You are going to eat that venison?

When preparing for deer hunting, remember food safety in addition to hunter safety.

Many hunters are able to provide a nutritious protein source for their family while enjoying a recreational activity. Preparation for safely converting the deer to venison starts before you sit quietly in the woods waiting for the big buck to approach and successfully make the kill.

Cool the carcass: Cooling the carcass quickly to less than 40 degrees F is one of the most critical food safety steps that can be done. When the air temperature is warmer, gutting the animal is not sufficient enough to cool down the carcass fast enough. Once the gutted carcass is transported back to the hunting camp or home, the carcass should be hung and the hide removed. Bags of ice or clean snow can be inserted into the cavity of the animal after gutting. Most deer carcasses do not have enough fat cover to allow them to hang for long periods of time. Typically two to three days is enough time to age the carcass. If the air temperature is not consistently below 40 degrees F, the carcass should be cut into large pieces and refrigerated or put on ice immediately after skinning. If the air temperature is consistently below 40 degrees F, then the animal can hang in a shed or garage out of direct sunlight.

Don’t Spread Filth: Wearing disposable rubber gloves can aid in spreading contamination of dirt and fecal material. Change the gloves throughout the gutting and skinning process as often as needed to keep the meat clean. Cleaning your knife often between cuts using clean water or disposable wipes is also recommended. Take a string to tie off the end of the anus when removing that and the intestines. Make sure to avoid cutting through the intestines or internal organs when removing them from the animal. If the inside of the carcass needs to be washed make sure to dry it with clean paper towels. Penn State Extension has a Field Dressing Deer Pocket Guide available.

Keep a Clean Camp: Additionally, food safety should be considered at the hunting camp as well. Perishable foods should be kept in refrigeration. If coolers are being used, separate coolers with ice are recommended for raw meat and eggs, other perishable foods that are ready to eat (cheese, milk, juice, etc.) and beverages.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is encouraging hunters to turn in deer from the lower peninsula for testing of bovine TB. There are still areas in northeast lower Michigan that are having difficulty with bovine TB. If a deer is turned in to MDARD and tests positive, the hunter will receive $200.

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