How to Skin a Deer

A vital step in the processing of a deer is removing the hide as soon as possible or skinning.  By removing the deer’s hide, you allow the body to cool much faster.  Cooling/aging the meat will help to minimize the “gamey” flavor for which venison is notorious.

Skinning a deer can sound like a daunting task but in actuality it is very simple.  Once you have a few under your belt, you should be able to skin a deer in under 15 minutes.

To get started, once your deer is field dressed, remove the tarsal glands from the deer’s hind legs.  Cut a slit through the thin area of hide remaining between the hind leg muscle and ligament above the tarsal gland locations.  Slide a deer hanger/spreader or meat hooks into the slit and hoist the deer into the air until the deer’s head is no longer touching the ground.  A pulley system will save you a lot of time and energy here.



Next, cut the hide around the leg at the incision made for the deer hanger.

DO NOT CUT the ligament.




Once you have cut completely around the leg, slide the knife blade in at a shallow angle under the hide and cut the hide from your entry point down to the inner thigh, meeting up with the edge left by field dressng the deer.  This cut should basically follow the color line between the deer’s brown body hair and the white belly hair down the back of the leg.


Now use your hands to separate the hide from the muscle and pull down hard.  The hide should separate easily depending upon how fresh/warm the deer is.  Use your knife or a saw, if needed, to cut through the tail.  The tail can also be separated with a hard jerk downward.  Pull down hard on the hide and cut free anything that tightens up, or any muscle that tears and hangs on to the hide.  Repeat this process as you pull the hide down to the front legs.



When you reach the front legs, use your knife to cut the hide from the inside down the leg, starting at the deer’s “elbow.”  Once you reach the end of the major muscle group, cut the hide around and free from the leg.

Continue to pull and cut as needed like before until you are beyond the shoulders and reach the neck.  Sever the head and neck above the shoulders with a saw (you will want to cut through the soft tissue with a knife first to reach the spine more easily), the hide will come off with the head.  If you are interested in harvesting the neck meat for grinding or a roast, pull the hide as close to the head as desired before severing.

Cut the front legs off at the remaining hair-line and your done!

If temperatures allow (± 45 degrees or less), I prefer to let the deer hang in a shed or garage for several days before butchering for aging.

I hope this helps you with your next deer.


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