Each year it seems I somehow wind up as part of a large number of hunters who receive a recycled email joke about making beef taste like venison. Most who read it find themselves nodding their head and chuckling, as the masses who've hunted deer can relate to the uneasy truthfulness of many of the "steps."
The premise of the joke is if you would treat beef cattle like some people handle deer - dragging through a plowed field, hanging from a "meat pole" or carrying in a pickup box for a couple of days in warm temperatures, etc - then the beef wouldn't quite taste the same as if it was properly processed.
Like most hunters, I treasure my deer and look forward to each year's new supply of venison. Honestly, I don't want it to taste like beef, which it shouldn't no matter how well you care for it.
I don't want it to taste like less-than-ideal venison, either. But that's what can happen if you make the mistakes suggested in the email joke. While those examples are perhaps a bit exaggerated, if you too receive the email, I'd suggest looking it over and taking steps to ensure you minimize the potential for any of their "recipe" from being a part of your deer preparation and storage. In fact here's a better checklist to reference if you don't have access to the joke.
1. Take your time when field dressing an animal so you don't contaminate any meat with the inner contents of the deer.
2. The carcass must be cooled as soon as possible. If the outside temperature is warm, elevate the animal above ground to facilitate air circulation around the entire body. This can be accomplished by hanging the animal in a cool, shady place.
3. If the carcass must be drug out of the field, keep dirt, grass and other possible contaminates out of the open body cavity.
4. When it comes to aging of venison, this is best carried out only when you can hang the carcass where the temperature is consistently maintained around 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. If you are going to make sausage or just grind your venison into burger, there is no reason to age it. It will be better if it is fresh.
5. Unless cooking the meat fresh, it should be quickly frozen after butchering. Meal-sized quantities of meat should be placed into plastic bags. Most of the air should be removed from the plastic bags before sealing. When the meat will be stored in the freezer for more than a few days, the plastic bags should be wrapped in freezer paper; the freezer paper should be sealed with tape; and the packages should be labeled appropriately.
6. Meat prepared and stored in this manner can maintain good quality for more than a year. Vacuum-sealed bags probably improve the storage process, and vacuum-sealed bags may not require a second layer of freezer paper.
Following these steps will help put a smile on your face enjoying your venison, and that's no joke.