Wild Game Processing Tips
Few meals are more satisfying than those featuring game meat that you harvested and processed yourself. Taking proper care can ensure the highest quality meat possible.
Field dressing and cooling large game, such as deer, should be done quickly after harvest. If outside temperatures are warm, put bags of ice inside a field-dressed deer and cover with a tarp to extend processing time. If you plan to take your meat to a processor, deliver it immediately so the carcass can be chilled quickly.
Doing it yourself? Skinning and quartering the carcass and aging the meat in a refrigerator for several days can improve meat flavor and tenderness. If it’s cold outside, you could have several hours to several days to chill and age a field-dressed deer. The carcass should remain consistently cool (32-40 degrees F) if aged outdoors in cold weather.
On cold days, small game and waterfowl can go without field dressing for quite some time. If you’re hunting on a warm day, cool your harvest as quickly as possible by placing it in a cooler full of ice.
After skinning or plucking the harvest, thoroughly clean the meat. Generally, it’s okay to wash the whole body of small game animals with water. Large game typically does not require water for washing. Trim off damaged or dirty pieces of meat before packing. Soaking small game and waterfowl meat in saltwater or buttermilk is a popular technique to draw out excess blood.
You can hang field-dressed game birds in your refrigerator before consuming or packing meat to age and tenderize it. The hanging period is typically 1-3 days.
Game meat can be frozen for later use. Shrink-wrapping meat is a popular method to freeze game. You can do it without shrink wrapping by tightly wrapping the meat in plastic wrap (without air pockets) then packing it in freezer paper. For small game, place the meat in a plastic freezer bag, cover with water to remove any air pockets, and then freeze the sealed bag. Label packages with the date of harvest.
Find more information about processing wild game at hunting.IN.gov