Whitetail deer hunting is an ancient and primal practice. Indigenous hunters have sacred traditions that involve honoring and appreciating the animal. Nothing was put to waste and every bit of the animal, from nose to tail, was utilized.
After whitetail hunting, many hunters tend to utilize the venison but then toss the bits that might be considered less palatable or perhaps seemingly useless. This includes intestines, hooves, bones, extra fat, etc. A growing trend in deer hunting is for hunters to think creatively about how to repurpose every bit of the animal so that nothing is wasted.
So what kinds of foods, products, and other useful or decorative items can you get from your deer? The possibilities are limitless.
Here is a list of whole animal usage ideas that include ways that experienced modern hunters, survivalists, homesteaders, and ancient hunters have utilized all of the different parts of an animal. This list does not include the basics of eating venison, because we’re sure you’ve already got that covered. For some delicious venison recipes, check out our post “Favorite Venison Recipes.”
Using the Innards (Organ Meat and Entrails)
- Intestines, after being thoroughly cleaned and dried, can be used as natural sausage casings.
Twist and dry intestines to use as cords.
- After very thorough cleaning and processing, you can use the bladder or stomach for storing water.
- Before you eat any internal organs, be sure to check with your local wildlife department to find out if there are any known illnesses or parasites to be aware of. If you get the all-clear, the liver, kidney, and heart are all edible and, when properly prepared, can be incredibly tasty.
- There is a very long global tradition of eating the deer’s heart that extends to countless ancient cultures all over the world. Whitetail deer hearts are complex and delicious when enjoyed fresh. Hearts are easy to clean and prepare.
- It might sound odd, but the tongue has some fantastic meat on it. In fact, tongue is eaten and enjoyed all over the world, so there are endlessly different ways to prepare it according to your particular tastes.
- Just can’t get your mind around eating any of these parts? They also make excellent dog food (when treated properly) and work really well in composting.
For all of these uses, when in doubt, consult a local expert.
Using the Tail
- Preserve and dye tails to use as fish lures/streamer flies.
- The traditional keychain application is also a popular use.
Using the Urine
- Make your own cover scent.
- If you have a doe, use the urine as a lure.
- You can also use the urine to remove hair for tanning the hide.
Using the Hide
- When field-dressing your whitetail deer, don’t just rip off and throw away the hide. Save it.
- Whitetail hide can be tanned into a variety of items, such as buckskin clothes, wall hangings, decorative throws, bill folds, custom bags, blankets, or anything else you can think of.
- You can take your hide to a professional to tan, or you can do it yourself. It is a lot of work and it takes a lot of time, but it’s definitely worth the reward.
- If you don’t want to tan it, use the rawhide for laces, straps, drum heads, or chews for your dog.
- If you’re feeling especially thrifty, a whitetail scrotum works perfectly as a pouch. Think outside the box!
- If you don’t want it, sell it.
Using the Blood
- Blood can be added to your compost to make a fantastic natural fertilizer.
- Eat it! Whitetail deer blood makes delicious blood pudding, blood sausage (be sure to use the intestines for the casing and the venison for the stuffing), and blood soup.
Using the Legs and Hooves
- Hooves can be melted down and used as a glue, gelatin, or oil.
- The lower part of the leg can be made into a mounted custom gun rack.
- The bottom part of the legs and hooves can be mounted onto wood and made into a coat rack.
Using the Head
- Save the skull to display on your walls.
- Some people use the brains of the animal to be used in the tanning process.
- Eat it. Animal heads offer some delicious, though perhaps seemingly unconventional, eats. Remove the hair and ears, and then roast the head whole with vegetables and BBQ sauce. Make it into soup stock.
- Sell or trade it. If you don’t want it, someone else probably does.
- Teeth can be made into buttons or jewelry.
- Grind up teeth and use as homemade sandpaper.
- Using the Fat and Sinew
- Whitetail deer fat can be slowly boiled down and rendered into tallow. Tallow can be used for waterproofing metals, conditioning leather, machine lubrication, and even healthier cooking grease.
- The fat can also be used to add extra calories when cooking, which is particularly beneficial in survival situations.
- Rendered fat can be used as fuel for torches.
- Sinew can be dried out and used as cordage for lacing or sewing. Try using it as sewing thread for your deer hide!
- Sinew can also be dried and used as bow strings and to back traditional bows.
- Sinew can be easily absorbed by the body. When properly sterilized and processed, it makes fantastic thread for sutures.
Using the Bones
- Bones are often thrown away, which is a total waste! Whitetail bones can be used in a variety of ways because they are so versatile.
- Bones are ideal for soup stocks. You can also use the marrow in your cooking. Try roasted seasoned marrow on toast.
- Thoroughly clean bones and give to your dog as a special treat. NOTE: Do NOT give your dog bones after they have been boiled or cooked in any way. This softens the bones and makes them likely to break and/or splinter, which is incredibly dangerous for your pooch. Raw, thick, larger bones are perfectly safe.
- Compost bones, or grind them up and use them as bone meal. This makes excellent fertilizer.
- Bones can be made into needles, knives, tools, fish hooks, earrings, other jewelry, buttons, arrow heads, etc. Some people even claim that well-carved bone tools are just as efficient as metal!
Dry bones and burn them. They burn longer and hotter than firewood and are perfect for a fire after a day of hunting.
- Carve into the shape you desire and use to display around your office or home.
Using the Antlers
- There is a LOT you can do with antlers. In fact, you’re really only limited by your imagination.
- Whenever drilling or cutting antlers, be sure to wear a face mask.
- Use as rattling antlers. You can also make deer antlers into game calls.
- Cut into buttons or make into zipper pulls.
- Combine antlers from a couple of whitetail deer hunts and make an impressive chandelier.
With some ink from your local craft store, transform antler tips into custom writing pens.
Use those carving and polishing skills to make earrings, rings, necklaces, or any other kind of jewelry.
- Antlers can also be made into holiday ornaments.
- Antlers can be made into basket handles, drawer or cabinet pulls, or unique magnets for your refrigerator.
- Want to spice up your kitchen? How about some antler salt and pepper shakers?
- Maybe you prefer a handle on a bottle opener?
- They can also be made into napkin holders.
- Antlers make great hat or coat racks, or even towel holders for your bathroom.
- You can make them into letter openers, knife handles, key rings, and a stand for your business cards.
- They make really nice game pieces for checkers or chess.
- They can be made into whistles.
- Imagine displaying a picture of you with your harvested whitetail deer in a frame made from its antlers.
- Make it into a fire starter or fire striker for your next campfire.
- Last, but certainly not least, antlers make incredible back scratchers.
When it comes to using all the parts of a whitetail deer, you are only limited by your own imagination and resourcefulness.
With all of these ideas and tips, you should end up with a very minimal gut pile. If you throw any soft tissue remaining off to the side, scavengers will finish everything off and then you will have truly utilized every bit of the animal after your whitetail hunt.
What will you make?