment

Picture of Prepare Your Equipment

Before anyone takes a gun and goes anywhere, you need to be ready for when they bring back a deer. You will need:

3 bags of ice
1 large cooler
1, 5 gallon bucket
sharpened knife or knives: buck knife and uluchet
1 or 2 gallon ziplock bags
freezer space

I used a curved knife called an uluchet. It is like a small hatchet and an ulu knife. Uluchet
It is good for skinning because it has no point with which to pierce the hide or belly.

Step 2: Hang Up the Deer

Picture of Hang Up the Deer

You can definitely do the skinning and cleaning with the deer laying down on a surface, but if the deer is suspended in the air, preferably with pulleys, you can maneuver the deer and make the process less strenuous.

Make sure the the rope goes under the chin of the deer around the neck at the base of the skull. You'll want to have clear access to the meat at the top of the neck.

Step 3: Make Cuts in the Hide

Picture of Make Cuts in the Hide

Cut the hide around the neck and make one long cut from the neck down the chest until you reach the belly. For this step, I used a regular buck knife with a slightly curved blade. You want to cut through the hide until you get to the meat. There is an area between the hide and the meat which is watery and thin. Take it easy when you make your first cut. Once you cut through the skin, you'll see the red meat underneath. When you sense that you have cut through the skin, stop and continue your cut all the way around the neck and then down the chest.

Step 4: Start Skinning the Hide Away

Picture of Start Skinning the Hide Away

You will want to make sure that you only cut the membrane that is between the meat and the skin. If you do this, you will not make holes in the beautiful hide and you will not waste meat.

Grab hold of the hide and keep tension on it so that you can see the membrane between the hide and meat. Your goal is to simply separate the hide from the meat all over the whole animal without cutting either part.

Step 5: Make Cuts Down the Front Legs

Picture of Make Cuts Down the Front Legs

Once you have skinned down from the neck to the beginning of the legs, you will want to make cuts down the legs to the knees. After you have made your new cuts, continue separating the hide by cutting the membrane between the hide and the meat, all around the legs.

I choose to separate the hide from the genitals as we are going to use the hide. A deer has mother nature's perfectly seamless bag. There is no reason to waste it if you are already skinning the deer.

You'll need to repeat this leg hide cutting when you reach the back legs. Continue until the hide is free from the deer.

Step 6: Pictures of the Skinning Progress

Picture of Pictures of the Skinning Progress

Step 7: Removing the Meat: Start at the Neck

Picture of Removing the Meat: Start at the Neck

When you remove meat, place it in your cooler full of ice and water. We did this outside because it was cold enough that flies did not appear.

Start at the back of the neck and do one side at a time. Make a cut through the meat until you hit the bone of the spine. Then, choose one side to start with. Take your knife and cut down the spine on one side 7 or 8 inches.

Then, cut the meat around the neck on your side of the spine. The photographs show better than I can explain in words.

Each muscle group is fairly separate from it's neighbors. What I found to be most natural was to remove each group starting from the outside where you can see obvious divisions and work your way down to the rib cage. My dad had other ideas, so we did one side in each fashion.

Step 8: Removing the Backstraps

Picture of Removing the Backstraps

The backstrap is the part of the deer that is used for steaks. It is almost entirely devoid of sinew and fat. It basically runs along the whole spine from the neck to the hips and goes into the deer until the back side of the rib cage. My first picture is of the cavity where the backstrap used to be. Once you see what you are trying to accomplish, you will be able to get your bearings before you start.

Step 9: Cut the Meat Into Chunks and Process It

Picture of Cut the Meat Into Chunks and Process It

Take your meat out of the cooler and cut the backstrap into large hunks for freezing. Put them into ziplocks and fill the ziplocks with water. Then off into the freezer they go. The rest of the meat can be cut into chunks that will fit into your grinder. Grind it all up and put the ground meat into ziplock bags. Then wrap the ziplocks with one layer of freezer paper and label them with the date. Wrapping them with more layers of freezer paper doesn't do you much good, but if you don't use at least one layer, the meat will begin to brown over time. Meat kept like this will be fine for at least two years.

This deer was only a four point buck, but yielded enough meat for four adults for one year, eating venison two times per month at least.


hannahelastic (author)2010-09-26

Yeah! I love self-sufficiency. When people find out that I hunt, they are astonished. YOU?! Of all people?! And I ask them if they're vegetarian. More often than not they say no. I don't understand how people can eat meat from Walmart and then look at me with horror when I tell them I mostly kill my own meat. There is so much more dignity and reverence for life when you do it yourself.

Anyhow. The way my family always skinned it was to start it out like you and the put a rock under the skin (touching the fur side) and tie a rope around it (on the opposite side of the skin) then we'd attach the other end of the rope to a four wheeler or pickup and just drive away until the skin was at their ankles and we'd cut it off. It was super fast and smooth!

tmboyd (author)hannahelastic2015-04-07

that is truly the honorable path! i am currently a vegetarian learning to hunt for just that reason.

alexkinman (author)2015-03-02

I agree but we hang our deer by the tendons in the back of their knees by using a piece of rebar like a clothes hanger

weldor (author)2014-03-11

Believe it or don't but i actually have an old KABAR folding knife with a fold out hatchet like blade as well as a regular blade. the thing is old. it was my wifes grandpa's. he was 72 when he died in 1994 or so. he was the consumate hunter and fishermanas well as a professional butcher and meat cutter for Safeway (retired after 42 years!). Miss him.

