While I don’t have actual scientific statistics in hand, I would venture a guess that the vast majority of hunters hang their deer, butts to the sky. However, there are plenty of eyes (head) to the sky believers out there, as well. I’m not one to get my beard in a knot over this kind of stuff. To each their own, as long as you get the job done, then good for you! But for argument’s sake, let’s look at the merits of hanging your deer by the neck.
- In most instances, hunters opt to gut their animals in the field. You are able to leave behind a significant amount of weight and you also start the cooling process immediately. However, in some circumstances like extreme cold or when facilities are close by, hunters choose to bring them back to their camp or home to field dress. Hanging a deer by the neck aids gravity in this case. When field dressing, the “guts” will spill out without much effort once severed and, unlike hanging by the hind legs, they won’t get caught in the chest cavity on the way out.
- When it comes to draining, eyes to the sky is very effective. If hung by the hind legs, blood pools in the chest cavity as it drains. Conversely, when hung by the head/neck, fluids are able to drain unobstructed.
- Hunters that pack their wild game out of the backcountry, like western mule deer hunters, have also been known to think highly of this method. The convenience of hanging a deer by the head or neck means a hunter can quarter their animal completely and debone it from the elevated position. If hanging from the hind legs, only the front quarters would be able to be removed without causing the rest of the animal to fall.
I have one more method to consider. Yes, there is another way to hang a deer and one that as I understand it, is more common among professional butchers. This method is referred to as the “tenderstretch method”. In this method a hook is secured beneath the pelvic bone which results in your deer hanging at a 90 degree angle rather than stretched out. The reasoning behind this method is that when hung by the hind legs the muscles are stretched out and have a significant amount of pressure on them throughout rigor mortis. However, with the tenderstretch method, the legs aren’t extended and stretched tight so the muscles are more relaxed and don’t contract as much during rigor mortis. In theory, this is supposed to translate to a quicker aging process. I have never actually tried this method, but must admit, I’m tempted this season to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
In general, I prefer to hang my deer by the hind legs, because that is how I’ve always done it. I’m a creature of habit and have a process that works for me in this manner. However, it doesn’t matter which end is up or down, do it however you like, it’s not going to change the flavor. There is no right or wrong here, as long as you’re filling the freezer it doesn’t matter how you get it done.
How do you hang your wild game? Heads up or tails up? Let’s hear your thoughts!
Hugs, Handshakes and Well Aged Meat