After you’re done reveling in the feelings of excitement and accomplishment of hunting your deer, now it’s time to get down to business.
Funnily enough, this is the part that has most deer hunters stumped. How do you extract the tenderest venison from their hunted deer? How can you ensure that the meat doesn’t rot, while also making sure it doesn’t turn into shoe leather?
The answer to this depends on how long you hang your deer after it’s been hunted.
The average time to hang your deer, generally, is between 5 to 7 days. However, the exact amount of time depends on a number of factors. We’ve discussed them below to help you achieve that perfect consistency and texture in your venison.
Why the Deer Must be Hanged
Many new hunters wonder why hanging the deer after it has been hunted, is such an important part of the process. Before we discuss the duration, let’s have a closer look at the process itself.
The deer must be hanged if you want to enjoy both flavor and tenderness from your venison. Hanging the deer causes the taste of the meat to mature, which transitions it a more gamey texture. This happens because when a dressed deer is hanged, it allows the carcass to cool down, which in turn causes the meat to age. Enzymes inside the deer’s body work to break down collagen, which makes the meat tender.
If the meat doesn’t age, you’ll end up with a deer that is good for only producing shoes or belt leather. Assuming you’re not a shoemaker, you’ve hunted this deer for its meat. And if that meat isn’t tender and delicious, what’s the point?
Proper Deer-Hanging Practices
In order to get the best-quality meat venison of your deer, it’s recommended to do the following.
Field-Dress the Deer after Shooting
Long before you need to hang up your deer, you need to process it while still in the field. Once you’ve recovered the deer you’ve shot, you must start by field-dressing it. Removing the entrails and internal organs of your deer are important if you want the meat to age properly.
Hang the Deer Upside-Down
One common question we get from inexperienced hunters is: “Which way is up?” Basically, should you hang your deer straight or upside-down?
The best place to put your gambrel hooks is in the hocks of the deer’s hind legs. This causes the deer to be hung upside-down, which creates an easy path for the heat to escape. Consequently, skinning and butchering the deer becomes that much easier.
Whatever you do, don’t hang the deer by its antlers or, worse, its neck. This makes it likely that the cape will be damaged and, what’s worse, it could spoil the meat.
Skinning the Deer on Time
Once you’ve hung up the deer, now you must skin it immediately. The more quickly the hide comes off, the better; you want to speed up the cooling process. This is because fur has insulating properties: removing the hide allows the meat to cool faster.
Skinning your deer immediately after it has been hanged allows the surface to dry faster, in turn producing tastier meat.
Finding the Right Place
You must also find the right location in which to hang up your deer. You don’t want it to be stored in a place where pets or other wild animals (e.g., raccoons) could get to it. Ideally, you’d use a commercial meat locker, but not many people have access to that. Opting for a pole shed/barn is your best bet.
How Long to Hang a Deer before Butchering
The proper duration of deer-hanging is determined mainly by the air temperature. The ideal temperature for this is anywhere between 32 and 45 degrees. If the temperature is higher, there is a risk that the meat will spoil. In lower temperatures, the meat might freeze.
The ideal hanging duration for a deer is five to seven days. On the first day, rigor mortis sets in; it causes the meat to contract and stiffen, and it’s a process that can take from 12 to 24 hours.
If the animal you’ve shot is a young doe or buck, you don’t have to hang it for longer than 2-4 days, as the meat is already tender. If your deer is middle-aged (about 2-4 years old), you’ll need to hang it for 5-8 days. If your deer is older than that, it will need to hang for 10-12 days; however, since the temperature can vary greatly from one day to the next, you have to be careful.
Many hunters swear by removing the tenderloins right away after it has been hanged, regardless of age or duration of hanging. Ideally, the backstraps should also be removed within 24 hours. This is because, once the meat starts aging, it causes a hard membrane to form around the meat. Leaving the tenderloins and backstraps on can cause them to dry up.
How Long Can A Deer Hang in 50 Degree Weather
If you’re contending with temperatures higher than 45 degrees, you might be scared that your precious venison will be spoiled. So what can you do if it’s 50 degrees outside?
Start by hanging the deer indoors; if you hang it up outside, it will spoil very easily and quickly. From the time when you have hanged it up and skinned it, the deer should be left for at least 24 hours. The deer carcass will cool down around 50 degrees.
If you live and hunt in a warmer state, the ideal solution is a permanent one: a meat locker. Lots of great walk-in coolers are available on the market that allows you to customize and regulate the temperature according to your meat-aging needs.
Ultimately, the time a deer should be hanged depends upon a large number of factors: beyond temperature, humidity, and air circulation, it also depends on the hunter’s personal taste and preferences. However, if you think the meat is in danger of spoiling, it’s recommended to have it quartered and processed within 24 hours. If you wish to find good hunting boots, give our review guide on upland bird hunting boots a read.