Jordan Dyck (author)2012-02-28

hey guys up here in Canada the white tail general rifle season starts about November and leaving the deer outside for any time and is starts to cool off very fast try to get it in doors as fast as you can because it is always easier to skin a warm animal.

bacaboi (author)2008-12-05

wow....its like your in my family. :D but we hang the deer my its feet(the whole body hangs on the tendon)... I wonder which way is easier. but we do the exact same thing. but we grind up half pork(fresh and wild.. no preserves) and half venison. WAY better than hamburgers

stustarkenberry (author)bacaboi2008-12-06

I used to hang'm the same way by the back legs but now have gone to this way as not having to deal with the breast bone when removing the guts. Great instructable I figured too many tree huggers to put it on here. Guess I need to add a How to Properly shoot a hog....

i was taught to hang them by the back legs as well ,but will try you neck method next time,the thought of not having to deel with the breast bone sold me. thank you for posting this instructable,just when i had thought i was an old pro at this

i have skinned two deer with this hang by neck method and will never go back to hanging by the hind legs ever again your instructable is awesome and very well documented thanks for the needed info

taraist (author)stustarkenberry2008-12-12

Aren't a lot of hunters tree-huggers? After all their food depends on a healthy wild space! Besides that I'm a vegetarian and read this with no queasy-ness at all. I don't eat meat because of the way we produce it nowadays. However, I have no problem with this. Useful skills here that we will all need again sooner or later. Thanks!

Wolframite (author)taraist2010-04-23

Absolutely. Hunters are typically more concerned with conservation of our natural resources than most of the loudmouths that cry animal abuse.

tucklandry (author)bacaboi2008-12-06

Another trick that I learned awhile back is to mix chopped onion, instead of fat, in your burgers to keep them moist. (I'm on a low fat diet) Also, venison is best when cooked very rare (except for stews, of course).

applestone (author)tucklandry2008-12-06

Yeah, you can tell from the pictures that ours were pretty crumbly. They were fairly moist, but the experience was more like eating sloppy joes.

kill-a-watt (author)bacaboi2008-12-06

I've done far more thinking than butchering, but I would say that doing with the neck up should be superior. Advantage: 1. No spreader bar needed between legs 1. Gravity should help keep the scent glands on the lower legs from tainting the meat 1. Likewise, if cleaning out the guts go awry, they can only taint the meat on the lower legs The only one I've cleaned before was done legs up, but I plan on trying it this way next.

xarlock667 (author)2010-11-18

Put the round in the brain and you do not have to discard ANY meat. Unless you are into brains. That aside, cook it a little and feed the meat to your dogs. They will LOVE you for it!

glatzenator (author)xarlock6672011-10-09

Yeah, if the deer is standing dead-still and your rifle is on a bench rest. This is terrible advice.

Robot Lover (author)2011-09-01

I think this is great! I'm no tree hugger, what I mean is I believe that God put animals on this earth to sustain human life. Great instructable.

dustindodd (author)2011-05-02

why didnt you field dress the deer...?

deadlock76 (author)2011-02-09

You should never hang a deer by it head to skin. The hair around the neck will get all over the meat. You should hang the deer by it's rear legs and skin down towards the head. Thus preventing hair getting all over the meat.

xarlock667 (author)2010-11-18

I LOVE deer meat, but why grind it up? Some parts I understand, but surely not the whole thing!

codongolev (author)2009-09-19

that knife has the coolest name I think I've ever read.

xarlock667 (author)codongolev2010-11-18

Based on the innuit Ulo knife, and crossed with a machette. Neat but I always used a tool I got at walmart one year for skinning deer, it was a double bladed razor set into a handle that allowed a semicircle of blade out past your hand about an inch and another flat edge set inside the handle so you could reverse it and make long cuts like a zipper down the center. Never have seen one since, but they were DAMN nice to have!

xarlock667 (author)2010-11-18

Looks like you made a heart/lung shot. Never liked that method myself, I used a .30-06 and went for the head shot. (I am not into trophies and there is nothing in the head that I will eat.) Just a thought.

Screamo (author)2010-09-25

Nah just chop it and cook it with the skin, it adds a nice SMOKEY TASTE <.<

Mr. Potato Head (author)2010-09-21

Never in all my life have my parents asked for help with something like this...

angi465 (author)2010-08-23

I'm writing a book and I'm doing research. I don't hunt, but this was sooo informative! Thank you for posting it!! I agree with taraist, though I 'm not a vegetarian. It is deplorable what we do to mass produce meat. If more of us did what your family does, we'd all be a lot healthier! Thanks again!

freethemall (author)2010-06-14

I can't beleive that any of you actually enjoy doing something this horrific.

geoslim13 (author)freethemall2010-08-03

Think, people had to do this for food. Without this people would die of malnutrition. Some people here in west virgina have been doing this for their whole lives for food for their family. Some people do this for a living. I, for one, applaud this user for posting this for it shows the time and effort people go through to get food on the table!

