Clean & Skin a Deer (Achtu)

This is how my Uncle Clyde taught me to clean and skin a deer or antelope. It is the same to clean just about any hoofed game animal, anatomically it is all about the same.

Remember that this is something you have to do several times to get any good at it. You have to make mistakes to learn and remember how to do it correctly form year to year. Each time you do it, it gets a little bit easier!

First off, make sure that the animal is dead. You could get kicked or gored.

Put the carcass on its back, hind quarters uphill and facing you.

Carefully cut a ring around the anus and vagina on a female, and just the anus on a male. (you must leave a sex identifier on the animal for fish and game regulations, so decide now if you are leaving the sex organs or the head, I vote the head) and cut all of the connecting tissue around the anus about 2-3 inches deep into the cavity. Grab and pull the anus and colon out a little bit, and tie a string around it or put a rubber band around the colon to prevent leakage. Stuff the colon back into the cavity.

Cut the front and back legs off at the bottom knuckle, and cut the hide inside all four legs.  Pull the hide down all of the way on the back legs, exposing the large Achilles tendon. Do not cut the tendon. Pull the hide off of the area around the anus, and cut off the tail.

Split the hide all the way up the belly, butt to throat in the center line of the belly. Skin out the neck down to the sholders. Cut into the throat to reveal the larynx, but try not to cut the larynx or the jugular open. It is not the end of the world if you do but it saves a lot of mess if you don’t cut it. It will really stink if you cut the larynx open, as some of the stomach contents will fall out. If you cut the jugluar, it will bleed all over, and the scent will bring in more flies.

*Optional, depending on the size of the animal – Split the rib cage down the center by sawing the ribcage open all of the way down past the sternum, but be careful to not cut open the stomach.

Cut the tight connective tissue in the center of the hindquarters, right below the pelvis. The bladder is directly underneath here, so you have to be careful. After the connective tissue is cut in this crevice, you should be able to see the colon. Sick your index finger in and dig around the fat to the back of it, hook it with you finger and pull it out of the bottom of the pelvis.

Carefully slit open the skin covering the abdomen enough to remove the bladder and have someone hold it out of the cavity and away from the meat. Slit the abdomen open all of the way to the rib cage. Try to hold everything inside until you make this whole cut so that you don’t cut the stomach open. Sometimes the insides try to push out as soon as you make a cut.

After the abdomen is cut open all of the innards should fall out, and you should be able to see diaphragm. Cut the diaphragm all of the way around, off of the ribs, and help the lungs and heart out. At this point you will have to cut the larynx and then everything should come out, leaving the carcass completely clean.  Cut off the head only if you are leaving the sex organ. Again, my preference it to leave the head attached, because if you plan to tan your hide yourself you will need the brain to condition the hide. You might need to pick out some of the large fat chunks inside of the cavity and cut off any of the remaining diaphragm you might have missed.

I like to take it back to camp to skin. Leaving the skin on while hiking back to camp will protect it from dirt and blowflies.

Place the deer belly down, on a clean tarp, and chain the head to a tree.

Find a round rock, about the size of a hard ball baseball or golf ball, or just bring a golf ball or baseball to use. Place it under the hide at the base of the neck, almost to the shoulders.

Place another chain tightly around the hide and the rock.

Place the other end of the chain on your truck.

Drive slowly away, making sure that the rock does not slide out of the hide.

Wa la – you just saved about a 1/2 hour of time, and have a knife-nick free hide with almost no hair (Achtuchwiecheken) on the meat!

Put it in a game bag ASAP, to keep the blowflies and other nastiness from laying eggs on the meat. Hang it up either from the Achilles tendons, or the head.

The venison may be kept in in camp during cold weather, at most 10 or 12 days, and in hot weather, much less, unless it is cured right away. After you get it home, (the sooner the better in warm weather), it needs a clean, cool (35-45 F) dry place to hang for between 10 and 20 days to age and cool out the meat. Aged meat tastes much better, and is very tender. If you don’t age the meat it can end up stringy, tough and gamey tasting.

The meat of fresh venison is of a fine grain, and is always nicely covered in fat. The age of a deer can be told by examining the hooves, if it is young, the hooves will be very slightly opened, if old they will stand apart. Of all of the red meats, venison cooks the quickest. Venison is always best when the deer is killed in the autumn. Wild berries are then plentiful, and the animal has then abundant opportunity to fatten up on them and other sumer foods.

That is how my Uncle Clyde taught me to clean and skin a deer or antelope. It is the same to clean just about any hoofed game animal, anatomically it is almost the same.
~Pete Kingston