Use the Whole Animal: 5 Uses For Non-Meat Deer Parts

| 2/14/2020 9:38:00 AM

In the world of deer hunting, it is common to see leftover parts of the hunt given new purpose through taxidermy and hide tanning. However, there are other surprising uses for the leftovers from processing that are commonly considered waste. If you or someone you know is interested in crafting with a recently taken deer, consider re-purposing these parts for a variety of projects.

Please note: When crafting with parts from any member of the Cervid family, including deer, elk, or moose, please note local regulations and use safety in order to help prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Legs: Bone Needles

The deer leg itself features many different pieces you can harvest and use for crafting. The hooves can be removed, the hide cut off and tanned, tendons harvested for sinew, and the bone saved for projects as well. In particular, we favor saving the bone for creating deer leg bone needles. These sturdy, practical needles can be used in sewing the hide of the same deer it came from. Nalbinding needles can be made in the same way, and some folks can even make bone folders used for book binding or origami.

 handmade bone needles
Handmade deer leg bone needles we've made ourselves. Photo: Fala Burnette (Wolf Branch Homestead)

Fat: Tallow Candles

When processing your own deer, separating the fat from the meat is usually a part of saving that meat and may normally be discarded. Add your fat to its own container and make your own emergency candles from them. If having your deer processed elsewhere, ask the individual if they will save the fat for you. The fat must first be rendered by melting it down and straining it, and then the rendered tallow can be used to make candles by pouring it into heat-safe jars with a wick set into the jar. Steps for rendering tallow can easily be found when searching online or in print.

Tendons: Sinew

In processing a deer, a commonly favored area of meat is found in the backstrap. There lies a tendon in this area covering the backstrap, white in color that can be separated and dried for use in making sinew. For shorter pieces of sinew, the tendon running along the back of the deer's legs can also be harvested. This makes for another great use when saving up deer legs. Once thoroughly dried, you can separate the fibers gently with the rounded end of a ball peen hammer or a smooth, round stone. Sinew can be used for a variety of cordage or sewing projects.

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