The debate continues on whether it’s best to process a deer immediately or to wait.
QUESTION: I’m hoping you can settle a debate. How long should I hang my deer? Some people I know say I should skin it and process it right away. Others say the longer it hangs the better. What’s the right answer? — Glenn W.
ANSWER: The debate, like what’s the best caliber and whether to hang your deer head-up or head-down, continues to live on. And if you’re a regular reader of this column you can already guess my answer will be: It depends.
I once hunted a place in Texas where they would “hot-bone” the deer, bringing them directly from the field to the skinning shed, then boning and freezing the meat within hours or less of the kill. It was tasty meat, but research and personal experience demonstrate that’s not the best way.
Hanging deer to age the meat allows natural enzymes to tenderize it and enhance the flavor and texture. But you have to do it right. Hanging it outside in fluctuating temperatures will work but is less desirable. The meat won’t age if it’s frozen. Conversely, temperatures above 40 degrees F age meat faster but can lead to spoilage. The optimum temperature for aging is 32 to 38 degrees F. At this temperature range, it can hang for as long as 10 days.
There are alternatives to cold storage lockers. Several companies, like Koolabuck make collapsible walk-in coolers. Another option is to skin and quarter your deer, and then put the quarters in a Yeti or other high-performance cooler with a product like Arctic Ice, which will maintain a relatively constant temperature for nearly a week.— Recent Ask the Biologist Question:
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