Deer hunting seasons are underway in some parts of the nation, so it’s time once again to prepare yourself to venture into the fields and forests. Once you’ve managed to harvest and field dress your first deer, there’s the matter of storing it in the proper environment to get the best tasting meat.
Some people will quarter the deer without aging it, but this is a major mistake if you want quality venison. The deer stiffens during rigor mortis in the 24 hours after being killed. If it is processed during this time, the muscles shorten and contract causing the meat to become tough. You should let your deer hang for 2 to 4 days at minimum before processing to avoid this. For the best tasting deer meat Mississippi State University recommends 14 to 18 days of hanging time. A general rule of thumb is, the older the deer, the longer the hang time. Longer hanging times will allow the deer’s natural enzymes and acids to break down and tenderize the meat and give it a smoother, less “gamey” flavor.
An optimal temperature to hang deer meat at should be temperature above freezing but below 40 degrees F. Many people let the deer hang in their garage, but this far from the proper conditions because of contaminants, pests and temperature fluctuations that come with an uncontrolled environment such as this. If your meat is stored above 40 degrees it will start to rot, but if it is frozen at temperatures below 28 degrees it can become freezer burned. In these situations, having access to a commercial-sized refrigerator that will keep your deer at a constant temperature and free of outside contamination is optimal.