The goal anytime you butcher a deer is to be rewarded with a large amount of clean and tasty venison. That said, safety must always be paramount as well. Here are a few tips to help keep YOU safe while processing a deer.
- Take your time. Butchering a deer takes a while, and it isn’t a race. Otherwise, with fewer fingers, it will take even longer next time.
- Don’t get overconfident. After you’ve butchered your first few deer, you’ll gain confidence and work more quickly. But don’t let your guard down because that’s when accidents are most likely to happen.
- If you’re too tired, you’re too tired. Get some rest and start in the morning.
- Work in an area with plenty of ventilation. That way it will be easier to stay awake and alert. If you’re using a propane heater to warm your garage, good ventilation becomes especially important.
- Keep you work area cool, but not cold. Too warm, and you’re more likely to become drowsy—and also queasy from the smell of warm blood. Too cold, and your hands will become numb and clumsy.
- Cut away from yourself. Never cut toward your other hand or any part of your body.
- Keep your knives sharp. A sharp knife is safer; with a dull knife, you’ll push harder and mishaps are more likely.
- Keep you floor clean and dry. When hanging a deer, put a sheet of cardboard under it to soak up the blood. Later, move the cardboard out of the way when you’re ready to start working. The last thing you need is a slippery floor when you’re maneuvering around a heavy deer carcass with a sharp knife.
- Lift safely. Use hoists and pulleys when you’re lifting the entire carcass, or else get someone to help. Lift with your legs, not with your back. Finally, wear old clothes so you won’t hesitate to hold heavy objects close to your body in a way that puts less stress on your back—even if it means hugging a damp deer carcass for a few seconds.
- Don’t drink and butcher. Or at the very least, drink moderately. It’s only natural that you and your friends will want to celebrate after a successful hunt. But save the serious celebrating until after you’ve put away all those sharp knives.
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.