Joe Martin (author)freethemall2010-07-26

You are joking, aren't you? This is as natural as it could get! I suggest you visit an abattoir if you that that this is "horrific".

skunkbait (author)2008-12-06

Great job! I had an ible like this on the back burner. I'd taken the pics, but was dragging on actually writing it. You've covered it nicely. I've processed about 20 deer over the years (and 2 this season). We make a family event of it. Everyone helps, and it takes about 45 minutes from the time we string it up till the time it's in the freezer.

applestone (author)skunkbait2008-12-06

WOW! 45 minutes was nothing like how long this took me (8 hours till it was in the freezer). Though, when I was done skinning him, he looked like he could've been in a plastination exhibit. My dad came outside and said, 'well.....I guess that way works too....' I left everything connected and just removed the skin which apparently is more time consuming. It was interesting to see all the parts though.

skunkbait (author)applestone2008-12-06

The first one I did took several hours. I had only cleaned squirrels and rabbits before. My kids were real little and didn't help much. I cut my hand, the rope broke, etc. Now (10 years later) we have it down to an art. I use scissors, vise-grips, a machete, and a gut-hook/knife. One kid holds the plastic bag, my wife stays in the house and packs the meat in plastic/paper for the freezer, and the other kid is the gopher (for towels,knives,bowls,etc.).

cwicseolfor (author)skunkbait2010-07-14

The family team sounds just idyllic, certainly something to be proud of. I wish more people would give processing their own meat a shot, because not only is it better for the meat to be immediate, but having a hand in it helps keep it precious. Hope you'll still post your 'ble in the eventual future, as everybody's got their own method and there's a lot to be learned from seeing others'.

skunkbait (author)cwicseolfor2010-07-25

It really is good having the family involved. That way, when we sit at the table, everyone knows exactly how the meat got there! I also started teaching the kids early, what each part was, and what it was good for (intestines to wrap sausage, brains to tan the hide, plus all the edible organs). I really hate to see anything wasted! I may try and re-write my instructable and post it sometime just before deer season. We've all been so sidetracked lately. I have a couple of other skinning methods I want to try (as I usually ruin the hide). One involves an air compressor, while the other uses a rope, a truck, and a golfball!

codongolev (author)2009-09-19

aww, it's so cute. MOVIE IDEA!!! the attack of zombie bambi!!!

zombiefire (author)codongolev2010-04-05

good idea

fzxdf5 (author)2009-07-30

After you get the hide off you should take an ordinary bottle gas torch, like used to sweat copper plumming...and singe the outside, don't cook the meat...just burn off any hair you may have stuck to the meat.

crickle321 (author)fzxdf52010-03-11

How is that better than water?

fzxdf5 (author)crickle3212010-03-11

it keeps the surface dry and easier to handle...where I "dress" my deer is at my camp and I only have a pitcher pump for water, no garden hose...when you are lone with a 4 hr project from field to freezer, it takes a lot out of you pumping 4-6 buckets of water...

terryboydawson (author)2009-05-23

This was done very well, it was incredibly informative and the amount of pictures really made a clear sense to the progress. Now i cant stop thinking about venison, I wish that step nine would have been some of your own personal recipes for some summer sausage or jerky.

I totally agree. Great Instructable!!

hippie killer (author)2010-01-06

that deer was asking for it anyways.

Pink_wolf (author)2009-12-09

Wow, your a freak.

arkansascajun (author)2009-12-01

i can't seem to find the part where they GUT the carcass.

arkansascajun (author)2009-12-01

when you first kill a deer you hang it head down, after slitting it's throat, so it bleeds out.
when you butcher it ALWAYS hang by it's head end. theres a REASON for this. when you slit the belly hide if you mistakenly nick the intestines the CONTAMINATION FALLS toward the end it comes out of.. if you hang it rear up and nick the intestines the contamination ruins ALL the meat.
also it make it a LOT EASIER if you use rod ( i use a broomhandle ) to spread the front legs and hang it from. having the carcass spread eagle makes it quicker and more controlled. they sell such devices too. think of a coathanger shape.
and lastly. you can have all the fancy knives, saws etc. that you want but theres ONE BLADE that does it all BETTER than anything else. thats a TOMAHAWK! it is sharpened so that it cuts like a sharp knife, the head can be slipped off the use precisely and it is beyond par for heavy chopping.

gamerguy314 (author)2009-01-16

Very cool, amazing some1 hasn't ranted about animal rights yet. 5/5 :D

LkArio (author)gamerguy3142009-11-12

Pfft, lol. Animal rights. Something that is perfectly natural...
Nice instructable. I've never tasted venison.

harley_rly (author)gamerguy3142009-11-03

i know right! I cant stand people like that!

was just about to say that myself!

3-4-t (author)2009-10-29

My husband buys new blades for his sawzall' and uses it then to cut off and through bones.  Finds it faster and less work.  Also finds it easier for him to hang like this instead of upside down.  Great sausages, great jerky!

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