Processing Your Deer

By: Amber Smith

There are some things to watch out for if you intend to process your own kill this year though. Diseases have been running rampant within the local whitetail population, and could end up on your table without the proper precautions and processing. Specifically bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease have been found locally; and every savvy hunter should read up on the characteristic traits of each disease, and how to best avoid contamination.

Some very simple and generic processing rules to abide by are:
ï    Always wear gloves when field dressing, skinning, or processing your deer.
ï    Promptly wash off any blood, saliva, or fluids that come in direct contact with skin.
ï    Remove all fat, bone, and connective tissues from the deer meat.
ï    Head and hide removal must take place in a totally separate area from any meat butchering.
ï    Carcasses should be stored at 41∞ F or less.
ï    Keep a separate set of tools for processing deer only.
ï    Head, legs, spinal cord, and other body parts are to be disposed of in a licensed incinerator or landfill.

Chronic wasting disease is a contagious disease affecting the nervous and neurological systems of both deer and elk. One can typically distinguish an infected animal by their behavior. Infected deer will appear emaciated and out of sorts, they may stumble around or continue what they were doing when confronted with a human. This disease is thought to be caused by prions, which are infectious proteins in the brain and spinal tissues. When processing your kill, be sure to keep any bodily fluids separate from the edible meat. If any fluids or brain matter should come in contact with the meat, consider that meat contaminated and dispose of it immediately. This is an important rule to follow regardless of whether you believe your deer may be infected with chronic wasting disease.

Some deer have been found to be stricken with a strain of bovine tuberculosis that affects the respiratory system. This disease is much less obvious than the chronic wasting disease, as affected animals typically appear healthy. If your kill has yellowish lumps or nodules inside the chest cavity, it is an infected animal and should be disposed of immediately. These lumps can also appear underneath the skin or inside the abdominal cavity.

Lead poisoning is another possible issue related to the processing of your kill this season. If you are using lead shot in your firearm, be especially aware of the fact that some fragments may break off and embed themselves in the meat. Sometimes lead fragments can be found quite far from the initial shot wound. Always give the wound a wide berth when cutting and trimming your meat.

So, in short there are a lot of things to be aware of when you are hunting this season but many of them are common sense. From sighting your scope to freezer wrapping your meat cuts, always be aware of the possible dangers of wild meat. If you have any doubts about your kill being clean, take it to a registered processing center. Check with the local DNR for information related to registered processing centers or whether your kill was brought down in a possibly infected county.