Every year I seem to get into a discussion with some other hunter on aging a deer or other large game animal carcass. I’ve read the pros and cons and like politics, once someone has their mind-set on an issue no amount of talking is going to change it. Here is what I’ve garnered and go by. Whether you agree or not, I don’t really care. You do what you want and I’ll do what I want. Here are some considerations:
A young animal does not require any maturation period as its meat is naturally tender. Add that natural tenderness to the time elapse factor including the steps in harvesting the animal and the preparation process for freezing, canning, etc. and you are set to go.
If the animal is harvested in mild weather, around the 60 degree mark, and no access to a cooling chamber is available, aging is neither necessary or desirable. Rigor mortis (rigor) is not as severe and the enzymes responsible for the aging process work much faster. Three to four days is all that it will take to equal the tenderness of the meat if refrigeration is used. Again, if no refrigeration is available, remember that bacterial growth will be much higher if left longer than the 3 to 4 days.
If an animal was ‘run’, stressed, fearful or wounded before being killed, its glycogen levels in the meat have been lowered. Lactic acid buildup because of the lowered glycogen in the meat will not allow acidification in the muscles. Acidification in the meat usually hinders the growth of microorganisms, so maturation is not recommended. Also, remember that the meat of an animal harvested under these adverse conditions will be darker and stickier than that of an animal harvested under an ideal condition.
As I said before, do what you want. If you have access to refrigeration and want to age the carcass, be my guest, but it’s not always necessary.
Keep your fork