How to Debone A Deer Shoulder

Deer shoulders are bony and don't have much meat. Is it worth the effort to process one? Yes, and here's how to do it.

How to Debone A Deer Shoulder

Deer shoulders are bony and don't have much meat on them, which leads many hunters to not even fool around with processing this part of a deer.

On an elk, moose or caribou, the shoulder is bigger. Everything's relative in size, but you're not going to throw away the shoulder of one of these animals. Some hunters do that with deer shoulders. Bowhunters don't worry about this. Gun hunters do, though. If they shoot the buck or doe in the shoulder with a rifle  — a common target area — the bullet's going to create trauma and shattered bones. A bloody, bone-chip mess goes in the dump pile in most instances.

Several years ago while hunting in Saskatchewan, at midday a chocolate-antlered beast buck casually strolled to the alfalfa pile about 50 yards from my ground blind. I typically don't hunt over bait but that's how it was done, so I waited and watched in the bone-numbing cold that day. My beverage froze between my legs inside my Heater Body Suit, as did my sandwiches.

Three times that morning I'd watched a doe and yearling approach the alfalfa, then scamper away as a small buck moved in. So about 2 p.m. as I was enjoying a crunchy bologna and cheese sandwich while watching the doe and yearling again, I noticed they'd disappeared. Movement to the right revealed an antler, and then a "Whoa, that's a nice buck!" moment.

The Mossberg Patriot barked moments later, with a Federal Fusion in .308 hitting just behind the shoulder blade. The buck bucked, ran a semi-circle about 25 or so yards and fell over. It was the first whitetail killed in North America with the Patriot and scored about 145 B&C. The outfitter said it easily went weighed more than 275, which is what his scale tipped at. While cleaning it, the front shoulders were a mess. The entry shoulder, the one facing me, was full of blood. The rear shoulder was shattered and bloody. If the outfitter kept those to eat, God bless him. I don't believe he did, and I wouldn't have, either.

With whitetails here in the states typically smaller, in most cases, the front shoulders defintely take abuse. Whether it's a .243 or 12-gauge slug, a muzzleloader bullet or the heralded 6.5 Creedmoor, one or both can be destroyed.

However, if the shoulders aren't messed up don't throw them away! The shoulders may be bony but there's enough meat on there for soups and stews, tacos or jerky. If the shoulders are clean, non-bloody and not shattered, keep them and debone them. Here's how to do it:

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