How Long Do You Let Your Deer Hang?

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The “meat pole” was a standard appliance in old-school deer camps around the country, yet is not used as much today, partially due to the abundance of butcher shops and big game processors usually found in deer country. Not only are many deer processed the same day they are killed, but if you visit a deer butcher, you’ll find that most still have the hide on. The purpose of this post isn’t “game shaming” but to thank the Field & Stream folks for this informative post about “hang time.”

Personally, I’ve been a deer hunter for 50 years and have never hung meat for any extensive time, mostly because I didn’t know if it was good for the meat and for what period it should age. Some hunters are keenly aware of how to tenderize venison by aging and they aren’t necessarily in the deer camps of Maine or Michigan. I once hunted with a man from South Carolina who told me that he had shot over 500 deer and usually takes about 30 annually. He has a large friend group and frequently entertains folks who love venison and he has taken extensive preparation to process venison for the greatest culinary benefit. “We have a small cleaning area adjacent to a large walk-in cooler so that we can clean, wash, and hang deer for up to two weeks at 35 degrees

Ask you butcher to allow your deer to hang according to its age and sex.
Ask you butcher to allow your deer to hang according to its age and sex.

Fahrenheit,” he said with a discernible sparkle in his eye as if he was tasting the meat as he spoke. “Also, we have a large fire pit where we barbecue and entertain guests who often oogle at the hanging meat.” South Carolina has one of the most liberal deer seasons in the USA, yet many states allow the harvest of unlimited does, if this deer hanging facility has appeal. As you will read in this post, temperature is an important factor when aging deer and the recent trend of summer spilling into fall can be a complication. Even if you use a local butcher shop, ask the owner if he will allow your deer to hang according to this timetable. Since he will be inundated with deer, postponing the processing to a later time will doubtfully be a problem.

You shot a deer. Here’s how long you need to wait for the tenderest meat
Day 1

If you must butcher your deer today, don’t freeze the meat. Rigor mortis, which sets in soon after death and lasts 12 to 24 hours, contracts and stiffens muscle tissue, making meat less tender. Freezing before this is complete results in thaw rigor, or more colloquially, “shoe leather.”
Tip: If temps are high, quarter or bone out your deer and age the meat in a refrigerator.
Days 2–4

If you shot a yearling buck or doe, process it now. These deer are tender by nature and don’t need as much hang time. Shorten the hang time if temps are on the high side (40s), as this makes both collagen breakdown and bacterial growth happen faster.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. We don’t hand our deer we gut them, we section them each shoulder, each ham, back straps, tender loins, neck meat, then that stay iced in a cooler for 7-8 days. this not only tenderizes the meat but it also draws out the blood from the at a fast rate. where hanging them doesn’t intern draws out the gaminess flavor. at the 7-8 day rate we start the processing of the meat. De-boning, sectioning, cutting packaging and freezing of the meat

  2. I’ve hung them whole in a walk in cooler and cut them up and put them on ice. Both work well. If you put them on ice make sure to leave water in it and change it often. If you keep straight ice it’ll be almost like freezer burn. The meat will be much more tender in the ice water

  3. I remember back in the late 40’s and 50’s of people placing their deer on the front fender of their cars coming home from camp, right next to a warm motor.

  4. In Alberta Canada we hang our White Tail and Mule Deer skinned and gutted for 3-5 days in a 35 degree cooler. Our Elk 5-7 days and a moose 7-10 days. Completely debone the meat and make sure it is clean and has no hair on it before you rap or vacuum seal it. You will end up with delicious and tender meat every time. I have been butchering and processing meat for over 40 years and have never had a single complaint. If your animal is harvested, cleaned properly,skinned, and quickly left to hang as stated earlier you will be happy with tender and jucy meat no matter how old or young it is.

  5. What is happening what you hang meat? Why does it become more tender? Why has it become a fad to eat meat with lots of red in it? ROTTEN, RAW. When meat starts to rot it gets a rotten flavor. MANY like the rotten flavor. BTW as meat rotes becomes more tender. Let it set in the the sun for 2 weeks and it turns to mush. BTW Raw meat is more tender than cooked meat. The more raw it is the more tender it is.

  6. I have been hunting deer for over 50 year I was always told to let them hag as long as you can weather permitting unless you have a cooler from 3 to 7 days it breaks the meat down. The better to take care of the meat the better it tastes. From your Hunting friends at BACK WOODs OUTLAWZ

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