The deer died immediately, falling on a steep brush covered slope. The impact was so abrupt it caused the head to kick back and fall underneath the body as it collapsed backwards down the hill. My boyfriend Nick and I each grabbed an antler and dragged the deer to the flat bottom of the drainage. Once we reached the bottom we pulled out our knives and got to work. My first cut was at the base of the neck and worked back toward the rump. From there I skinned one half of the deer and began removing each cut of meat. After each cut was removed, I placed the meat into game bags and into our packs. There was this wild unspoken feeling of gratification and fulfillment that lingered as we worked. Our happiness was contagious. I paused for a moment during the process and thought about how incredible it was that I was in the mountains, harvesting the meat off an animal I stalked and killed.
I could not physically pick up my pack and throw it over my shoulders, so I rustled the pack onto a bit of a hill then sat, worked my arms into the straps and stood up from a squatting position. My first few steps were like a new born calf, wobbly and weak, but as I walked I found wild satisfaction in that heavy pack. I went into the woods with nothing, and came out with something. The weight in that pack signified even more than meat in the freezer, it meant I accomplished what I set out for.
We butchered the meat in the garage of First Lite’s HQ complete with music and beer. We cut, trimmed, packaged and labeled my entire deer while smiling and laughing along the way. Each package was labeled with my name, the date, and the cut of meat. I love knowing exactly how that meat was handled from start to finish.
As a hunter, I’ve formed an intimate connection to my food and knowing where it comes from. I adore the part of the hunt that takes place after the kill because to me, the dressing, quartering, and butchering process is the most fulfilling part of hunting. I felt that connection grow stronger through this experience. It is the story I love to share and the memories I value the most.
That feelings satisfaction comes back every time I reach into the freezer and pull out a roast labeled “Allie’s Mule Deer”.
Pittsburgh transplant, Allie D'Andrea, is the social media manager at FLHQ. She was stoked to shoot her first mule deer last Fall. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @outdoors_allie.