Choice Cuts

Butcher & breakdown of a big-game animal.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: the real work begins once a big-game animal hits the ground. There are several ways to field-dress an animal, but you’ll end up with the same cuts of meat regardless. Here are the major muscle groups off a Montana ungulate.

The football-shaped sirloins are ideal for braising, the bottom rounds cut thinly for carne asada, and the top rounds sliced into thick steaks. Plenty of trim, too, for stew meat.

Front Quarters
The meat off front quarters can be sinewy, and is often ground into burger along with other scraps. Give the real tough stuff, down near the hoof, to the dog.

These long cylinders of meat are tucked away on either side of the backbone, and are commonly steaked out for grilling. A favorite cut for many hunters.

Nestled into the posterior of the animal just above the gut cavity, these succulent cuts are tricky to remove but well worth the effort. Often grilled over an open fire right then and there.

If possible, pack out the neck, bone-in (you’ll need a bone saw to do this) for an excellent, tender roast. Loads of trim on this section, for sausage and burger. (Note: in areas where Chronic Wasting Disease is prevalent, leave the spine and all neck bones in the field.)

Other Cuts
The flanks, brisket, and rib meat off wild ungulates are nothing like those off their cattle counterparts. They’re thin and sinewy, and unless properly doctored are best ground into burger. When in doubt about how you’ll use a certain cut, freeze it whole to leave your options open.