Saturday, February 12, 2005

Killing and Butchering a Deer

FAIR WARNING: gruesome pictures below of deer killing and butchering.

Curtis’s hunting cabin. October 2003.

My former police sergeant owns a hunting cabin in Western Maryland. I go there occasionally to see old friends, drink lots of beer, and try to convince him not to burn too many toxic substances in the fire.

I’m not morally opposed to hunting. In fact, I’m morally for hunting. I believe that every carnivore should be able to kill their dinner. At the very least, meat eaters must except the fact that meat comes from a live, often cute, animal.

But my problem is I find hunting boring. Fishing too. I’m not against drinking in the woods or on a boat. I just don’t want to have to hold a gun or a fishing rod while doing so (for the record, hunters don’t usually drink while hunting). Hunting is worse because you have get up before dawn (deer sleep during the day), sit in some hunter's blind or tree stand (hunters almost never walk around Elmer Fudd style no matter what they're hunting), and be very very quiet while waiting for the prey to amble on by. I’d just as soon sleep in and have one of my friends get up early, enjoy the sounds of nature, and destroy their hearing while pulling the trigger.

Meanwhile, I can cook meals in the roll affectionately (I hope) called, "the kitchen bitch."

The deer in these pictures was killed at dusk. It’s a small deer and its death, truth be told, probably wasn't painless. Ideally, you shoot a deer in the “kill zone”—which is basically the head, neck, shoulder, heart area—and it drops dead. More likely the deer gets shot and runs away until it get tired and then dies. This last minute or five of shock probably isn’t good for the meat. But I’ve never had venison that wasn’t delicious. Whenever you hunt deer, you’re getting a nice free-range organic animal. What could be better than that?

The reason you can’t buy deer at the local supermarket (or butcher) is that the USDA only approves meat for sale when the animal is raised and slaughtered in a controlled and approved environment. So only warehoused or farm-raised animals can be sold retail. Wild free-range organic venison doesn’t cut it. A shame.

Most people, when they kill a deer, take the animal to a butcher who guts and cuts the animal. Then you get frozen, often shrink-wrapped cuts of venison. The charge for this is usually around $50 and maybe a small bit of meat. This deer, however, was cleaned and butchered at the hunting cabin, allowing me take pictures of the process.

Now that’s a fire!

John relaxing

shot deer

killing the deer

Stringing up the deer. The dog is Max. He’s a nice city dog who loves the country. He found the deer in the first place and was surpringly well-behaved around all this meat. The hunt seems to bring out the best in him. Their last dog, before Max, went bounding after some deer and was never seen again. There are also bears in these woods who could make quick work of any stupid dog.

cutting the belly open

innards coming out

cutting out the intestines, making sure the deer doesn’t get contaminated from its own feces

removing innards


cutting out the bladder

bullet wound

skinning the deer

I proposd we take up tanning as well, to make a nice little rug. But alas, there was no takers for this proposal.

You can see the bullet wound in the back of the deer

pile of remains

No comments: