Clean & Skin a Deer (Achtu)

This is how my Uncle Clyde taught me to clean and skin a deer or antelope. It is the same to clean just about any hoofed game animal, anatomically it is all about the same.

Remem­ber that this is some­thing you have to do sev­eral times to get any good at it. You have to make mis­takes to learn and remem­ber how to do it cor­rectly form year to year. Each time you do it, it gets a lit­tle bit easier!

First off, make sure that the ani­mal is dead. You could get kicked or gored.

Put the car­cass on its back, hind quar­ters uphill and fac­ing you.

Care­fully cut a ring around the anus and vagina on a female, and just the anus on a male. (you must leave a sex iden­ti­fier on the ani­mal for fish and game reg­u­la­tions, so decide now if you are leav­ing the sex organs or the head, I vote the head) and cut all of the con­nect­ing tis­sue around the anus about 2 – 3 inches deep into the cav­ity. Grab and pull the anus and colon out a lit­tle bit, and tie a string around it or put a rub­ber band around the colon to pre­vent leak­age. Stuff the colon back into the cavity.

Cut the front and back legs off at the bot­tom knuckle, and cut the hide inside all four legs.  Pull the hide down all of the way on the back legs, expos­ing the large Achilles ten­don. Do not cut the ten­don. Pull the hide off of the area around the anus, and cut off the tail.

Split the hide all the way up the belly, butt to throat in the cen­ter line of the belly. Skin out the neck down to the shold­ers. Cut into the throat to reveal the lar­ynx, but try not to cut the lar­ynx or the jugu­lar open. It is not the end of the world if you do but it saves a lot of mess if you don’t cut it. It will really stink if you cut the lar­ynx open, as some of the stom­ach con­tents will fall out. If you cut the jugluar, it will bleed all over, and the scent will bring in more flies.

*Optional, depend­ing on the size of the ani­mal — Split the rib cage down the cen­ter by saw­ing the ribcage open all of the way down past the ster­num, but be care­ful to not cut open the stomach.

Cut the tight con­nec­tive tis­sue in the cen­ter of the hindquar­ters, right below the pelvis. The blad­der is directly under­neath here, so you have to be care­ful. After the con­nec­tive tis­sue is cut in this crevice, you should be able to see the colon. Sick your index fin­ger in and dig around the fat to the back of it, hook it with you fin­ger and pull it out of the bot­tom of the pelvis.

Care­fully slit open the skin cov­er­ing the abdomen enough to remove the blad­der and have some­one hold it out of the cav­ity and away from the meat. Slit the abdomen open all of the way to the rib cage. Try to hold every­thing inside until you make this whole cut so that you don’t cut the stom­ach open. Some­times the insides try to push out as soon as you make a cut.

After the abdomen is cut open all of the innards should fall out, and you should be able to see diaphragm. Cut the diaphragm all of the way around, off of the ribs, and help the lungs and heart out. At this point you will have to cut the lar­ynx and then every­thing should come out, leaving the car­cass com­pletely clean.  Cut off the head only if you are leav­ing the sex organ. Again, my pref­er­ence it to leave the head attached, because if you plan to tan your hide your­self you will need the brain to con­di­tion the hide. You might need to pick out some of the large fat chunks inside of the cav­ity and cut off any of the remain­ing diaphragm you might have missed.

I like to take it back to camp to skin. Leav­ing the skin on while hik­ing back to camp will pro­tect it from dirt and blowflies.

Place the deer belly down, on a clean tarp, and chain the head to a tree.

Find a round rock, about the size of a hard ball base­ball or golf ball, or just bring a golf ball or base­ball to use. Place it under the hide at the base of the neck, almost to the shoulders.

Place another chain tightly around the hide and the rock.

Place the other end of the chain on your truck.

Drive slowly away, mak­ing sure that the rock does not slide out of the hide.


Wa la — you just saved about a 1/2 hour of time, and have a knife-nick free hide with almost no hair (Achtuch­wiecheken) on the meat!

Put it in a game bag ASAP, to keep the blowflies and other nas­ti­ness from lay­ing eggs on the meat. Hang it up either from the Achilles ten­dons, or the head.

The veni­son may be kept in in camp dur­ing cold weather, at most 10 or 12 days, and in hot weather, much less, unless it is cured right away. After you get it home, (the sooner the bet­ter in warm weather), it needs a clean, cool (35 – 45 F) dry place to hang for between 10 and 20 days to age and cool out the meat. Aged meat tastes much bet­ter, and is very ten­der. If you don’t age the meat it can end up stringy, tough and gamey tasting.

The meat of fresh veni­son is of a fine grain, and is always nicely cov­ered in fat. The age of a deer can be told by exam­in­ing the hooves, if it is young, the hooves will be very slightly opened, if old they will stand apart. Of all of the red meats, veni­son cooks the quick­est. Veni­son is always best when the deer is killed in the autumn. Wild berries are then plen­ti­ful, and the ani­mal has then abun­dant oppor­tu­nity to fat­ten up on them and other sumer foods.

That is how my Uncle Clyde taught me to clean and skin a deer or ante­lope. It is the same to clean just about any hoofed game ani­mal, anatom­i­cally it is all the same.


~Pete Kingston