There is more than just meat to harvest from a big game animal. With a little thought and ingenuity, you can find useful projects that will use many of the other parts of the animal!
by Leon Pantenburg
Before the foreigners arrived on the American scene, the indigenous people used virtually every part of a big game animal.
They had no choice! The carcass of a deer, elk, buffalo, antelope or other game animal was their combination grocery/hardware and home store. A large animal provided the raw materials for food, shelter, weapons and virtually everything else needed for wilderness survival.
Today, a harvested big game animal is still a great survival resource. And, IMO, the best way to show respect and appreciation for the animal whose life you took is to use everything possible.
To start with, every shred of usable meat should be harvested. That means learning butchering and meatcutting skills to most effectively cut, wrap and preserve the meat. (Every prepper and survivalist should know basic butchering as a survival skill!) Get good tools, and practice cutting and wrapping meat whenever you can. The better you are at butchering, the less meat you’ll waste.
Get a meat grinder or grinding attachment for your blender. I have been using the same Osterizer blender with grinder for over 20 years. By now, it has ground up the meat from a small herd of deer and elk and is still going strong.
The ability to make your own hamburger is cost-effective, and assures you save all the tougher and less flavorful cuts to eat.
Don’t neglect the organs. Last October, after a successful Oregon elk hunt, the intact heart was saved from one elk carcass. It was donated to Mountainview High School (in Bend, OR) to be used in the anatomy class for dissection.
Dog Food: My office supervisor is Belle, a 14-year-old Labrador (non)Retriever, and there are no wasted scrap meats at my house. While butchering, meat scraps are placed in gallon Ziploc bags, labeled, and frozen. Later, the scraps will boiled and used to supplement Belle’s food. The broth is also saved. Belle’s favorite meal is boiled elk or deer scraps, with broth, poured over her regular dry dog food.
Dog Liver Treats: If boiled deer scraps are Belle’s favorite meal, then baked liver treats are her favorite food on earth! If you don’t personally like liver, don’t leave it in the gutpile! (Take along a 2-gallon Ziploc bag and it will be big enough to carry a bull elk liver!) Give the liver to someone who will eat it, or use it to make dog treats.
Here’s a quick recipe for liver treats that will have your dog begging for more! Slice the liver into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Boil for awhile. Put on a cookie sheet and bake at about 300 degrees until the meat is dried and hard. Store the completed liver treats in a plastic sandwich bag in the freezer until ready to use. If you don’t have a dog, give the treats to somebody who does. I imagine other organ meats could be prepared in a similar manner.
In no particular order, here are some suggestions to make the fullest use of that elk, deer or antelope carcass.
Fishing Lures: If you know a fly tier, give the tail to him or her. The hollow hairs of a whitetail make great lures, and flytiers – good ones, anyway – are notorious, constant scroungers of natural materials such as animal hairs, feathers and other stuff. Play your cards right, and you might get some neat flies back. Squirrel tails are another fantastic resource for fly and jig lure makers.
Buck Tail jig: One of the finest all-around lures I know of is a simple leadhead jig tied into a bucktail. Making one is simplicity itself – all you have to do tie some of the long tail hairs to the jig and go fishing.
Tip the jig with a minnow or a nightcrawler and and you have a very effective rig for catching walleye or northern pike. One of the most effective colors for the jig is the hair’s natural brown.
Soap: If an animal has fat, that fat can be rendered into lard, and made into soap. I made some soap one year from a fat whitetail doe, and distributed it to the rest of the hunting club members for Christmas presents. I called it “Buck Rub,” but think about it while you’re while out on stand, and you can probably come up with a better name!
Soapmaking expert Karla Moore regularly makes soap with a variety of wild game tallows. Click here to get her recipe for a basic bar soap.
Hides: I am too lazy to attempt braintanning a hide like the indigenous people did. But the hide can still be kept, rolled up in a garbage bag in your freezer, until it can be donated to a worthy cause. In many areas, barrels are placed at check stations to collect hides, and local civic clubs process the hides as fundraisers.
In my hometown of Bend, OR, the local taxidermist trades hides for leather gloves. The hide has value, even if you don’t personally want to tan it.
Antlers or Horns: Talk about a useful material! You can make handles for knives, and other tools, and use them for a multitude of pioneer products.
Saw an antler into thin slices, drill two holes in the center, and you have bone buttons. These become prime barter items at historic re-enactments or mountain man rendezvouses.
I used a piece of horn for the handle of my blackpowder rifle’s round ball short starter. It’s easy to make powder measures out of antler tips. Just cut off the desired length, clamp it into a drill press and start drilling. Pour sand or salt into the hole from a powder measure, and keep enlarging the hole until you get the right sized hole for the desired volume. When you’re done, check the capacity of the horn with a powder measure and gunpowder. These are so easy to make, you can have several.
Elk Ivory: Every elk has two ivory molars in the back of their jaws. I got a pair of nice ivories when I can across a kill site from some other hunters. My Leatherman allowed me to quickly remove the teeth.