How Much Meat Is on a Deer?

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Have you ever downed a prime buck and wondered how much meat is on a deer? You can get approximately 70 to 75% of a deer’s hanging weight, which is how much it weighs after being field dressed and stripped.

The amount of venison you can harvest from a deer is also determined by its size, which relates to its type and sex. 

Your own or a butcher’s skill or technique of stripping meat from the carcass is also a factor to consider. 

Another contributor to how much meat you can get from a deer includes the area hit by the bullet. Also called bloodshot meat, the quantity of fleshy body meat that’s ruined will also decrease what you take home. 

Estimate How Much Meat a Deer Can Yield Before Taking the Shot

It’s vital when hunting to be able to estimate how much venison you can harvest from a deer. This gives you a better idea of what to expect once you take in your deer carcass for processing.

Factors to Consider 

If you are doing field dressing, a few points to note when estimating deer size for meat quantity include;

  • Each season you’ll only be allowed to kill a certain number of deer according to state laws. If you are hunting to fill your freezer, you must ensure that the deer you down will provide enough for your needs.
  • For those paying to have the deer butchered by a processer, you’ll want to make sure the meat you are getting back equals the cost. 
  • Since time is needed to field dress venison and haul it back home, you also need to make a sure judgment for deer that it’s worth the hassle. 

Having a good idea of how much meat the deer you’re targeting will yield is based on factors of weight and size. Girth or roundness as a symmetrical object at its widest point is the best estimator for meat quantity before killing a deer

It takes quite a bit of practice to have an eye for a deer’s girth, translating that into its overall weight. Once you’ve figured out how much an animal weighs alive, you’ll be able to know how many pounds of venison to expect.

The species of deer you’re after and its state of health will also determine what amount of venison you’ll get from its carcass. A nursing doe will have more fat in their meat, while after the mating season, bucks add on weight. 

Before taking the shot, consider which part of the deer’s body you want to target. It’s important since if you misplace your shot in the meaty dear part, you risk destroying a lot of venison. 

Guessing the Weight of a Deer by Its Girth

Size is a heavy determinant of how much meat you’ll get from a deer. It’s essential therefore to know how to look at a deer’s girth to guess its weight.

The average gallivanting buck will weigh close to 160 pounds, while a mature doe weighs nearly 140 pounds. 

As a hunter, you are looking to maximize your take, and as such we hunt good-sized males. Depending on the type of deer available where you live, weights will vary.

White-tailed deer is by far the most common type of deer hunted in the US. An adult whitetail buck with the girth of around 24 inches will weigh approximately 55 lbs.

This means that for each inch you add to a whitetail deer’s widest point, the weight equivalent increase is about 5 pounds.

However, this is only true until you start getting larger types of deer. With larger girth, the variances in inch versus pounds are nearly double since weight increases more rapidly.

For instance, a deer with a girth of 30 inches weighs 90 pounds at most. A 40-inch girth gives 182 pounds or near on.

When doing a filed weigh estimate, you must consider the sex of the deer. I’ve also heard it said that northern deer weigh more than southern ones, due to natural selection factors.

Venison Weight after Field Dressing a Deer

After the hunt, you have to do field-dressing to reach a near estimate of how much meat is on a deer.

Field dressing involves hanging an animal and cutting it open with a sharp knife. A lot of meat is lost when a deer is skinned by inexperienced hunters. 

If you must, for best results, cut through the hide and then separate it from the fatty muscle layer. 

The essence of field dressing is to rid the good meat of stomach insides, internal organs, and intestines. This maintains the freshness of the venison, as meat spoilage bacteria are concentrated in the innards.

It also makes for a lighter and well-organized load to carry back home.

Pack the heart, liver, kidneys, and the likes separately. You may also keep intestines and such to prepare for your canine friend(s) after cleaning them.

As you haul the deer out of the woods, wrap it tightly to ensure contaminants don’t go on the meat. 

Estimating Deer Meat Weight after Field Dressing 

Normally, I don’t recommend novice hunters to the skin or remove the feet, or the head and antlers during field dressing. 

This calls for heavier cutlery than your hunting knife, and I prefer the clean-cut of a bandsaw to hacking away or hacksawing.  

