Skinning A Deer

Warning: This post contains graphic, kind of gruesome images. 
If you don’t want to see raw meat or blood or a deer carcass…don’t read this.

For as long as I can remember, my Dad has been a hunter. He hunts elk and deer every year and is truly respectful of God’s creation and a lover of the outdoors. When I was a kid, we’d all go camping in the mountains for two weeks and my Mom and us kids and my cousins and Aunt would stay in camp during the day while my Dad and Uncle would go across the river and over the ridge up into the wilderness; hunting for the canny, elusive elk. It was awesome.
I remember waking up early in the morning while it was still dark and peeking out of the tent and seeing Dad huddled near the campfire, the smell of woodsmoke and coffee in the air while sparks flew up into the blackness of the sky and the sound of caps from the muzzleloader rifles snapped in the stillness.
I wrapped up in a blanket and sat in a chair near the fire, my breath making a cloud in the frigid frosty morning. I sipped a cup of cocoa to warm up and listened to hunting stories, anticipating the afternoon when Dad would come back to camp with an elk in the back of his truck. Sometimes he did, sometimes he came home empty handed but the experience far outweighed the fact of whether or not he got any meat.

It’s so cool to hand down these memories to my kids, and to see them experience the same things I did that I consider to be almost lost in our current culture of fast food, factory farming and immediate gratification.

My Dad already got an elk this year, up in the mountains about 4 hours from here and its at the processor right now.
He was at work a few days ago out in the woods here on the island and saw some deer up on a hill, and took the opportunity to shoot a nice little doe. During hunting season, what better job could you have than logging in the woods and getting to bring your gun to work so that when you see a deer all you have to do is shoot it? Pretty cool.

Anyway, he shot it and gutted the doe in the woods and brought her home for us.
I’ve grown up helping skin deer, and it was awesome for Tim and the kids to be able to experience and learn how to skin a deer since Tim wants to hunt next year.

These aren’t exactly instructions on how to skin a deer, because I didn’t do the whole thing by myself and am afraid I’d forget something vital to tell you. So this is what I remember about how we skinned this little doe. If you need instructions on how to skin a deer, you can check out Sofya’s great post at The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter– she has way more experience than I do, and there’s instructions on how to butcher a deer on there as well. Our deer is still hanging outside, aging and drying out for a few more days before we butcher it.

When she first saw the deer, Ellie said, “Let’s eat it for dinner tonight!”  šŸ™‚

The first thing you do when you go to skin a deer is to take the legs off. Make sure you’re using a very sharp knife. You start at the knee, and find the cartilage around it and cut, being careful not to cut the bone or the hair of the deer. This dulls the knife really fast. Also be careful not to cut your fingers.

Once you’ve cut around the outside, bend the knee and cut the rest of the cartilage. Then snap the knee off.

Tim’s first time skinning a deer. He did awesome!

The kids had fun playing with the deer legs. šŸ™‚

Next, cut slits through the hide along the front legs of the deer to the chest,
 so that when you get to that point the skin comes off easier.
Hang the deer by its neck and start skinning from the neck down.
Pull the hide gently away, and cut at the thin white fat between the skin and the meat and the hide just peels away easily. Be careful not to cut too close to the hide, or you’ll cut a hole in it, or too much into the meat. Just go slowly and take your time. There’s no hurry.

Once you get to this point, you can usually pull the hide down and it will just peel off by itself. Grab the edges of the hide and just pull gently, trimming with the knife if needed. Pull it down to the tail, and cut off the tail.

Then, continue pulling the hide down, using your knife if needed to help it along, until the hide comes off the legs. If you want to save the hide to tan it you can, or you can just bury it deep in a hole with the head and legs so the coyotes don’t get it.

Now to the kind of gruesome part.
If you shot the deer with a gun and not a bow, you’ll more than likely have some bloodshot meat. This is where the bullet went in and came out. You need to cut out all of that icky, bloody meat so the blood doesn’t seep down into the meat and ruin it.

Once it’s all cut out, cut down the breastbone with either a hacksaw or a knife, depending on how big your deer is and how sharp your hunting knives are. Since this was a young doe, Dad just used his knife.

Then you can go ahead and turn the deer upside down to finish drying out- thread a rope between it’s tendons on the back legs and tie them up.

 Then untie the head and let it hang down towards the ground.  This is what the rope looks like threaded through the tendons.

Lastly, cut off the head. Start with a knife and go around the neck until you get to the spine, then use a hacksaw to get through the bone.

The kids thought the head was really cool, especially since they got to touch the deer’s eye and pet its fur.

And that, my friends, is how you skin a deer.

We hung the deer inside one of our shipping containers we use for storing tools (kinda like a garage) and we’ll leave it there for a week to age, if it stays cold enough.
We’ll be butchering the meat ourselves here in a few days, and I’ll try to do a post on that too.
I hope I didn’t gross anyone out too much! It’s really a fun process, and you appreciate the food more when you know where it comes from and how much work it takes to get it to the edible point. I’m thankful I grew up doing this, and thankful that my kids will grow up knowing how to skin a deer and make it into food for their future families too. šŸ™‚

4 thoughts on “Skinning A Deer

  1. That's awesome, Jane! I grew up on a farm too, and its so good to respect and honor the work that goes into actually getting our food to the point of being edible. šŸ™‚ And I bet small one loves seeing the animals and knowing where her food comes from!

  2. Fantastic! And your kids know where their meet comes from. Growing-up on a farm we honoured and cared for our animals. We're trying to do the same thing for our kiddo by taking her to the farm that has our animals.

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