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deer carcass, whitetail deer

Deer carcass disposal is an issue of both safety and legality, but be sure to use as much of the deer as you can before disposing of it properly.

Natural resources are incredibly important. When these are wasted, it does a disservice to both the animal and the hunter who harvested it. Rather than dump inedible parts that can otherwise be used for something, retain them and let them be destined for things you or others can use and benefit from.

Of course, taking edible portions isn’t even a question. That’s a must. Wanton waste laws vary from state to state, but in most cases, it requires hunters to process all edible portions of the animal. Even the most lenient states require hunters to retain the front quarters, hind quarters, back straps, and tenderloins. Other states also require the ribs, neck, etc.

There are many other parts of the deer that can be used beyond the edible. Historically, everything had a use case. And while some of those are no longer necessary or viable for modern life, most are.

Here’s what you should know.

Proper Deer Carcass Disposal

Despite increased usage of a whitetail, it’s crucial to dispose of remaining deer carcasses properly. Most states regulate this, so it’s critical to know your region’s legalities. This is very important for preventing disease spread, especially Chronic Wasting Disease, which has been discovered in 29 states and two Canadian provinces. 

Know Where It’s Best to Dispose Deer Carcasses

Where legal, dispose of deer on the property it originated from. This will keep deer biologics where they lived their life and reduces the odds of transporting CWD and other diseases to areas they previously weren’t located. 

Furthermore, never dispose of deer along roadways or on a property you don’t have permission to be on. Place carcasses well away from waterways. Better yet, use state-provided disposal sites.

Some states allow disposal of deer parts in your general trash pickup. In these cases, it’s generally required to double bag the carcass. 

Know Before You Go: Deer Transport Law

Most importantly, know the laws for transporting harvested deer across state lines. In most cases, deer that are transported outside of CWD containment areas, or across state lines, must be boned out.

According to CWD-info.org, it’s best practice to transport deer — or other cervids including elk and moose — in the following ways:

  • Meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately).
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
  • Meat that has been boned out.
  • Hides with no heads attached.
  • Clean (no meat or tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached.
  • Antlers with no meat or tissue attached.
  • Upper canine teeth, also known as “buglers,” “whistlers,” or “ivories.”
  • Finished taxidermy.

Even if a state you’re traveling to doesn’t regulate this, you can prevent spreading CWD by choosing to travel clean with your personal trophies, be they a doe, cow elk, or bull moose.

Beyond Meat: Parts of the Deer Carcass to Use

deer carcass
Photo: Sheila Brown

Antlers: Rattlers, Decor, Dog Chews

The crown atop a whitetail buck’s head, antlers certainly aren’t edible. But they are usable. These make for great decor or a set of rattling antlers. Wearing protective gloves and using an appropriate cutting tool, carefully and safely remove the brow tines.

Always wear safety glasses and a face mask when cutting antlers. Antler dust is very fine and shouldn’t be breathed in.

Antlers also make other decorative yet practical objects beyond a mount. Use them for wall-mounted holders for hats, garments, and other things. Collections of whitetail headgear also make great chandeliers, handles, and ornaments. You can also give these to dogs as chew toys.

Deer Tallow: Make Soap, Candles

Deer are quite lean, but they do have fat stores, especially prior to the rut. Unfortunately, it is not nearly as tasty as beef and other fats. The main issue in eating tallow is its tendency to coat your mouth with an unpleasant feel. Still, it’s loaded with calories and can be useful in a pinch.

But, if calories from waxy tallow aren’t on the menu, you can utilize tallow to make soap or even candles.

Glands for the Deer Stand

Whitetails have eight different types of glands, including the forehead, interdigital, metatarsal, nasal, preorbital, preputial, salivary, and tarsal gland. Each of these serve different purposes and secrete mucus and scent for a variety of reasons.

Fortunately, hunters can remove some of these glands. Freeze these until time to hunt. Then, while wearing gloves, hang them up in shooting lanes to stop deer for a shot opportunity, or in front of trail cameras to get photos. You can even hang tarsal glands above scrapes and mock scrapes. 

Guts Make Excellent Bait

Guts make for useful bait for predator hunting. Placing these in a location where they commonly travel can be a great way to pose coyotes and other animals for shot opportunities.

Remember to check local laws prior to baiting any animal, as legalities change from state to state.

Hides For Decor, Clothing

The hides of harvested deer are commonly used for taxidermy products. There are other ways to use these, though. Craft durable jackets, pants, blankets, rugs, additional leather materials, and other useful items. Where legal, you can even attach it to your deer decoy to add realism. By implementing the tanning process, you can turn a hide into something of value.

Hooves for Hunting, Glue, Gun Racks

There are few things you can use hooves for, but those who want to take their mock scrapes to the next level should save hooves from harvested deer. Then, place tracks in the soil throughout the scrape. This will deposit scent and make that scrape look ultra-realistic. Hooves can also be (safely) deduced to chips, placed in boiling water, and melted into a glue. This can be used for your glue-based needs. 

Hooves and lower legs can also be used to make decorative gun racks. Learn how to make one here.

Jawbones, Sawbones

A younger deer still sporting a good set of teeth has useful jawbones. Remove these from the skull, and you have a small, handheld saw. This won’t cut tough materials, such as wood. But it will saw through other fibrous materials, such as large grasses and stalks.

Sinew for Rope, Sewing, Archery

Tendons and ligaments are classified as sinews. These make excellent raw materials for ropemaking. Simply remove these from the deer and dry until it’s ready for use. Then, create helpful ropes that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Sinew also works as backing for primitive bows. And it can be used to sew projects where nylon might not work.

Skulls Are Ultimate Deer Decor

People have been decorating with skulls since the time of the cave man. Hang them on a wall, sit them on a desk, or place them some other place that needs spicing or sprucing.

Tails For Decoys

Don’t throw out that tail. It’s perfect for boosting the realism of your deer decoy. Tacking it onto the end of the deke is an excellent way to make it more realistic.

Letting it move freely in the wind makes your decoy seem as if it’s flicking its tail, just as a live whitetail.

Final Thoughts: Proper Deer Carcass Disposal

Fortunately, while the edible portions of deer are incredibly delicious and nutritious, it’s obvious there are many things you can do with some of the inedible parts, too. Keep that in mind this season as you fill your deer tags but dispose of the scraps responsibly.

21 Best Times to Kill Big Whitetail Bucks
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