Heat is a fact of life in early season Southern hunting. If you do take a deer on a 95-degree afternoon, how do you protect it from heat?
Most of us raised in the Orangeburg area have a plan when it comes to taking care of downed game, but I still see younger hunters driving deer around in the midday on top of dog boxes. I realize the desire to show the kill off before cleaning is a consideration, especially if it is a good or one of the first deer you have taken. Believe me though, a lot of people driving by you on the interstate do not want to see your dead deer and it can adversely affect our right to hunt in the future.
There, of course, is another consideration. From the moment you take your shot and the bullet or arrow passes through the vitals of the deer, you hav:e
1. Introduced bacteria into the body cavity.
2. Possibly punctured the digestive tract and released gases and waste.
3. Stopped the heart and respiration, thus terminating the ability of the deer’s body to cool, though the muscles are still manufacturing heat. If the deer is still in direct sunlight, it compounds the problem by magnifying the environment for bacteria growth and “bone souring.” If you shot your deer and have it in a cooler at a processor in under an hour, you are good to go. If you have to deal with the preparation of the carcass yourself until you can get it home and in the freezer, here are some tips.
First, field dress the deer. Removing the entrails carefully so as not to rupture them and then propping the chest cavity open to allow it to cool is a good first step. If you have a bag of ice to throw in there, all the better. Don’t wash the body out with water. This simply spreads bacteria. Wipe the cavity out with paper towels instead.
Wet, hot meat will spoil quickly. It is good to take the cape and limb off as well, if you have game bags to put the quarters in. Once again don’t wash the outside of the deer unless you intend to cool it soon. It just spreads bacteria.
I don’t like to throw the quarters on ice too quickly. The muscles contract on cooling and that can cause toughness. Hanging the deer in a cooler for a few days at a temperature somewhere around 40 degrees allows the muscle fibers to relax and makes for a tenderer cut. I think it is a good idea not to cut across the grain of the muscle as well. Try to cut along the meat fibers so as not to allow rapid knotting and contraction.
Freeze the meat for a few weeks before cooking at a high temperature. This will kill any parasites and make the meat safe for consumption by children and pregnant women.