Smokey Merkley

Deer meat, commonly referred to as venison, is a delicacy loved by people all over the world with my wife as possibly the only exception. There are so many different ways one can prepare venison for consumption, making it one of the most in-demand categories in the food industry. Experienced hunters can process deer meat where they dropped it or take it to a butcher for processing.

How much meat you can get from a deer depends on several factors from the technique and skill of the butcher, to the area of bullet impact. In case you did not take a clear shot and the bullet hit the fleshy area of the body, the quantity of venison you can get from the carcass may differ. To take the perfect shot, you need to avoid creating any noise that can tip off the deer to your presence. For better spotting and aiming, you can use binoculars and a quality telescopic sight.

The question of how much meat you can expect to get from your deer is a major concern of most hunters. Studies show that on the average you can probably expect 40 to 50 percent of the total weight of the carcass from an experienced butcher.

Some basic terminology you should understand are:

  • Live weight: This is the total weight of the deer prior to any processing.
  • Field-dressed weight: Total weight of the deer without any innards, which is 78 percent of live weight.
  • Hanging weight: Field-dressed deer stripped of its skin, head and the hooves, amounting to 75 percent of field-dressed weight.

You can use the size and weight of the deer to guess the quantity of meat you will get. The age of the deer is a mild factor that can affect the total amount of meat that can be processed.

The experience of the hunter is a major factor that determines quantity of venison. A bullet missing the sweet spots of head, neck or heart can result in a 10-pound loss of deer meat. You could also lose about 5 pounds in the butcher shop.

A poor shot can ruin fleshy regions that normally would have yielded more meat. A shot into the hind leg could result in the loss of 6 pounds of meat.

Dressing a deer involves removing inedible parts before butchering. Inedible parts are the innards, the head and part of the legs, which you have to remove in the process. Skinning is an intricate process, and you will need skill to avoid cutting into meat.

Using a sharp knife, make a cut completely encircling the anus and cut much like coring an apple. Pull the rectum outside the body and tie off with a small cord to prevent feces from contaminating the meat during the rest of the field dressing.

Another factor that can lead to meat loss is a ruptured gall bladder and bile spillage into the meat. The last thing you want to experience is bile-infused meat. It tastes awful, and I suspect that is why my wife doesn’t like, nor will she eat, venison.

Deer hunting methods and the different steps of butchering determine the net quantity of venison. A hunter should have the proper gear and weapons that help quietly get close to deer and shoot at the desired spot accurately.

Butchering requires experience and skill to avoid mistakes that result in the loss of edible meat. Attention to detail and patience will ensure quality and quantity of venison.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at