CHOCOLAY - With five days of deer season behind us already, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment check stations have been busy with hunters. Through Thursday, 100 deer have been checked in at the Marquette DNRE check station alone.
The fortunate hunters who've bagged a deer this season have some crucial follow-up tasks: properly field dressing and processing their deer.
A press releases issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and DNRE it reminds hunters to follow safe handling guidelines.
?Larry Knabusch divides batches of venison burger onto packaging trays at
Marquette Deer and Game Cutters in
Chocolay Township on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Knabusch shaves off excess fat to expose the meat of a deer's hindquarter while preparing it for processing. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Marquette Deer and Game Cutters owner Kurt Zinski helps hunter Josh Menard of Negaunee unload his 9-point buck he shot to be processed at the shop Tuesday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
"By following safe handling and processing protocols for wild game, venison processors can help minimize the risk of foodborne illness" Don Koivisto, MDA director, said in the statement. "By taking a few simple precautions, you can help assure a safe and successful hunting season."
There are many articles and pamphlets detailing the proper way to handle and process venison. "Tips on Handling Venison," by Dennis Buege, an extension meat specialist and Scott Craven, a wildlife extension specialist - both with the University of WisconsinMadison - is one guide for helping hunters to get their deer from the woods to their dinner tables.
This online article addresses three key points when handling venison: keep it clean, keep it dry and keep it cold.
Though these are great tips, sometimes it's more easily said than done.
Keeping the deer clean during the field dressing can be challenging to any hunter with or without experience.
When dressing the deer in the field the hunter needs to be aware of areas of the deer that can cause the meat to become contaminated.
While opening the abdomen, hunters need to be careful not to cut into the intestines, stomach or bladder. If you do happen to cut into the intestines, you should use a clean towel to clean up the cavity of the abdomen.
After gutting the deer, you need to keep the cavity dry. This is important because bacteria thrive in damp areas. Spreading apart the walls of the body cavity with a stick will allow the inside to stay dry and cool.
The most important step is to keep the deer carcass cool before processing. You should try to slowly chill the carcass to below 50 degrees over a six-hour period. If it freezes in the first six hours, the meat may toughen. This slow chilling process can be done by keeping the deer in the shade of a garage or shed and exposed to air flow.
Once the carcass has been chilled the hunter or facility processing the meat can cut or prepare the meat for sausage making.
Deer processing operations like Marquette Deer and Game Cutters in Chocolay Township can process your deer into any desired cut or sausage.
Kurt Zinski, owner of Marquette Deer and Game Cutters, has been processing deer for over 10 years.
The shop's motto is "You gut 'em, we cut 'em."
That's what they do.
Zinski said they offer hunters a number of different cuts such as steaks, chops, roasts, burgers, sausage and snack sticks.
"We can add bacon, pork or beef to the venison burger to take away some of the grease of the deer," he said.
When the deer comes into the shop it's numbered and assigned to the associated hunter.
The deer is skinned and then stored in a cold storage area before being processed.
When the deer is brought in to the butchering area, it's then quartered and cut to the hunter's specifications.
"It can be a timely process, depending on the hunter's orders, but we have a quick turnaround and enjoy what we do," Zinski said.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.