De-boning a deer or elk not only reduces the weight you have to haul out of the backcountry but it also makes it much easier to break down a large animal by yourself. The wildlife benefit as well since the entrails, bones, and hide are left for scavengers as if the animal died naturally. It is a pretty simple process once you do it a few times and it keeps the meat clean and helps in cooling it down.
Story and photos by Jason Brooks, WHJ Field Editor
Step 1. Make a slit through the hide starting at the base of the head all the way to the top of the tail along the backbone. This is also a good time to make a slit down the backside of the front leg and around the knee to ease in skinning.
Step 2. Make a slit down the back of the hind leg and start skinning out the animal’s side that is exposed (upward).
Step 3. Completely skin out the animal’s side facing up.
Step 4. Remove the hind quarter by pulling upward on the leg (opening the leg) and cut along the pelvic bone until you get to the ball socket. Cut through the ligament in the ball socket and continue filleting the hind quarter off following the pelvic girdle. Once the hind quarter is removed place it onto a clean sheet or meat sack if you plan on completing removing the femur and other bones or to cut the upper leg off at the knee joint.
Step 5. Remove the front shoulder by pulling upwards on it and separating it from the body (there are no connecting bones or ligaments, just muscle tissue). Once removed you can place it on the clean sheet or meat sack and remove the meat from the shoulder blade by filleting it out.
Step 6. Fillet the meat off of the carcass including brisket meat, rib cage, between the ribs, and neck meat.
Step 7. Remove the backstrap, which is along muscle that runs right along the back. The best way to do this is to run the knife right along the backbone from the front shoulder all the way to the top of the tail. Then continue to fillet the meat off by running the blade against the ribs until you separate the backstrap from the ribs.
Step 8. Remove any pieces of meat that you might have missed prior to turning the animal over.
Step 9. You can remove the tenderloins from each side or do this after flipping the animal over and repeating steps 1-8 again. To remove the tenderloins make a small incision at the backbone just in front of the tailbone. This creates a gap and you can reach in and carefully remove the tenderloins. If the stomach protrudes and makes it difficult to reach the tenderloins then make an incision in the abdominal membrane and allows the stomach out and away from the animal just as you would when field dressing, then cut out the tenderloins.
Step 10. After the meat has been de-boned or just removed from the carcass then place in breathable cotton meat sacks for the pack out of the backcountry. WHJ