KILGORE’S CORNER: Avoiding deer spoilage

KILGORE’S CORNER: Avoiding deer spoilage

Despite the boiling temperatures, hunters across Soonerland are ready for deer archery season which opens October 1 and runs through January 15, 2024. Bear archery open in certain counties on October 1st through October 15th.

According to data from the ODWC, archery hunting continues to grow in popularity, which can be seen in record-setting harvest for the third year in a row.

Bowhunters took 36,522 deer during the 2021-22 season. Antlerless deer made up 44 percent of the archery total.

When it comes to whitetails, to say “we’ve come a long way, baby” would be understatement.

According to the 2022 Deer Hunters Almanac, the state’s first archery season opened in 1964 when hunters harvested 140 deer with stick and string.

Hunters who have spent time scouting, finding acorn-producing trees, establishing food plots, feeders, putting up stands and game cameras, are ahead of the game.

With a season that spans over three months long, there’s ample opportunity to get out in the woods and bring home the venison.

We, as hunters, take on a huge responsibility from the time we hit the woods until, if fortunate enough, the quarry has been found.

In addition, the animal harvested should be treated with respect. After all, the real work begins when the animal is on the ground.

It’s up to the hunter to choose whether to field dress the animal in your hunting area or take it back to camp to do the chore. I prefer to field dress the deer away from my area if I plan on hunting it in the not-too-distant future.

Field dressing and processing the animal should be done as quickly as possible to avoid losing any meat.

Here are some tips I learned from the Deer Hunters’ Almanac 2018:

Spoilage is excessive deterioration of meat as a result of bacteria, molds and yeasts. When the population of these ever-present microorganisms grows large enough, the meat is spoiled.

In contrast, “aging” meat is deliberate, controlled deterioration that is stopped before it reaches the spoilage state.

The theory behind controlled deterioration is that it breaks down some of the connective tissue, and the meat is more tender, and, perhaps, more flavorful.

The things that factor into spoilage of a deer are moisture, temperature, time and condition.

Of the four factors, temperature is the most critical.

A deer’s normal body temperature at rest is about 101 degrees and, just as we humans, they heat up more as they use their muscles.

So, a deer’s temperature depends on what they were doing when taken. A hard-running healthy deer’s maximum temperature runs a little over 106.

The temperature for bacterial growth is between 70 and 120 degrees. Under ideal circumstances, bacteria can double about every 20 minutes.

With that being said, when the meat (not air) temperature is above 70 degrees the whole time, the microorganisms are multiplying rapidly.

The meat temperature needs to be between 30 and 40 degrees for fresh meat refrigeration. The secret to good venison is quickly cooling the meat. On the other end of the spectrum, maintaining meat at a high temperature will cause the meat to spoil.

One other tidbit: a deer left on the ground is much more likely to spoil than one hung on a meat pole.

Also, moisture matters.

The almanac cites a story of a deer hunt which took place during a rainy gun season. There were two field-dressed deer hung on a meat pole.

The temperatures were in the high 30s, seemingly cold enough. Within two days, even in these conditions, the hunters lost both deer due to spoilage.

The bottom line is, spoiling microorganisms need moisture.

Deer intestines are prime producers of bacteria. Nick one with a knife, broadhead or bullet, then you really have no choice but to wash it out.

The one thing the experts all agreed upon is if you use water, get the body cooled down as quickly as possible.

Some folks I know stand by washing out the cavity and, to my knowledge, they’ve never had a deer go bad. As for me, I’m going the less moisture route.

Hunters who legally harvest a deer during any of this year’s deer seasons can donate the meat to feed hungry Oklahomans. Simply deliver the deer to the nearest participating meat processor who participates in the Hunters Against Hunger program after you check the deer at a hunter check station.

A list of processors who take part can be found at To help with processing charges, each donor is asked to contribute a tax-deductible $10 to assist with the program.

That fulfills your obligation unless you wish to pay the entire processing fee, which is a tax-deductible donation as well. The ground venison will then be distributed to the needy through a network of qualified, charitable organizations.

See next week’s column for other big game opportunities.

Reach John Kilgore at [email protected].

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