The Fun, Fast Way to Skin a Deer

Dateline: 12 January 2007


Some people live to hunt. Some people hunt to live. I don’t really hunt at all. I just didn’t grow up in a hunting family. My stepfather never even owned a gun. But, I’ve got guns and I think hunting animals is a fine thing to do. That being the case, I have encouraged my sons in their hunting desires.

Next year Robert will be old enough to gun hunt. It’s difficult to find a place to hunt deer if you don’t have land of your own. But we’ll find a place for Robert to hunt. Maybe we’ll set him up in a tree stand. Or maybe I’ll go with him. Or maybe Marlene will hunt deer with him.

Believe it or not, Marlene bought a license and went deer hunting a couple times this year with a friend of hers. It was pretty much the talk of the neighborhood. “Did you hear Marlene Kimball went deer hunting?” She didn’t bring home the venison but we still got two deer. That’s because when you live in whitetail country, you don’t have to hunt to get a nice deer. All you have to do is let your deer hunting neighbors know that you’ll take a deer if they get an extra one. That’s one nice thing about rural community.

For the past six years we have gotten at least one deer a year from Marlene’s brother or nephew or our neighbor, Brian Kehoe. This year Brian’s mother called just before sundown and said Brian was on his way with a deer.

We hauled the beast (a big doe) out of the back of Brian’s pickup and laid it on a plastic tarp in the back yard under the illumination of an outside flood light. We watched as he gutted the animal. We’ve watched him gut two deer for us now. I reckon I could do it myself. But not as easily and quickly as he does it. Afterwards, I hauled the animal’s innards, wrapped in the tarp, way out to the other side of the field across from our house (which Brian’s parents own). I remember there was a bright, full moon and the light reflected off the dusting of snow in the field so that it sparkled. I thought of the contrast: warm deer guts and twinkling ice crystals.

We hung the deerl from a ceiling hook in my workshop. Three days later, we skinned it, cut the meat off and froze it in plastic bags. We’re far from experts when it comes to cutting up a deer. We just slice the meat off the animal and package most of it for stir fry and stew meat. We grind the small pieces up like hamburger. Marlene made some sausage out of the ground meat.

The best meat on the deer is the backstrap--a strip down either side of the spine. Last year, Brian showed us how to cut it into “butterfly” pieces. Those will be cooked on the grill and enjoyed next summer.

A week or so later, another neighbor shot a smaller doe and called to see if we wanted it. Marlene had just been saying how nice it would be to have another deer in the freezer before the season ended. He delivered it a short while later and I was glad to see it was already gutted. We hung the animal from a tree limb on the edge of the woods behind our house.

The next day, a guy I work with told me how to skin a deer real easy, in one minute, using a golf ball. The idea made sense to me and the following pictures show how it is done…..

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To start with, you have to cut the skin around the deer’s neck and pull it down a bit. Then put the golf ball underneath and tie a rope around it, as shown in the above photo. Since I don’t golf, I used an appropriately sized rock that I found on the ground.

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I cut the lower legs off the deer with a hacksaw. Then I sliced the skin up the legs to the underside of the animal, and made sure the skin on the underside was cut all the way up to the neck. You could say I “unzipped” the animal’s hide so it would pull off freely. Then I tied the other end of the rope to the ball hitch on my 4WD Explorer. My son Robert drove ahead slowly while I took the picture above.

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It takes a lot of power to pull the hide off a deer. The first rope I had on the critter snapped when the skin was half off. It was cheap sisal rope. We used a length of cheap nylon rope next and it held.. I don’t know if my $600 “rice burner” car would have been able to do the job. A tractor would surely have the power. The skin came off clean as the proverbial whistle.

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This final picture shows James and Robert with the just-shucked hide and the deer carcass, ready for cutting up. “Golf ball skinning” was so easy and clean and downright fun that I reckon we’ll use the method to skin all our deer from now on.

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Besides meat for us to eat,a deer also provides bones for our dog, Annie, to chew on. We'll give her a hunk of bone with some meat still on it and she's in heaven.

Deer meat is real lean but there is fat on the animal's rump and a hunk of that gets hung out on the bird feeder for the woodpeckers.

I tied off the head, neck and rib cage out behind the chicken house for a few days. Annie chewed on it and our 21 chickens swarmed over it, pecking off meaty morsels for themselves. Many people do not realize that chickens are meat eaters.

