BUTCHER YOUR OWN -THE SPIRIT IS ONLY AS GOOD
AS THE FLESH
Hell, I'm just a guitar player, but I know how to reduce a recently
dancing critter into delicious, tender, family sized portions. I am
constantly amazed at how helpless so many people, especially some of
my fellow hunters, are out there, who cannot even gut their animals
properly, much less butcher them for the table. I was originally inspired
to learn basic butchering just because I didn't trust the local meat
cutter to return my own precious venison that came to the Nuge table
with so much effort and difficulty, and that I took so much extra time
and attention to handle with special care in the field. What goes into
my family's mouth and body is serious stuff where I come from. Balanced
with the love that feeds our spirit, nothing could be more important.
I have the feeling that if each and every one of us had to suck every
cup of petroleum product straight out of the good earth ourselves, transport
it home, and thereby determine our fuel holdings, hands on, that which
provides us heat and mobility, we sure as hell wouldn't spill any?
That same reasoning stands as to the quality of the foodstuffs making
it to our campfires, dinner tables and mouths. If we really give a royal
hoot, we would monitor more closely the step by step process by which
our food gets from living, breathing beast, to cookable, digestable
portions. Same goes for veggies and fruits. If we knew the horrid ingredients
of the pesticides and herbicides and feces that coat our produce, we
would demand an immediate halt to the mass poisonings. And we sure as
hell wouldn't let standard operating procedure of feeding rotted, diseased
carcasses back to the livestock we eventually would consume, now would
we? I'd be a madcow too. The MotorCity MadCowMan. Scary.
The killing of game for consumption (which all kills are) is a deep,
intensely connecting act. To take a life in order to feed our family
is serious, serious stuff. We must elevate the meaning of this activity
to a much higher level in our lives. I believe the hunting and killing
procedure has been cheapened, too often by too many, to a mere receational
maneuver. It is, in fact, much more than that. The stress reduction,
"re-creating" that takes place in the outdoors, pursuing game,
breathing, touching, in fact, soulfully harmonizing with the primal
scream of self sufficiency, is undeniable, but far from the top on the
motivational list in most hunters hearts. Though, oftentimes, more than
99% of our hunt time, is, in fact, seeking and not killing, the mindset
to kill, nonetheless, is the primary and most powerful impulse surrounding
the overall hunting endeavor. This is no walk in the woods to watch
So when flesh is brought to bag, the sacred ritual of butchering must
be optimized to truly show respect for this life giving gift. And the
right way is quite simple. There are many great books and videos on
the market that give blow by blow illustrations for field care and transportation
proceedures to maximize the quality of our wild meat from heap to haunch.
There is so much gross negligence in the hunting camps of this country
that I would encourage if not outright beg for a massive crusade to
educate each other on the proper handling of this most precious stuff.
Review, review, review. Share, discuss and demand.
The simplest way I can describe my own meat handling proceedure is
to say; Kill, clean, cool, cut, cure, freeze and rejoice. CLEAN-The
first CLEAN we must embrace, is the clean kill. A quick, efficient death
will produce better meat, period. This is where the thrilling marksmanship
challenge must be taken to heart to become absolutely proficient with
our chosen weapon. Hit em square behind the shoulder for an instant
kill, whether with bow or firearm. Then track that animal and get to
The edible flesh must be cleaned thoroughly and kept clean throughout
the process. In remote conditions, wet grasses or other clean vegetation
can be used to wipe the cavity and meat clean after all viscera is removed.
We must get all the blood and body fluids away from the flesh. When
accessable, a good hosing out with fresh, cold, clean water is a good
idea. Hanging by the head will expedite the draining process.
COOL. Hunting is just plain cool, but the carcass must be kept cool
until consumption or freezing. Removing the hide and propping open the
body cavity will help dissipate that damaging heat, but unless the air
temperature is below 40 degrees, the meat must now be hung in a refrigerated
cooler or butchered immediately. On remote campsites, skinned and hung
in the shade will usually do the trick as long as the carcass is heavily
peppered and covered in a cheescloth gamebag. We have experienced positive
results as well by hanging the carcass in the constant flow of woodsmoke.
Constant. But get that meat to a cooler if that temperature rizes.
CUT. At this point, the liver, heart, tenderloins and backstraps can
be consumed at will, for these prime cuts do not necessarily need to
be aged or cured otherwise and taste fantastic right off. Even other
cuts of flesh can now be reduced to thin, one or two inch strips to
be made into biltong for great eating. This old world system of meat
curing is effective, simple and delicious. Any source of clean meat
can be cut so, placed in a brine solution made of vinegar, saturated
with salt, pepper, any preferred seasonings, and soaked overnight. Then
the strips are hung in warm sunny conditions to air dry. An oven can
suffice if the wether is not condusive. As long as all the moisture
is removed, these strips last a long, long time and provide good eating
without refrigeration. Of course smoking is an option in leu of the
air drying for more distinct flavorful curing.
If traditional packages of meat are preferred, family sized portions
must now be determined for wrapping and freezing. Rule #1 for game meat
is to remove all fat. Even fowl has a sour tasting fat, and all white
tallow and silver membrane must be cut away and given to the dogs and
cats. One exception is wild pork fat, which is quite sweet and delicious.
I prefer to bone out all our meat, eliminating any saw causing bone
particles to taint the flesh. Basically, I follow the contour of the
muscles and body parts, cutting through to the bone, and sectioning
each steak away from the skeleton. I experienced great success by trial
and error, but good diagrams and instructions are readily available
in book, brochure and video format. Basic beef butchering cuts work
quite well on all game.
Being ever certain to remove all blood and hair, I tightly double
wrap my families packages for individual meals in good, quality freezer
paper. Each package is clearly labeled in black marker, identifying
the animal, cut and date.
It is a grand feeling when you retrieve a package of meat from the
freezer that was so intimately handled and cared for every inch of the
way. You know for certain that it's pure, healthy and primo quality.
Zero chance of e-coli or salmonella when such infinite care is taken
to monitor the very process of your families sustenance. You will read
the label on that package, and smile with powerful memories of the original
encounter as if it had just happened all over again. And isn't that
how it should be? It should.
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