The great Debate. Does Wild Game benefit from hanging and aging like beef does or not?

Discussion in 'Wild Game' started by rbranstner, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    OK I have gotten into many debates over this subject and I kind of want to put it to rest if possible. There have been a lot of wild game posts lately as the hunting seasons are getting over and everyone seems to have their own thinking on weather wild game (lets say venison and elk for this discussion) benefits from hanging and aging or if it doesn't help at all because the meat/fat fibers don't break down in wild game like they do in say beef. I know people who insist that you must hang your wild game for X amount of days to age it then cut it up and I know people who insist that the wild game has no benefit at all from hanging so you should cut the meat up right away. I was going to do some research on this but though with all the knowledge on this site maybe someone would have some hard proven scientific facts to back one or the other theories. Feel free to state your opinions and what your personal preferences are but in the end I am hoping to find some actual scientific facts to back one or the other.

    And also so everyone is on the same page lets assume that when you are hanging your deer you are hanging it in temps that you would see in a fridge so we know the meat would be cold and not spoil from warm weather.

    I am going to do some searching and see what I can find.

    I have always been taught that venison doesn't not benefit from again because the fibers do not break down like beef so we hang, skin and quarter all of our deer the same night they are shot and we get them into the fridge to cool down as soon as possible and then cut it up as soon as we have time which is usually within a day or so. But I don't have any scientific facts to back this up.

    I am looking forward to seeing every ones responses.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I read somewhere, in the last two weeks, that meat needs to hang at 45 - 50 degrees until the carcass has come out of rigor. If that is not done the meat will be tough and have a weird flavor... I have always hung elk for at least a week. One I hung for 11 days in a cooler and it was awesome...

    Here is an article that explain what one person thinks about this....

    This one is really interesting... Dave
  3. sound1

    sound1 Smoking Fanatic

    I don't know if the fiber breakdown occurs as in beef but I dry age some of my game for taste alone. Aging concentrates the natural flavors within the meat.  Elk, which IMO, has a natural sweet taste, I may hang for an extended time before final processing. The deer around here don't have the benefit of being corn fed and tend to have a "gamey" taste to them, so aging will concentrate that flavor, therefor, a quick chill and process as soon as I have time. Just my $.02
  4. ecto1

    ecto1 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Growing up in South Texas we did not have the benefit of hanging unless you had a walk in cooler.  We could be at 40 degrees one day and at 80 degrees the next.  We have always processed out venison same day unless we had a very good cold snap.  I have not killed a deer in about 4 years but plan to start heading out o the ranch a lot more in the upcoming years.  Still then we have so many Hogs right now that deer is not the priority on our land.      
  5. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have both aged deer at appropriate temps and literally butchered some while still warm (weird to do, BTW) because we were leaving the ranch that morning for a 24 hour run home, and I have not noticed any difference in flavor or tenderness. Our experience is with dozens of deer, and with both does and bucks.

    On a related note, we have literally cut bite-sized pieces off a fresh kill while processing/butchering and roasted them on a pitchfork in front of the propane heater (with a little rub on them) -- these morsels may be the most tender, flavorful venison I have ever consumed!

    We also got a cow elk in CO a few years back, and she went from the field to the processor and rock-hard frozen in about 2 days with outstanding results.

    I don't think you'll settle this once and for all, RB, but for my money, there is no great difference with deer. My elk experience is limited to 2 -- one cow & one bull, so I really can't speak to differences in that arena.

    This should be a lively thread, for sure!!! I've had spirited discussions with hunters on both sides of this one, and man -- can the sparks fly!!! LOL! Bottom line: experiement, then do whatever make YOU happy with the product.

    I may have to journey up to W. Fargo, kill a deer with you, split it down the middle, immediatley butcher one half, and age the other, then have a blind taste-test. But I'm sure even those results wouldn't settle this thing. Traditions and beliefs run too deep to change many minds. :biggrin:
  6. Very nice there Dave.

    I just found out things that I never knew or even really thought about.

    Thank you for those links.

  7. melleram

    melleram Smoke Blower

    I think deer are much easier to cut up after hanging for a couple days.  The slimy membranes dry up, the silverskin is easier to remove, and the meat is much firmer making it easier to slice.  A good frined of mine has a walk in, so all my deer hang a minimum of 2 days
  8. owlcreeksmoker4

    owlcreeksmoker4 Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Iv'e never had the opportunity to do this as i never have a good enough cold streak where I live. I did however call alot of hunting budding in new york and all said that they think the meat benefits from hanging. hope i helped a lil
  9. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Not an option down here in Florida, unless you have a freezer.
  10. coffee_junkie

    coffee_junkie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I hang all my red meat game, I think it makes a difference if you are eating steak from it. If I am gonna grind and stuff the animal then I don't waste my time. I do however hang my ducks for a while if the temp in the garage allow me to, (mostly if it is too cold then they freeze until april with the feathers on.[​IMG])

    No deer this year for me so not an option.[​IMG]
  11. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I think it makes a big difference and used to do it most of the time but in the last few years I just grind all of mine up in ground meat except the backstrap and tender loin... but I am sure that JJ will have something to say about this.....
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  12. plj

    plj Meat Mopper

    I've been a field-to-freezer-to-table guy for decades (ouch!), I do all my own processing.  Three in the freezer so far this year.