The skin could have been taken to a hide buyer that is a couple miles away, but James wanted to keep it. One of these days, we will seriously pursue learning how to tan a deer hide.

Then we disposed of the head and remaining carcass by burning it in the backyard with some household papers and sticks gleaned from the woods.

No mess, no fuss.

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If you like hunting, trapping, guns, and stuff like that, I invite you to read some more of my essays...

How Not to Shoot The Bull

Trapping Class

The Charging Woodchuck

Going to The Trapper's Convention

Boys Will Be....Warriors (Part 1)

Boys Will Be...Warriors (Part 2)

Rabbit Hunting Boy

Life Lessons From an Old Maine Woodsman

Shootin' Dad's Handgun

Needed: More Americans With Guns

How to Butcher a Chicken

23 comments:

Christina said...

Before I run to the bathroom and lose my ...supper. I thought I would say hello!!! The guys handle this and NOW I remember why. :)

Kristianna said...

Wow! This was a very informative post. You are very fortunate to have such generous neighbors. Thank you for posting this.

K

Lynn said...

I can actually say I understood what you are talking about when you discussed the cuts you can get from a deer. Maybe we are learning something up here! We are all hackers when it comes to butchering, so we mainly end up with stew meat and meat to grind -- along with the butterfly steaks. The golf ball method was new to me, though. Maybe Jonathan can try that next year. I guess if Marlene can get a license to hunt, maybe I should as well!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Christina,
I have to say that butchering large mammals is not something I really, really enjoy. We started doing it for the same reason we started raising & butchering our own chickens. That being, it provides us with good food and it's very satisfying to be able to do these things for yourself.

Like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the gutting "thing."

Hi kristianna,
You are right about the good neighbors. The two who gave us the deer this year are natural born deer killers. It is amazing how some people can go out and get those elusive creatures so easily while others (like me, probably) could spend days in the woods and never get anything.

Hi Lynn-
We're hackers too. But the meat is still good. Marlene has never hunted before. Her friend has and even got a deer once. They went out in the woods and sat for a few hours on two occassions but never even saw a deer. Still, I was impressed that she went out.

Missouri Rev said...

Herrick,

Thanks for the great skinning tip. The pictures were great and so were the smiles on those handsome young men. Now it's time to make some serious venison stroganoff and enjoy it while recalling the hunting stories of our ancestors.

dave said...

I have skinned moose,bear,caribou in Alaska and so many deer I lost count, thank you for this skinning tip, can not wait to try it next season here in Tennessee I am 65 and never too old to learn. Dave

rod said...

For deer tanning information look at braintan.com. The forum there is called the hide out. If you have a question and can't find the answer ask the folks at the hide out.

Ellen said...

Can't wait to email this to my husband. Venison is the best meat ever.
Thanks for the tip about the chickens. I never would have thought about that. I try to let as little go to waste as possible.
I'll post a blog this winter on cleaning pheasants, quail, and chuckars. My husband can clean a bird in 30 seconds no joke.

Jim from S.C. said...

Golf ball skinning works really well, but don't waste all those innards from your deer. If you have a pet dog, he'll love the treats that you can make from the heart, liver, and lungs. I slice them thinly and dehydrate the slices on the grill, or in the oven. Just lay the slices over the racks and on low heat with the top of the grill propped open a few inches. Takes about 4-6 hours for them to dry out like jerky. My dog is absolutely addicted to them.

Roadhunter said...

Don't give the liver to your dog! Remove the "skin" from the liver and cut out all the blood vessels you can, the whip it up in a food processor with some spices and sour cream. It will make the best pate' you've ever had.

Shawn said...

That works pretty slick. We got 4 deer this year and the golf ball method sure speeds things up. My daughter even found a nice size rock to use instead of a golf ball as we aren't golfers. Thanks for the tip. It works good on deer, I wonder how well it works on large game like moose.

Nico said...

That looks incredibly easy! My hunting neighbor just promised me a deer, I'll be trying out this method when I get it. Thanks for sharing!

Ryan said...

Could you do this with a chicken and skip the plucking?

Anonymous said...

Why do you write about things that you know nothing about? Dont you think someone that has been performing logical and skilled techniques for years would be a better teacher? I have found very little useful information here, and yet with your infinate wisedom you continue to write "how to". I think you should start using "I do" language instead of "how to".

