How Long Does it Take to Skin a Deer?

You can’t get to the meat of the deer without removing the skin and knowing how to skin a deer correctly not only takes practice, but it also takes time and under certain situations, the time it takes matters.

The fastest you could skin a deer is approximately 25 minutes, and the longest method could take up to 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The average amount of time it takes to skin a deer is 40 minutes.

What to Consider Time Wise

There are a few things to consider when choosing the ideal skinning method for your specific situation. It is important to note that just because one method is the quickest, does not mean it is the best.

  • Purpose of animal

If the animal was hunted purely for meat or was it a trophy hunt and you want to keep the cape/hide to be sent to the taxidermist. In this case, different cuts will be made to the skin depending on the outcome

  • Vicinity to skinning shed

Getting an animal hung up with the correct equipment will always be an advantage. If the animal was hunted near a skinning shed, it may be worth the extra time and effort to load the animal and begin skinning once you are at the shed.

  • Temperature or Predator Pressure

Hot weather and meat do not go well together. If it is a hot day, your number one objective will be to get the deer carcass skinned out, processed, and cooled as soon as possible.

Similarly, if there are predators in the area, such as bears, you certainly don’t want to waste time skinning and have them catch the scent of the carcass on the wind.

  • Hunting alone or with friends

An extra pair of knowledgeable hands will always be helpful and make the process move along that little bit quicker. But if you are hunting alone, then you may want to adopt a specific skinning method

  • Guts in or out

The internal organs are not for everyone, and there is no judgment here if you decide to leave them behind. Just because you don’t want them, does not mean they have to come out. Not removing the internal organs will save time.

Different Methods of Skinning Deer and the Time it Takes

Method 1 – Field Skin on the Ground

How Long Does it Take to Skin a Deer?

Time to skin: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes

Number of hunters skinning: 1 – 2

The first method is directed more toward those backcountry hunters, that are a good few miles away from anything that resembles a skinning shed and will have to pack out what they kill.

The idea behind ground skinning of a deer (assuming the hunter does not want the cape) is to get it skinned out, quartered up, and packed into backpacks as soon as possible.

With ground skinning, the deer is laid onto its side and the “skin side facing up” is effectively peeled back and used as a groundsheet.

The desired cuts of meat are then removed, such as the shoulder joints, rumps, and loins. As each piece is removed, they are placed on top of the folded-out skin to keep the meat clean from dirt and grass until they are packed into meat bags.

Each side of the deer should take about 30 minutes.

It is important to note, that the skin should not be removed completely in the first stage, and neither should the internal organs.

Once the desired cuts of meat have been removed, roll the deer carcass onto the “folded out” skin and now perform the same process on the unskinned side. 

With all the desired meat cuts removed and packed, the internal organs can then be removed, and inner tenderloins or ribs extracted from the deer.

For those that are unfamiliar with this way of skinning, the time will be increased to at least 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

Ways to save time on this method:

  1. Having another person hold the legs or peel back the skin as you cut, will save time
  2. Not removing internal organs
  3. Pack a tarp or groundsheet, remove the deer’s skin all at once and place the carcass on top of groundsheet

Method 2 – Hang the Deer

Time to skin: 20 minutes to 45 minutes

Number of hunters skinning: 1

By far the most ideal and efficient way of skinning a deer is by hanging it and skinning it while you are standing.

As mentioned earlier, if you are close enough to a skinning shed to get the deer there before you need to start skinning, then do it.

This will save you time, convenience, and your back and allow you to work in a fashion that will keep the carcass clean.

Let’s presume for those reading this article that you know the basics behind skinning out a deer.

The biggest advantage to skinning a hanging deer and the main reason why it saves so much time is because the skin and internal organs can all be removed efficiently without having to do any butchering as you go.

Once the skin is removed completely, the cutting up of the carcass can then begin.

Ways to save time on this method:

  1. Skin the deer while it is still warm.
  2. Remove the front and hind legs at the joints before drawing up the deer. Removing the legs at the joint takes less than 5 minutes
  3. Extra people helping to skin, especially on large animals such as an elk will reduce the time

Method 4 – Pre-Cut Into Thirds

How Long Does it Take to Skin a Deer?

Time to skin: 25 minutes to 40 minutes

Number of hunters skinning: 1 – 2

This method is suitable for whether the deer is on the ground or hung up and may be used if there is no intention of keeping the deer hide to be mounted or preserved.

completely remove the head, at the point where the neck meets the base of the skull, with a large knife or bone saw, which should take 2 to 3 minutes.

Make a circle cut around the mid-rift just behind the front shoulders of the deer, going right around the body, and one cut straight up from the circular cut to the top of the neck, this will take 4 to 5 minutes.

Make a similar circular cut around the body just in front of the hind legs and then a clean straight cut over the top of the spine between the back and front legs. This will take 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the front and back legs of the deer at the knee and hock joints. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.

Make a final cut up the back right leg from where the point of the hock and to the rectum of the deer. Make a similar cut up the back left leg, this will take 4 to 5 minutes.

With the cuts made, the deer skin has effectively been divided up into three sections, the neck and front legs, the mid-section between the legs, and the rear legs and rump.

Peel or cut away the skin from each section which should take a total of 10 to 12 minutes.

Method 5 – Trophy Skinning For Shoulder Mount

Time to skin: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes

Number of hunters skinning: 1

Skinning out a deer for the purposes of sending the cape to a taxidermist and having it mounted takes a little more skill and patience than the conventional type of skinning that we are all accustomed to.

The most common form of mount on a deer is the shoulder mount, which for those who do not know, is when only the front quarter of the animal (head, antlers, and chest) is mounted and hung on the wall.

The time for skinning out a deer hide that will be used in a mount, generally takes longer because specific cuts need to be made that are required for the taxidermist as opposed to cuts that make the removal of the skin easier.

Another factor that adds time is that any meat, membrane, or fat needs to be completely removed from the skin and this is best done while skinning the animal.

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