I've field dressed a doe at 3 PM in Illinois. Due to bad storm and light, I had to leave it in the back of a pickup over night (it was about 30-40 degrees outside).

I finally had it at processors around 10 AM. Later on they told me that they could only process half the deer because it wasn't hung. Can this be true? And if yes, why?

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    Have you asked what the butcher intends to do with the unprocessed half? Dec 13, 2016 at 17:45
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    Also, where did the bullet(s) hit the animal? Depending on where and what the bullet went through meat could have been damaged and blood could have pooled. Dec 14, 2016 at 2:28

2 Answers 2


You really shouldn't waste any time after you shoot a deer, how long you wait to dress your deer can affect the taste of the meat.

The first thing that happens after you kill a deer is rigor mortis. Chemical changes in the muscles cause the meat to tense up and the carcass to get stiff. If you want tender meat, you need to wait for rigor mortis to pass before butchering. The best thing to do is hang your deer as soon as possible so rigor mortis can pass, and the meat can purge and age.

By leaving your deer laying in your truck, you weighted one side, which meant it couldn't properly purge all the blood, and left pressure on the tissues under rigor mortis, likely preventing the muscles from tenderizing. This probably left the meat super tough and gamey on the one side.

Your butcher is likely doing you a favour, he knows better than anyone else what meat is worth keeping. It's not that they can't process it, it's that they don't think its worth processing, not for steaks anyway. You could probably still make hamburger, sausages or jerky out of it, but it still might not taste so good. I think butchers are hesitant to process anything they think might taste off. It reflects poorly on them.


The butcher's comments sound completely bunk to me. Although there may be some difference in overall taste by not keeping your meat vertical with good air circulation, this variable is often out of our control during hunting, and for a short amount of time right after the kill with a dressed animal, the difference will be small, in my opinion.

Your butcher is probably doing what most deer processors do and is going to take your deer, and 12 others, and process them in bulk. You get back your meat pound-for-pound, but it could be from any of the other 12 animals. This means your meticulous care of your animal goes completely to waste when you get some idiot's deer that was poorly dressed and poorly cared for.

Butchers control for this aggregation a little by trying to reject lower quality animals, and I think that is why they don't want to butcher yours. There may be other factors at play if this a local butcher, such as he is full up and doesn't want to admit it, only wants to process larger animals because his profit is higher, etc.

Your doe could have had the supplest of summer succor to savor, and have meat that is so sweet and tender that it makes the best Waygu beef taste like sawdust in comparison, and the slight delay in hanging may have not produced the apex taste of that meat, but it could still be one of the best deer ever. Or, she could have been subsisting on twigs and bark, and no amount of care will elevate her beyond the grind-and-heavily-spice stage. I wouldn't think twice about how you handled your deer if it were mine, and I would process her expecting the taste to be much more controlled by her summer diet than your handling.

Do yourself a favor and just process the deer yourself if at all possible. The results are so much better than the processor, in my opinion, that the ability to process the animal myself is what has kept me big game hunting after some of the other attraction has faded.

Everything you need to know about butchering a deer can be learned from Youtube and reading, but for deer, I would start by identifying the prime cuts (tenders, and backstrap) and cut those out and save for steaks. Then start cutting high up on the rump. Cut off a bit, fry it up and try it (maybe a dash of salt to bring out the taste). If you like it, cut steaks out of that muscle group. Keep going and soon you will run out of steak. Grind the rest. Cut off bits from different parts and do this sampling technique and quickly you will know what you want for steaks, stew, or grind. Once you do this, you can tell by sight, feel, and smell, even after the meat is off the carcass. Enjoy the best part of deer hunting, in my opinion, the butchering!

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    -1 Livor mortis is the process in which blood pools in the lower part of the body at death. Depending on what the OP means by "field dress" the bottom side of the deer was probably one big bruise. If he just gutted the deer, an left it in the back of the truck, without allowing the deer to fully drain, then the butcher made a good call. Dec 13, 2016 at 18:40
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    I find that the amount of blood that drains out of a body after it has been field dressed is very insubstantial so I am skeptical of the claims that the blood would pool in this way after a proper field dress. I understand the theory, but in practice I have seen ample opportunity for this to effect the quality of meat, but I have yet to see it actually happen in a big game animal.
    – David
    Dec 13, 2016 at 19:21
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    @JimParks I agree. Better processors don't combine your meat. It is great that you found one.
    – David
    Mar 9, 2017 at 21:15

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