Deer Handling

There’s absolutely no reason to let your deer go to waste. Here are some pointers on keeping your venison fresh until it can be processed.  Bacteria danger zones are between 40-140 degrees.  It is key to keep your meat at 38 degrees or cooler.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Varies

Here’s How

  1. Place a layer of ice in a cooler (a forty-eight-quart Igloo cooler will hold a deer of up to 140 pounds or so, live weight).
  2. After dressing and skinning your deer, quarter it (see Tips for more on quartering).
  3. Immediately after removing each portion, bag it (kitchen garbage bags work great for this, but make sure they do not contain chemical additives for scent or bacteria control, etc.) and place it in a cooler over the initial layer of ice.
  4. Place a layer of ice, then more meat, until you’re done.
  5. If you’ll be camping for several days before butchering or processing the meat, check the ice and replenish as necessary. Keep the drain plug open or drain it often, to prevent your meat from setting in a puddle of water.


  1. When quartering, separate each leg, the neck, and the ribs from the spine. Then trim out the back straps and tenderloins from the spine. On many deer, this leaves nothing useful on the spine, which can then be discarded.
  2. Use one bag per piece for larger portions; smaller portions may share a bag.
  3. Keep the drain plug on your cooler(s) open. This allows melted ice to drain, preventing it from damaging the meat.