This picture shows the most common way to cut the hide for skinning a game animal. The dotted lines around the legs and neck are the usual cuts for removing the head and lower legs. If you do not wish to keep the skin, you may want to just cut any way you can to get it off the animal the quickest way possible. The reasons behind this could be simple, just wanting to get the job done and you are by yourself and it is getting dark and you just know the crackling brush is a large bear coming to check out the smell of blood.
This picture shows the easiest way to gut a very large animal without being up to your armpits in the body cavity cutting blind, trying to get everything inside to the outside without cutting yourself or a gut. The resulting large flap of flesh from the abdomen can be ground for sausage or burger, or made into tied slow cook roast.
This is geared more toward moose, but works fine for elk or deer, also. Picture 1 shows the usual cuts to make on the dotted lines to skin an animal. Remove the head and lower legs at the dotted lines, also. Picture 2 shows an alternate way to gut an elk or moose. A deer is simply cut following the dotted line down the belly in Picture 1 very carefully. Usually best to place one hand inside to make sure you are not gutting into the gut. For the Moose or Elk, follow the pic2 diagram for the easiest method of removing the guts without working blind up inside, cutting tissue free with a sharp knife around guts, stomach and assorted other items. I usually skin away from the area being opened up for gutting first, so the hair is away from the open area. For Caribou, I entirely skin the animal first, to get rid of all the smelly glands on the skin before any of the gland contents contaminate the meat, the faster the better. This also starts the meat cooling faster which is always good. I sprinkle black pepper on the skinned animal to deter flies.
I cut the legs off the body and sack them up, remove the backstrap (muscle on each side of the backbone, from neck to hip) if you want T bone steaks with the bone in, leave the meat attached to the backbone and pack it out whole. I bone out the entire animal, except the ribs. Where the ribs attach to the backbone, there is a fine line of cartilage, you can cut the ribs loose from the backbone by following that line with a knife. I use a quick change blade utility knife or razor knife to skin, gut, bone and dismember moose, caribou and bear. I usually cut the legs off the first side of a moose that I get skinned, before gutting the animal. Every moose I have ever worked on has had a bear show up as soon as the abdominal cavity is opened, so I plan on having all the meat possible away from the gut before it is exposed and the odors waft out over the tundra. Once the legs and backstrap are removed on one side, I can turn the carcass over easier to work on the other side, with the skinned side now resting on the skin just taken loose. I try to make sure I have the meat stashed a good 100 feet from the future gut pile. A bear will always head to the gut pile first and this way, you get to keep more of your meat.
Remove all the internal organs you want to use. I carry small pieces of twine to tie off the lower end of the gut before cutting it loose from the outside hide. Also the urethra so there is no leakage onto the meat. If you are making soap or lard, also remove the internal fat. If you are planning on making your own sausage casings, once the guts are out and the meat is away from the gut pile, cut a long section of gut free and squeeze out the contents. Later, when you are near water, you can wash this out and scrap the inside clean.
Try to keep the meat and trimmings as clean as you possibly can. Internal organ meat should be used quite soon as it doesn’t keep very well. Check the liver for any spots or sign of disease. Don’t keep it if it looks diseased. Remove the gall bladder carefully from the liver. The gallbladder is the dark green thing, and can be either very full and easy to burst or not so full and not so easy to mess up. The kidneys are located against the backbone on the inside of the gut cavity, near the middle of the back at the lower end of the ribcage. Remove and keep separate if you plan on using them.
Once you get all this meat home, hang in a cool dry area and loosely cover to prevent flies from blowing it and to allow the meat to cool completely and if you are so inclined, age a little bit. Aging is truly only allowing the meat to start spoiling a little bit so it is tenderer and personally, I don’t do it. If you already know how you want to proceed or what you wish to make from all of this good meat, then get right on it.
Game meat makes great sausage, jerky and excellent roasts, steaks and burgers. The fat can be used in many ways. Personally, I trim all the fat off the meat I intend to eat. The fat is the first part to turn rancid and also carries any off flavors that may have contaminated the meat even if it is just early rut. I place all the fat saved into a nice cool clean area to take care of right away. Fresh is much better for making soap or just rendering to use in other ways. I usually coarse grind the fat to make it render faster.
I also peel all of the membrane off the outside of each muscle group on the meat as I cut it up. I totally dissect the quarters. I don’t see any reason to freeze or can the bones. I do save the bones and roast some to a rich brown to add to the rest for making a rich stock and then can the stock for future soup. If I am in a hurry, I peel the large muscles of the membrane, wrap in plastic wrap, then waxed freezer paper and freeze. Then when I thaw it, I can either have a lovely roast as is, or cut it across the grain for steaks. Partially thawed is very easy to slice in uniform slices for steak or to make jerky.