    Regarding aging, I follow a few simple guidelines that IMO are common sense.

    1) The older generation hunters (late 1800s thru ww2) I've known all age their venison. All. The older I get, the more I respect/admire/envy their knowledge, wish they were still around.

    2) It does not make sense to me that red meat ungulates (deer/elk/cow/moose/caribou) meat would age differently.
    Therefore I age it whenever possible.

    If it's warmer than 40-45, I bone the meat and hang it in my extra fridge in the garage.

    Unless absolutely unavoidable, I dont butcher until rigor mortise has passed.

    The worst tasting toughest meat I eat is cut & cooked before rigor mortise was done - in camp, day of kill. I'd like to say I wont ever ever make that mistake again, but I probably will.

    The best cuts have all been dry aged beef.

    One other tidbit: I had heard years ago that you dont need to age it if you freeze it right away, because freezing damages the cell walls thus making it more tender.  I did that a few times when I was younger, but I've fallen back on aging.

    Lots of opinions on the net, thats one of the problems with researching it.  So yeah, sorry, I dont have any links or government studies.

    I'm looking forward to following this thread though, thanks for starting it.
    evensons likes this.
  13. plj

    plj Meat Mopper

    I'd also like to add that aging isnt the only step that effects flavor and tenderness -

    Diet - behavior - manner of dying - cooling & cleaning - storage - cooking

    What did the animal eat, corn or sagebrush?

    What was the animal doing the day it was taken?  Was it a rutting buck that got chased all day and the muscles are full of fear hormones and lactic acid?

    Quick clean death?

    gutted cleanly, skinned, cooled quickly?


    shrink wrapped in large cuts (primals)?

    proper preparation & cooking?

    I think that if you are doing a good job on 5 of the 6, you might not notice the difference in skipping aging. But I'm a firm believer that doing all of the steps well provides the optimal result. Take a calm fat doe with a sharp broadhead, cool quickly, age, shrink wrap primals to prevent any freezing issues, prepare properly to medium rare... mmmmmmm!

    The older guys all shot doe, rural families all shoot doe/cows... there's a reason.  "You cant eat the horns" isnt sour grapes, its advice.
  14. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Lots of different practices and theories out there as I expected. Hey if you like the way it tastes then keep doing what you are doing.
  15. Ive got a book that goes into the science of what happens to the meat after its killed. it has time charts and such for tenderness vs age time. It talks about cold shortening ,, rigor, aging etc etc. The book its called    Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages by Stanley Marianksi, and Adam Marianski.  Ive got several of their books and have a great respect for their knowledge. This book is about 700 pages long and chocked full of info, But the long and short is that  for deer the tenderness drops about 5 hours after killing and bottoms out about a day and a half and then starts rising again until about the 6 th day its back to when it was initally killed and tenderness keeps rising until it peaks after the 14th day. This is at 34-38 F. The older the deer the more it benefits from aging.  There is really no benefit to aging meat that is to be ground.  I dont have the facilities to age my deer, but I hope to soon. So right now young deer go into steaks and older deer I use for grinding. Not a shill or anything for their product, just glad to have a resource that has some science behind it.
  16. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  17. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Great discussion...When ANY animal is dispatched changes take place in the muscle fibers. During the first 72 hours a Chemical change causes Rigor Mortis, a shrinking or contracting of the muscle that makes the meat extremely tough. If meat is frozen before rigor has passed the meat is refered to as Green and is not all that great to eat. There is a noted lack of tenderness and has very little flavor. By day 4 rigor has pasted the muscles relax and Enzymes begin to break down the Proteins in the meat and it begins to get more tender. It is this enzyme action when combined with other factors like animal age, type or breed, sex, stress level at death, fat content and diet, determines what that meat will taste like, whether you call it Beefy or Gamey this is how the meat get it's flavor. Time plays the biggest roll because all these changes take time. This aging will take place as long as the meat is not Frozen. In Dry aging moisture in the meat evaporates further concentrating the developing flavors and gives an even Richer meaty taste. If the meat is Cryovaced, Wet aged, the enzymzatic action still takes place but there is no evaporation or concentration of flavor. Wet aging is the most used because there is little weight loss as the meat ages and there for makes more money. Because of Safety issues all these changes have to take place under 40*F and is very likey not possible at every Deer camp or in parts of the country that have warm temps during deer season. So Safety should come first and processing should take place shortly after death but, just don't Freeze it for a week or so for more flavorful tender meat....JJ

    The following links go into more detail:   or Google...What happens when meat ages?
  18. sound1

    sound1 Smoking Fanatic

    Good one JJ...THX
  19. woundedyak

    woundedyak Smoke Blower

    I half to 100% agree with this. With my experience,This is the same results That I have come up with
  20. jeanne

    jeanne Newbie

    have you ever seen how the French hang meat?  There is a definite difference.  Hang it where the temp is above 50, where there are no flies, with the hide on. About two weeks should do it. 

    Fork tender and delish.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2011

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