Not everyone owns a walk-in cooler, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hang your deer and try your hand at the aging process. Wherever you’re going to hang your deer, you need to do it at the right temperature, though. Otherwise, you can damage the meat or cause it to spoil. Do your homework, and you’ll end up with well-aged, delicious venison.
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What’s the Best Temperature to Hang Deer?
The ideal temperature for hanging deer is between 32℉ and 40℉, or 0℃ and 4℃. Below this temperature, the meat will begin to freeze, which can inhibit the natural enzymes and therefore delay the aging process and damage the meat. At temperatures below 28℉, the meat may also experience freezer burn. Above 40℉, bacterial growth can happen too fast, which can lead to meat spoilage.
Temperatures warmer than 40℉ are possible but far from ideal. As a general rule, you shouldn’t hang deer at temperatures over 50℉ at, while hanging at 40–50℉ should be limited to a few hours, overnight at most.
What About Humidity?
Humidity is not as significant a factor as temperature, but you should still check it. Extremely low humidity below 50% can cause the venison to dry out too quickly and basically turn to jerky. However, this is mainly only a problem in western states like Arizona and Nevada. Otherwise, ideal humidity for deer hanging is about 70%.
How to Cool Venison for Hanging
40℉ is fairly cold, that of a standard refrigerator, so it can be difficult to find a space big enough for a full deer carcass. The most obvious solution is a walk-in cooler. This could be your own or one at your local meat processor that lets you rent space.
If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler, things can be a lot more difficult. Luckily, since most deer hunting takes place in the late fall or winter, outdoor temperatures may be low enough to hang your deer without any extra technology.
It’s important to look at your weather forecast to see how variable it will be. For example, it may drop below 40℉ over night but rise into the 60s during the day. In this case, you’ll have to limit your hanging to the nighttime and wake up in time to take down your deer and process it before the heat arrives.
Where to Hang Deer
The ideal places to hang deer to take advantage of the outdoor temperature are garages, basements and sheds. However, it’s worth checking the temperature patterns in these places before the season starts.
Depending on how the garage or shed is situated, it may experience more extreme temperatures than the outdoors. For instance, while the forecast shows that the temperature will remain below 40℉ throughout the day, the sun beating down on a southward facing aluminum shed may cause it to heat up considerably. Conversely, an isolated basement may be able to maintain a temperature near 40℉ over a long period of time despite fluctuating temperatures outside, and that would allow you to hang your deer for longer.
If all else fails, you can always hang your venison outside. In this case, you need to pay close attention to the weather and ideally hang the deer carcass in a shaded, secluded area.
Whether hanging inside your garage or in your backyard, protecting the deer meat is paramount. This means doing your best to keep it from insects, scavenging animals, and dirt and grime. Part of this is ensuring that there is decent air circulation.
How to Hang Venison in Warm Weather
As a native of the Ozarks, I know how variable some places can be when it comes to weather and temperature. You can take down a buck in the middle of a snowstorm only to wake up to beach weather the next day. If you live in the mid or deep South or other areas where temps regularly rise above 40℉ during the hunting season, you need to know how to care for venison in warmer weather.
As a good rule of thumb, you should limit the time you hang your deer above 40℉. If it’s still under 50℉, you may try leaving it overnight, but proceed with caution.
However, many ambitious hunters still ask if they can let a deer hang in 50-degree weather. Frankly, you should not hang your deer at temperatures above 50℉ and should instead process it as quickly as possible.
If you’re at home, process and butcher your deer and get the sections of meat into containers in the fridge or freezer. If you’re in the field, you should at least quarter the deer and carry it in coolers, ideally with added ice.
One solution many hunters use who otherwise don’t have access to temperatures cool enough for hanging is an extra refrigerator. Take out all the racks and internal drawers and storage. It certainly won’t be large enough for a full deer carcass, but it will be enough to quarter the deer and hang a leg or two.
The Science of Hanging
While the ideal temperatures for hanging deer are well established and indisputable, that’s pretty much the only aspect of hanging and aging that’s agreed upon. From hanging orientation to time to whether you should even hang at all, the whitetail hunting community seems to be in endless debate. If you’re new to hanging, it’s worth taking the time to study the different opinions and basis for each to produce the best-tasting venison you can.