English Vintner said...

I wouldn't hang around a blog that has 'very little useful information'. I would find some 'better' place to go to.

Herrick, great post! I am setting up my apple grinder this week, can't wait to try it out. You have great ideas, thanks for sharing them!

wannabe chef said...

that would be nice to live in an area that has a limit on deer. I live in mule deer country where if you are lucky they extend the season if there were a lot of births that year. We can get an elk to but that is harder to do.

Anonymous said...

i hope the deer wasnt alive ... if it was all you people are heartless ... i relly have a heart for animals and i hate to see some one take there skin in the name of fashion ( pointless and dumb and retarted. poor dear probably had a family and you just kill to keepp its skin. no one should be proud of that, they feel the same pain we do.

Anonymous said...

killing animals for skin ??? wow selfish

not_the_momma said...

Um...really anonymous? AFTER legally hunting any animal you have to skin it to EAT it. Otherwise the hair singes on the bbq and tickles your throat on the way down! Some peoples kids... Anyway, neat trick. I'm going to try it with javelins also.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
First time to the site. I like the outdoors and farm stuff having grown up on a farm. The Depression was very real, my grandmother lost an 120 Acre farm for back taxes after losing her husband to death a few months prior in 1935. Although the Depression was real...it was no accident. See the last Time Magazine of 2009,where Ben Bernanke was named Person of the Year. It is mentioned in that article, that some years before on Nov. 8, 2002, there was a conference to honor Milton Friedman’s 90th birthday. At that event Bernanke, then a Federal Reserve governor, gave a speech at Friedman’s old home base, the University of Chicago. Here’s a bit of what Bernanke, the man who now runs the Fed, and thus, one of the most powerful people in the world, had to say that day: ...............
........................
Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.

Do you believe Ben Bernanke was telling the truth?

Cheryl Nicole said...

Mr. Kimball,
While I completely agree with getting back to our roots and providing for our families (which we do by gardening, hunting, and raising poultry/livestock), I'm concerned with the way you are teaching people to skin deer. I have worked for two different deer processors over the past four seasons and I'd like to offer some advice. Don't let the meat cool before you gut, skin, and bleed. Hanging a deer for three days is disturbing and unsanitary to me, though some do. I hang my deer from the hocks, gut, then bleed the animal(slice the throat) while I'm cutting off the forelimb at the knee (you don't need a hacksaw, just pop the ligaments with a sharp knife while the knee is bent and they come right off). Then I begin to peel the hide off, cutting around the thigh and anus to start the peel. I will try the golf ball trick this year during this stage. All this time the deer is still bleeding out. I have a large cooler prepared (or packing tote of cool water/ice mixture) to receive the quarters, backstraps, and loins. The meat sits in the cooler for up to 7 days, draining and changing the ice/water mixture daily and then I process the meat. In my opinion you are wasting good meat by not soaking the blood out as I've described. When it's time to debone and process, every bit of meat is used in processing (except the tendon sheaths and connective tissue)and the bones are clean and wrapped for my dogs (better than any raw bone I've bought in the past from fancy dog boutiques). This process takes practice, the men do it much faster than I am able to, but the meat is so much better. Thanks for the tips on butchering my new flock of chickens :) Keep up the flow of great information! This is my first visit, but won't be my last!

Anonymous said...

I remember reading about using the golf ball method back in the 70's. never tried it myself though.

Everett said...

Hi Herrick. I'm Ba-a-a-ck! We have been doing this for years. We used to hang them behind the shop where we have access to a big air compressor. We would poke a hole in the skin at each leg, around the head and then stick the air hose in and pump up the deer! It separates the skin from the carcass really nicely. But using a rock was how we started doing it this way. We are "infested" with whitetails on the Island. About 100 per square mile. So during hunting season you get take as many as you want for just a $15 license fee. My son is tasked with keeping the airport runway clear of them and so we process in his basement butcher shop all of them and turn them into kielbasa, sausages of all kinds and anybody that helps gets to keep all they can haul off. They all chip in to pay for the casings and all the expenses of doing this and we lessen the carriers of Lyme which is prevalent out here.
WE also process the 5-6 hogs we raise right here at home. OBTW, My .45 ACP does the job at the "x". I'm still reading!! Everett