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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Charging Woodchuck
Going to The Trapper's Convention
Boys Will Be....Warriors (Part 1)
Boys Will Be...Warriors (Part 2)
Life Lessons From an Old Maine Woodsman
How to Butcher a Chicken