The season is just about upon us and whether you’re like us and sweltering down here in the south or you’re up in the north or Midwest and are already starting to feel the seasons change we all know it won’t be long and the fruits of the labors we put forth in summer will hopefully lead us down the road to some clean kills of one our favorite things in the freezer, fresh venison. We certainly all have our favorite recipes but before we can get them to the dinner table we have to take the proper steps to ensure we have the very best meat possible, after all the animal deserves the respect and your family and friends deserve the best. I think the saying goes luck favors those that are prepared. I highly recommend being prepared especially in the early season where temps can still be very warm, but no matter the temps for us when we set out for a few days hunt or just an evening’s hunt (after skipping out of work a little early) we will be prepared with everything we will need should we get a chance to fill a tag. I like to keep a cooler and in my truck and I keep all of my deer cleaning supplies in a small Rubbermaid ™ type tote, you can get them at most any box store and they’re mostly water and weatherproof. I keep mine in the back of my truck most of the season rather than have to worry about where this or that is, I pre-pack that box right prior to season with what I need to get me through the year. What’s in the box? you say……I keep a supply of the disposable rubber gloves, not just for your protection, but if you happen to be where there is not much water come time to clean up your hands it is a lot easier to strip those off and go, a bottle of hand sanitizer, bar of soap, 2 Gallon zip-lock™ bags, marker, zip ties and 2-3 knives, I have my favorites but most often it is a Havalon ™ with exchangeable blades so I will have plenty of those too. That about rounds out my box and I have what I need to process once I have an animal down. In my particular area we traditionally don’t field dress the animal, it is simply a process of getting to the animal, tagging him and getting him back to the cleaning station, Ideally you have ice nearby or can get some but if not I would recommend filling a cooler prior to your hunt. Once we are back at the cleaning station we will get the animal hung on a skinning rack and get his hide off very quickly and we actually debone the meat while it is on the carcass. You can easily take the meat off of the neck, front and rear quarters with just a little practice you’ll be able to follow the bones, cut lines and be able to get the meat off fast. I will also cut out the back straps and tender loins with just couple of cuts and get them all in a cooler ASAP. One of the things I do a little different is that I don’t soak my meat in any kind of water or ice water without it being bagged and protected, you will read many articles that will tell you do that, but be a rebel like me and don’t pay any attention to that, I can assure you my venison is a show stopper at the dinner table. I will let you think about it this way…You ever stop at the butcher shop and ask for a steak that has been soaked in ice water a week??? I don’t think so…. I will bag all of the meat as I take it off the animal as I do not want it coming in contact with any ice or water, I will seal the bags and cover them completely in the cooler in ice, the complete cooling of the meat may take 30 minutes or less since you have deboned it and it is in smaller portions it gets cooled down very fast. Once that is done I drain the cooler of the melted ice water and fill it again with fresh ice, at this point the meat is cooled down and will “keep” for a while. From this point traditionally the following day I will trim out the cuts that I am going to process, cut roasts and steaks from rear quarters and add the neck and front shoulder meat to my grinder. I will also prepare my back straps and loins with care and with just a little work you can have a great stash of fresh venison harvested and processed by your own hands. That my friends is knowing where your meat comes from.