Proper field dressing – that includes getting ALL the organs out and the skin off – is critical to quickly cooling your meat down and preventing it from spoiling.
FACT: The number of bacteria on your meat can double at temperatures over 40 degrees.
FACT: If the temperature is between 70 and 120 degrees, that bacteria will double EVERY 20 MINUTES.
FACT: If the air temperature is over 50 degrees, you need to find that deer quickly. The meat will start to go bad in 3 to 6 hours.
Bacteria will spoil your deer meat. It’s up to you to find that deer quickly, dress it out, and cool it before the bacteria has a chance to ruin in.
The internal temperature of a deer is around 100 degrees. A good shot means the deer will drop quickly, usually within 100 yards, and you will find it in 15 minutes or so.
Once it’s properly dressed out, get it on ice. The deer cavity needs to be cooled down as quickly as possible.
The best way is to come prepared with milk jugs – 1 gallon or ½ gallon – filled with frozen water. 2-liter pop bottles work too. The advantage to using ice containers instead of packing loose ice into the cavity, is your meat does not get water-logged. Water-logged meat is not ruined, but it is harder to cut and vacuum seal.
Another advantage of using frozen water containers is the ice will stay frozen for several hours, giving you enough time to get the deer home or to the processor when it can be hung and skinned.
If you did not have a good hit and it takes a while to find the deer, be sure to check it, especially if you hit it in the liver or other organ that could contaminate the meat. This is especially true if you spent several hours or waited over night before finding the deer.
Deer meat doesn’t turn real fast, but if the organs are hit, the organs will, and that can ruin the entire deer. Good deer meat is dark red. If it looks tan, it’s beginning to turn, and it it’s green – leave it for the coyotes!
Most of this is hunting common sense. Field dress your deer as soon as possible, removing ALL the entrails. Cool it down quickly and keep it dry. Bad meat is bad meat and not worth keeping or serving to your friends and family.
If you are not sure about the correct way to field dress your deer, talk to your processor. Most are happy to give you some tips so you will bring in deer that isn’t questionable.