How much meat from a deer?


October 23, 2003, 08:44 AM
I have been hunting mule deer in Co the last few years and last year I got a "good size" 3 x 4- but only 35lbs of meat from the butcher- about 1/2 of that is sausage cut with beef.

He seems like a good guy, and says all the meat is from my deer but.......

I am thinking of butchering it myself this year in the field- not that I'm greedy but I take good care of my kill and don't want someone else's less cared for carcass.


1)What percentage of the total body weight of a deer should you expect to get in meat?

2)Any suggestions on butchering in the field? I live in CA so it would be difficult to bring back an entire carcass



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October 23, 2003, 10:23 AM
I have a chart from the PA Game Commission that gives all the figures. To give one example - for a live weight of 156 lbs- hide wt 13.4 - blood wt 8.1 - bone wt 19.5 - edible lean meat 69 . If you want to transport it easily you can remove the meat from the bone in the field ( check state regs ). There are books and videos available if you've never done any butchering. Dressing out immediately is extremely important. After butchering you can transport in a cooler with some ice.

October 23, 2003, 11:06 AM
Sounds a little skimpy to me ...

The butcher we've been using has a lot of out of state hunters that just take home the steaks and leave him with all the ground meat. So last year we got about 200 pounds of meat from a mid-size whitetail buck. ;)

October 23, 2003, 11:21 AM
its all about the labor

we sharpen up the Buck Hunters
and strip them down to Stew Meat, Roasts & Bones

Fiddling with neck meat can take awhile

October 23, 2003, 01:20 PM
Edible meat should be 40% of the live weight of the animal. That just counts muscle, not organ meat, and that figure supposedly works on all ruminants from deer, to caribou, elk and moose.
That's the figure the AK fish and game people use to determine if you are wasting meat and it's held up in court for many years.


October 23, 2003, 02:44 PM
I think you got longed.
That's like being shorted only a lot worse.


October 23, 2003, 03:01 PM
Ain't a mule deer small - 100 lbs or less? If so, 35 lbs is about 40% of live weight. Inquiring minds, etc.

October 23, 2003, 05:32 PM
No, mule deer are quite large. 35 pounds seems kind of ... short... by about half, at least...

Do it yourself from now on or find another butcher.


Larry Ashcraft
October 23, 2003, 06:54 PM
Vital Stats:

Weight: 125-330 lbs.
Length with tail: 50-85"
Shoulder Height: 3-3.5"
Sexual Maturity: 2 years
Mating Season: Oct.- Nov.
Gestation Period: 195-212 days
No. of Young: 1-4, 2 avg.
Birth Interval: 1 year
Lifespan: 10 years in the wild
Typical diet: various vegetation


October 23, 2003, 07:16 PM
butchers have to eat too, you know.
You either made a donation or the deer was shot up and damaged meat wasted. That's why I do my own killing, cutting, smoking, freezing.

October 23, 2003, 09:59 PM
As my butcher tells me for whitetails. If you take the weight of the deer after the vitals are out of it and weight it, you should get just under half back in meat. Now I know that isn't always true but you can kinda guess that if the butcher has a lot to do he isn't going to be real picky about getting every piece of useable meat for burger or sausage. So if you do it yourself and you take your time then you going to get more meat out of the same deer. Then you need to factor in fat and such for the weight but overall I think half of the deer back is pretty good.

Art Eatman
October 23, 2003, 10:19 PM
BigG, a Texas mule deer that's really worth shooting will commonly dress out in the 150 to 200 pound range. Further north in the Rockies, they'll get up toward 250, and I'll let a Colorado guy add on to that if need be. :)

Hill country whitetails can be quite small, down around 70 to 80 pounds, although in decent habitat they'll get above 130 to 140. South Texas brush country whitetails can push 200; again, field dressed.


October 24, 2003, 09:56 AM
thanks so much for the replies gentlemen.

Yea, I figured I got shorted. It was not shot up- just through the boiler room.

My only problem is the logistics of butchering in the field. I guess the best way to go is to bone it out and bring it home for final prep. How have you all done this?

FYI- I did not weigh the deer but figure it was approx 180 lbs

thanks again for the info


Art Eatman
October 24, 2003, 02:30 PM
Gut the deer in the field. If you have a cheesecloth body bag for the deer, skin him while warm; it's easier.

Then, just haul him home, hang him in the garage or to a tree in the yard and do the butchering. (In the garage, put an el-cheapo plastic tarp underneath, to catch the dabs of blood that drip...)

A hacksaw and a decent 3" or 4" blade pocket knife is all that's needed, although obviously better knives make the job easier...

