Have you ever accidentally cut the tendon on the back leg of your whitetail, making it seemingly impossible to hang from a gambrel? If you experience this butchering slip-up, a coat hanger can save the day. Seriously.
The first time you butcher your own deer, things might not go perfectly—but don’t panic. If things do go wrong, there’s almost always an easy solution. Here’s an example.
One of your first steps will be to remove a deer’s lower legs. Next, you’ll begin skinning its rear legs, carefully exposing the tendon where you’ll insert a gambrel so you can hang the deer up by its hind legs. You’ll do most of your skinning as the deer hangs, but at first, you want to expose that tendon and go only a few inches beyond it.
As you complete this step, be careful to avoid the nearby scent (tarsal) glands. You’ll also want to avoid cutting through the tendon itself. Don’t worry if your knife brushes against it; the tendon is surprisingly tough.
But if you do accidently cut through it, don’t panic—it happens. Or, you might have made your cut a little too high when you removed the lower portion of the rear legs. Still, it’s OK. This is an easy problem to solve.
First, find some heavy-gauge wire that’s still fairly soft; an old coat hanger works great. Cut off a piece about 6-8 inches long. Wrap it around the spot you need to repair, and then give the wire a few twists. If you like, trim off the ends, but it probably won’t even be necessary. If you’re using lighter-gauge wire, such as electric fencing wire, use several wraps to make sure your repair is plenty strong.
Now you’re once again ready to hang your deer upside-down from a gambrel, just as you normally would. Next, you’ll skin it and complete all the butchering steps that follow.
Problem solved! Now get back to butchering!
Al Cambronne is co-author of “Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison.” His most recent book is “DeerLand: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness.” On Twitter: @AlCambronne.