I usually separate the backstrap pieces and the eye of round piece of each hind leg, that is the piece of muscle that looks like a backstrap and is just as good for steaks. These both make delicious chicken fried steaks in cream gravy.
The head, internal organs, ribcage and assorted small pieces should be taken care of immediately. The head should have been skinned at the time of butchering, if you are going to use it. Clean it well, removing the tongue, eyes (unless you like them) and if you haven’t already, the brain. Cut the skull into pieces small enough to fit into a large kettle, cover with water and boil several hours for Headcheese. If you wish to add the tongue meat to the headcheese, boil separately until tender. Peel the white layer off and discard, chop remaining meat into small pieces and add to the meat that has been removed from the cooked skull. Season the broth and meat mixture to taste with salt and pepper, boil 15 minutes more to further reduce the broth. Pour the mixture into pans, when cool, slice and serve without further preparation. It will thicken as it gets cold. Instead of pouring into pans, you may pour into pint wide-mouth jars, to within 1/2 inch of top of jar. Place lids on, process in pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. Store in cool place. Simply slide out of the jar, slice and serve. If you want to be sure it will jell firmly enough, add a couple of teaspoons of plain gelatin soaked in cold water to the hot broth and stir well to make sure it is well dissolved through the mixture. Then proceed as above.
Internal Organs and Other Assorted Parts
Soak the brain overnight in enough water to cover, with 1 Tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda added. Soak testicles in this solution, also, after peeling the membrane from the outside. If very large, slice into ½ inch slices, first. Brain and testes slice much easier if partially frozen first.
Kidneys should be cleaned before soaking. Peel membrane from the outside of the kidney. Cut kidney in half, carefully remove veins and surrounding darker tissue. There won’t be much left but it will be tender and similar to chicken liver in flavor. The remaining meat should be the same lighter color as the outside of the kidney. Soak overnight in lightly salted water with ½ teaspoon baking soda added.
LIVER & HEART
The Liver and Heart should have the membrane peeled from them. Also all the large veins should be removed. The Heart should have all the fat and cartilage and heavy vein walls removed. At this point, heart liver and kidneys may be frozen. Quality is best if used fresh or if frozen, use within 1 month. Freeze covered in water to preserve quality.
The ribcage should be wiped with a damp cloth to remove any hair or leaves or whatever that may have adhered to it. Personally, I use a sawzall and cut the ribs into narrow strips across the bones, then parboil until tender and BBQ. Depending on the animal and time limits, I sometimes remove all the meat off the bones and add to the pile to grind for hamburger or sausage. A moose will yeild about 50 pounds of meat in the grind pile if you opt for the deboning. The cut ribs can be packaged and frozen, I just don’t like using up freezer space for bones. If I debone, I save the bones and add to the stock pot.
I like making the neck into a roast or two. Then I remove all the meat and grind for mincemeat or plum pudding or to make really good sandwich spread. For sandwich spread, grind the cooked meat, add chopped onion, pickle and dressing and scoop onto a slice of bread. Add cheese, lettuce or whatever your heart desires for a very good sandwich. The bones go into the stock pot. Some bones are roasted while I make a roast, to add flavor and color to the stock for canning later.
A game animal may be cut into the familiar cuts you usually buy in a store or it may be boned out. I separate the chunks into individual muscle groups, each muscle peeled of it’s membrane covering and sliced across the grain into smaller tender steaks. If an animal has any off flavors or is slightly tough, this is the best way to handle it. Off-flavors are usually in the fat or membranes, so removal improves tenderness and flavor. I prefer this method of meat cutting, even with a good tender animal. It doesn’t take long to catch on to separating the muscle groups and more of the animal can be cut into tender tasty steaks. The small end pieces can be added to the grind pile for burger or sausage or used as bite-sized finger steaks. If your steaks seem more like boot leather than steak, you may decide to can most of the animal. An hour and a half at 10 pounds pressure will tenderize the toughest animal.
When you have skinned out an animal, the silvery looking strips on the outside of the backstrap can be carefully scraped to seperate them from the meat underneath. scrape all the flesh off the silvery strips and seperate into threads.
The few times I have done this, I wrap them around a spool or piece of wood to keep them clean and usable. If you make a slit in the end of the wood and pull the ends of each thread through that at the start of wrapping and at the end of the wrap, the threads will stay fairly easy to use. Probably want to soak them a bit to use.