There are still a lot of parts such as bones, tail, and tough cartilage that’s still on the deer. With field dressing, you can estimate a loss of about 200 pounds from the innards, blood, and whatever the deer had eaten for lunch.

After field dressing, a typical northern yearling buck will weigh between 105 and 125 pounds. A doe will probably tip the scale from 100 to 120 pounds. 

Southern doe fawns will weigh close between 45 and 65 pounds after being field dressed. These are general estimates, and the type of deer you’ll come across maybe stouter or leaner in girth.

How Much Meat is Lost When You Take a Deer for Butchering?

We now have an estimate of how much meat is on a deer after field dressing. It’s also dependent on the type, sex, and sometimes age of the deer you’ve hunted.

How much of this weight is edible venison and how much of the deer do you get back from butchers?

If you have a skilled and effective butcher who minimizes wastage, then you can expect about 75% of the total weight after field dressing.

This percentage is arrived at as between 70 and 78% of edible meat. The difference consists of 6 to 9% of hide or skin, 11 to 14% of bone, and 5 to 6% of blood.

Meat that’s been damaged from a bullet is not factored in.

The cuts that you will get from a deer include; 

  • Roasts from the butt and the front end
  • Steaks from the bottom of the back and the middle
  • Ribs from the rib cage 
  • Chops from the area above the rib cage
  • Flanks from the middle and belly sections

When taking your meat in to be processed, there is terminology that you should familiarize yourself with. To better understand how much meat is on a deer, know that live weight is the total weight of the deer delivered whole to the butchering facility.

Field dressed weight is the total weight of your deer minus the innards, giving you 78% of the live weight.

Hanging weight on the other hand is the weight of a deer that’s been stripped of the head, hide, and hooves. This amounts to 75% of your deer’s field dressed weight. 

Factors That Contribute to the Loss of Venison Quantity

Using the estimated girth size of your deer, you estimated how much it weighed while still munching on grass. After downing it, you’ve field dressed to remove micro-be filled internal organs and reduced the weight of your deer by 20 to 22%. 

The age of a deer is a milder factor contributing to how much meat you can harvest, as opposed to sex. Some factors that are major contributors to deer meat quantity loss include; 

Bloodshot Fleshy Parts

For a rifle hunter, a major determinant in the final quality of venison that’s made available is shot placement. 

Missing the sweet head, heart, or neck shots can bring the final weight of venison down by 10 pounds or more. Another 5 pounds can be lost if you’re taking meat in to be butchered.

Poor shot placement will ruin the fleshy parts of a deer that would have yielded the most meat. A bullet that hits the upper hind leg decimates around six pounds of prime venison steak. 

Field Dressing Losses

Field dressing involves removing parts that are not edible immediately after the deer dies to delay spoilage and reduce weight. 

Some hunters remove the head, and the lower part of the legs alongside the hide, a process called skinning. 

Skinning requires a deft hand, as it’s an intricate process where a lot of meat can be lost. 

For best results, use a sharp knife to cut around the anus, making a coring motion very much like for an apple. 

Pull the deer’s rectum off the body and tie it off with a cord to prevent its leakage and contamination of your meat. 

Another meat loss factor during field dressing is bile spillage or a ruptured gallbladder. Eating bile infused venison is nasty; it will make you wonder why you set out on the hunt in the first place.

How to Maximize Deer Meat Quantity

The way you are going to butcher your deer will determine how much meat you’ll end up with. You must attain some butchering skills to make sure you take as much venison from your deer.

Some of the tips I can offer here on deer butchering to reduce meat wastage include; 

  • Hang and age your venison in a controlled environment for a few days before butchering. This is done after dressing and cleaning the carcass, and it improves meat quality and tenderness.
  • Ensure that your butchering tools are of the best quality, made from strong materials with a sharpness to slice through meat and bones. Efficiently process and store you’re a good amount of mast from your deer, by investing in a proper butcher’s knife, a meat grinder and a bone saw.
  • Follow the deer’s muscle line when butchering to reap as much venison as possible. 
  • If you hadn’t skinned the deer, cut from the inner side, puncturing the outer part and working your way out. This minimizes fur on the meat. 

Wrap your venison in butcher’s paper and store it in zip bags in the freezer. Make the most of what you get from a deer by labeling it so that you know when it’s best to eat.

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