There’s more than you think to cleaning and butchering that big game animal. To get the maximum out of the meat, my suggestion is to hire a butcher prior to the hunt. It’s not as simple as taking a knife and cutting up your successful harvest.
Number one, aging that meat is most important. Once the animal has been properly stripped of its hide, it should be hung for at least one week (two is better) in an ideal temperature under 10 C, or, better still, at 2 C. This should be done as soon as possible. Keeping the animal in its hide and in warm air will hasten the meat going bad. It can be frozen in proper meat paper, or by a small investment in a food safe freezer bag. Either will keep the meat much longer in the freezer.
The spread of disease
We are fortunate (so far) to say we haven’t seen the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in our deer family, but it is spreading fast across North America and in a number of Asian countries. In 2018, CWD was found in tested elk in Saskatchewan and Alberta. More recently, it was tested positive on a Quebec deer farm.
CWD spreads through the nervous system in deer and has been recognized as one of the deer’s decline where the disease has been found. It’s spread through “prions.” It can be secreted through the deer family (elk, caribou) when the animal is eating grass in a contaminated soil area, and spread through saliva and urine. Once the animal has been contaminated, chances are it will die in less than a couple months.
An animal contaminated with CWD will show a lack of coordination, loss of weight and a general deterioration of the body. Once contaminated, the animal often dies in less than a couple months. There has not been any connection of the disease CWD being spread from animal to humans to date, but caution has been advised as, due to the disease on an increase from animal to animal, the potential of the CWD becomes more possible. It should be pointed out that other prion diseases from big game animals can affect humans. Extra caution should be taken when handling wild meats, especially in field dressing and actual butchering.
Normal everyday washing of knives will not always remove infectious prions. CWD prions and other disease-like prions adhere to stainless steel and could contaminate knives, saws, etc. used in the cutting of meats. One of the best ways to clean your butchering knives is by soaking them in bleach. Hunters who persist in carving out their own harvested wild animals should pay strict attention to the cleaning of all equipment used to do so. This helps prevent other such diseases from forming on their butchering knifeware.