:), Art

October 24, 2003, 03:56 PM
"...the logistics of butchering in the field..." You don't butcher in the field. The carcass needs to hang for a while in a cool place and butchering should only be done in a clean environment.
Field dressing isn't the same thing as butchering. That's just getting the innards out and the hide off. Boning a whole carcass is a major job and not easy unless you know how. I do think you got beat by the butcher and you can do it yourself, but not in the field. Call your local community college and see if there's a course you can take. It's can be learned from a book too I suppose. There are lots of them around that show how to butcher a deer.

October 24, 2003, 04:07 PM
Boning a deer in the field takes about twenty minutes. It isn't a major job unless you hang them up and allow them to cool.


Art Eatman
October 24, 2003, 07:25 PM
But, Keith, how long did it take you, the FIRST time you did that boning?

:D, Art

October 25, 2003, 12:28 AM
First took forever, and lucky I didn't bone myself in the process.


October 25, 2003, 01:30 PM
It didn't take very long the first time, but then I had someone with me who was showing me how to do it "native style".

I think someone who has previously butchered a deer after hanging would have little problem doing it in the field for the first time. If they have never done it all, well, they'd probably make a mess if they didn't do their homework first.

I've posted the directions as best I could, and there have been links to other sites - I recall a link to a moose site complete with pictures...


Art Eatman
October 25, 2003, 01:41 PM
There wuz a "Perfectionist" sort of guy in our old deer-camp group, years ago. He wouldn't shoot anything but young six-points. In camp, he'd not only bone out all the meat, he'd disassemble the meat muscle by muscle, and remove every last bit of sinew. Backstraps, inner tenders, all of it. He'd then haul it off to be made into sausage.

I danged near cried, every time I thought about those backstraps and tenders. :(


October 25, 2003, 02:18 PM
My first deer hunting was in a very traditional Michigan deer camp, complete with the big pole where everyone hung their buck in a long row.

The kids were relegated to cleaning out any innards still attached to the inside, so we'd be stuck out there every evening in the cold and dark trimming away the kidneys and stuff like that with blood up to our elbows, while the old guys sat in a nice warm cabin drinking beer and bourbon and telling lies. It was "good for us" to do all the dirty work...

We discovered the joy of tenderloins pretty quick, and after cutting away all the nasty stuff we go back and take all the tenderloins and toss them in old cast iron pan with some butter. We'd fry them up over the dregs of the camp fire outside and have a feast all by ourselves.

We never got caught. Everybody would strap the deer to the hood of a car and drive back south before butchering - had to show off their buck, and if it tasted like auto exhaust well, that's how they were supposed to taste! If they noticed the tenderloins were gone, they must have figured those "dumb kids" had cut them out by accident.


Art Eatman
October 25, 2003, 09:07 PM
A long time back, a buddy of mine worked with several other hunting guides on a south Texas ranch. They made a point of telling the dudes that the reason they cut out the "poison sacs" was so that no dog would get at a thrown-away carcass and then suffer and die.

The poison sacs, of course, were the tenders. :D Made for good nibbling for the guides...

Dudes are fun, bless their gullible little hearts...

:), Art

October 26, 2003, 12:26 AM
when you garage hang them, make sure they are out of Britney Spaniel tenderizer range
otherwise they may lose some hanging weight


November 3, 2003, 01:00 PM
Butchering in the field is sometimes mandatory. I carry a piece of plastic dropcloth with me when I know I may have to pack one out. It helps keep the meat clean. It is not that difficult to do either. I had to butcher a muley last week in Montana as we were about a mile and a half from the road. Took me about 45 minutes or so. I figured he was about 200-210 pounds on the hoof and we packed out about 75 pounds of boned out meat plus the cape and horns. Probably could have got a little more if we were real picky, but not much. In my experiences, 35-40% of live weight is about right if there isn't a lot shot up.

November 3, 2003, 01:49 PM
After gutting and skinning, and legs/feet severed, I typically use saw and cut right down the middle of the backbone into halves. Then cut hind quarters off, then ribs, then shoulders/neck. All the meat goes into large ice chest filled with ice for 6 hour drive back home. If you've got over one day drive, try some of those new 5-day rated ice chests.
This is with whitetail, biggest I've done is about 130 lbs. and I just barely manange with it. Big 200+ muley would probably require the truck or some other assistance to hang him. Take small pulley and largest rope that fits in it to hoist deer up for butchering. Have precut wood piece to keep legs separated and pan of water to rinse knives and your hands. A large washtub is handy for holding "quarters" till your ready to put them in ice chests.

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