Boning out your big game
I love big game hunting — the planning, the hunting, the camping, everything. But if, after the hunt, you drop your game off at the processor, then your hunt is over. Why not extend your hunt and cut it up yourself? It’s going to be a little hard to explain how-to in an article but we can do it.
If you only bone out one deer every few years then it will be hard to get proficient, so if you have a pile of deer you can practice and get good. Before you panic, remember, cavemen have been cutting up game and getting by without knowing all of the cuts for hundreds of years, so even if you screw up but get it in the pot, it’s not a crisis. I’m going to show you how to market it a little better and get some unique cuts off your game.
Separate the front shoulders off the carcass. You’ll be surprised. There is a seam that you hit and it’ll practically fall off.
If you bone out the front shoulder for sausage, you’ll only end up with a handful of meat because of all of the gristle and tendons. You’re going to smoke the whole shoulder and all of the gristle will disappear. Check out this e-article: https://amzn.to/2N6T4xN.
Put it on your smoker for three hours and then put it in a turkey roasting pan in your oven on 180 degrees. Add 2-3 cups of water and sprinkle with seasoning salt. If it runs out of water, it is ruined. If low, add more water. The next morning, if it falls off the bone, it’s done; if not, turn it up to 325 to finish it fast. It’s not ready unless it falls off the bone with a fork.
Pull all of the meat off. All of the gristle has disappeared. Chop it into ¼-1/2 inch pieces. Put butter in a black skillet and toast buns on both sides. Slap on a handful of meat and douse with barbecue sauce and Tabasco sauce. It will rival any Texas chopped brisket sandwich.
Make a cut down the backbone on each side. You’ll hit a bone at the hindquarter which is the pelvic bone. Scoop out the backstrap down to the fourth rib. I make chicken fried steak out of these.
With the stomach cavity facing you, make a cut down the inside of the femur bone starting at the knuckle bone down to the ball joint. On the outside, go an inch or two below the knuckle bone and there is a seam separating the knuckle and the outside round. Remove the knuckle.
On the backside, there is a seam separating the gooseneck and the top round. Make a cut along the femur bone and hit that seam in back. Remove the top round. I pull the muscle off the top of the top round and slice into chicken fried steaks.
Remove the gooseneck. I used to make deer roasts but now I use the knuckle and outside round for jerky or sausage because they are so lean.
On the chuck (forequarter) bone this out. I use this for sausage.
OK, we’ve covered the major muscles. Now for the fun part. Let’s save some unique cuts. On deer, these will be small, but on elk and moose they will, of course, be a lot larger, comparable to a cow.
First let’s cover the flank steaks, where the stomach wall ties into the hindquarter. Right where you start making the incision between the hind legs to open up the stomach to remove the guts, you will cut between two tear-shaped muscles. (Oblique abdominal muscle). Cut these out and remove the tough tissue on top. Now remove the flank steak from the tough yellow tissue on the bottom.
Before you remove the knuckle as described above, half way down the knuckle under the knuckle bone you’ll see where an ice cream-shaped muscle — tri-tip — is attached. Mark it and remove it.
I sprinkle both with coarse McCormick Steak Seasoning and smoke. On the flank steaks, I lay on them some chopped green peppers, onions and jalapenos. Roll it up and pin together with toothpicks.
Smoke semi-slow until done. Slice paper thin and serve as hors d’oeuvres. You’ll love these!
Hopefully this is enough to get you started.
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.