I’d always recommend getting the skin off of a carcass as soon as possible. The skin on any mammal acts as an insulator for what lies underneath. This is great while the deer is alive but not so much when you want some tasty venison for the freezer. Many of the scent glands on a deer also lay just beneath the skin and getting those off as quick as possible will reduce the chances of the tastes and smells tainting the flavour of the meat.
Best case scenario is that you have the space, time and equipment to quarter your animal in the field. With purpose built game bags, you can safely remove the skin while still protecting the meat from any contamination. However, this is not always possible or convenient. If you are going to transport the carcass back home, or to hunting camp, before breaking it down, you should leave the skin on to protect the meat from dirt, bugs, and other contaminants.
In this tutorial, David demonstrates how to remove the skin from a carcass that was chilled with the hide on. He uses his normal technique, however, you can see that it is a little bit more difficult once the animal has been chilled. David needs to use his knife a lot more to remove the stubborn hide, which does result in a few holes in the hide.
If you do want to use the hide, I recommend you make the time to get the skin off before chilling the animal. The hide will be a lot easier to pull without using a knife and you should end up with very few, if any, holes.
Some tips when skinning a carcass
- It is very important to keep the flank meat attached to the hind legs when skinning. If this is separated, you will end up with a lot more meat on the hide and the job of skinning will be a lot more difficult. A good way to avoid this is to start separating the hide from the carcass at the front legs. You can then use David’s method (watch the video above) to pull the hide off from the belly and out towards the back of the deer.
- Use a clean cloth/tea towel to help give you some grip on the carcass. Just having that extra bit of grip will help you to avoid needing a knife for the majority of the skinning process.
- Use your body weight to help pull the hide. Just as David does in the video above, you can place your knee between the skin and the carcass to pull down on the hide. Use gravity to your advantage.
- Open the ribcage by making one clean cut down the sternum (where the ribcage comes together in the centre of the deer’s chest) with the base of your knife’s blade. Open the pelvis (you may need a handsaw for more mature/bigger deer). This will help the air to circulate around the inside of the carcass and reduce the risk of bacterial growth.
- Make sure to tidy up the carcass once you have the hide off. Remove any clotted blood that might have pooled in the cavity (especially where the ribcage meets the neck). Trim the meat from the edges of the opening where you removed the entrails. Remove any remaining genitalia and pieces of hide on the carcass. Finally, you can use a clean, damp cloth to wipe any hair off of the carcass.
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In this video tutorial, learn how to field dress and gut an Eastern Grey Kangaroo for meat.