How Much Meat Will Your Deer Yield?

Does and bucks from similar age classes yield similar amounts of venison. You likely won't see big differences in meat yields until you can compare a mature buck with the rest of the meat-pole crowd.

The typical Northern fawn, which includes "button bucks," weighs about 55 to 75 pounds field dressed, while a healthy doe fawn weighs 45 to 65 pounds field dressed. Southern fawns weigh less - sometimes less than 30 pounds field dressed.

Yearling bucks, which range from small spikes to basket-racked 10-pointers, typically weigh 105 to 125 pounds.

Northern does weigh 105 to 120 pounds field dressed.

For decades, some hunters have relied on chest-girth charts to estimate live weights of deer. Unfortunately, such charts are often inaccurate because - among other things - they don't account for fluctuations in the body sizes of bucks before and after the rut. Most biologists put no stock in any weight estimates based on chest-girth measurements.

A hunter can obtain a ball-park estimate of his deer's live weight by multiplying its field-dressed weight by 1.28. This number came about after comparing it with several chest-girth charts. Granted, this estimate won't pass muster with biologists, but it should be good enough for deer-camp comparisons. For example, a yearling buck with a field-dressed weight of 125 pounds will have an estimated live weight of 160 pounds.

Misconceptions

By misjudging field-dressed weights of whitetails, hunters often have unrealistic expectations of how much venison they should receive from their butcher. Many aspects combine to determine venison yields. Although a neck-shot mature buck can yield a big amount of steaks, chops, hamburger and stew meat, the amount of meat seems minuscule when compared to the meat yield of domestic animals.

All animals are built a little different. For hogs, almost everything is used - bacon, hocks, etc. A deer has long legs with little meat on them, whereas steers have the same bone structure (but with more meat). It's the muscle and fat that make them different.

Although it would be convenient to say a deer's meat yield is equal to 50 percent of its field-dressed weight, it wouldn't be totally accurate. A buck's condition plays a large role in how much boneless venison it will yield.

Meat Yields (In Pounds)

Animal Weight* Meat Waste %Meat
Lamb** 50 40 10 80%
Hog 240 189 51 79%
Black Angus 600 438 162 73%
Holstein Steer 900 513 387 57%
Mature Buck 180 72 108 40%

*Carcass weight. Head, hide and intestines removed

**University of Wisconsin research

The Equation for Venison Yield

Hunters can learn more about their deer and how much venison it will yield by first obtaining an accurate field-dressed weight. This figure helps determine the deer's carcass weight - the deer's body weight minus its head, hide and innards. From there, it's easy to calculate how much venison is on the carcass.

It's important to note that this equation assumes that no part of the deer is lost to waste from tissue damage. Obviously, a deer suffering bullet - or to a lesser extent, arrow - damage to its back, hams, shoulders or neck will yield substantially less venison. Therefore, it includes calculations for "ideal" meat yield - the maximum amount of meat on a deer with nothing being lost to waste, and a "realistic" meat yield - the amount of meat a hunter can expect to receive after subtracting the pounds of meat lost to bullet/broadhead damage.

The equation does not account for meat that must be removed after being ruined by stomach contents or overexposure to warm weather.

Remember, to use the equation, first obtain an accurate field-dressed weight.

How Much Does it Weigh?

Mature white-tailed deer can be heavy, but much of their weight is distributed in non-meat areas. Here are some examples of how weight is distributed in Northern deer. (live weights in parenthesis)

Hide Factor

  • Fawn: (100 pounds) 6.7 percent
  • Adult doe: (140 pounds) 7.9 percent
  • Adult buck (160 pounds) 8.7 percent
  • Bucks: more than 160 pounds 9 percent

Bone Factor

  • Fawn: (100 pounds) 13.8 percent
  • Adult doe: (140 pounds) 13 percent
  • Adult buck (160 pounds) 12.4 percent
  • Bucks: more than 160 pounds 11.7 percent

Blood Factor

  • Fawn: (100 pounds) 6 percent
  • Adult doe: (140 pounds) 5 percent
  • Adult buck (160 pounds) 5 percent
  • Bucks: more than 160 pounds 5 percent

Using this guide as an example, a 180-pound buck would have 16.2 pounds of hide, 21.06 pounds of bones and 9 pounds of blood. Unfortunately, it's difficult to estimate the live weight of a deer if it has been field-dressed because the weight of a deer's innards varies depending on its health and diet.

- Pennsylvania State University, Department of Animal Science and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 1968
Our Thanks to DEER & DEERHUNTING Magazine for the use of this information.
  • Carcass weight = Field-dressed weight divided by 1.331
  • Ideal boneless venison weight = Carcass weight multiplied by .67
  • Realistic venison yield = Ideal boneless weight multiplied by .70

Let's say a hunter kills a mature buck, and it weighs 165 pounds field-dressed. Using the above equation, we estimate its carcass will weigh 124 pounds, and it will ideally yield 83.08 pounds of boneless meat. The deer's realistic meat yield is about 58.15 pounds.

Because waste can vary between deer, we suggest using the "realistic" figure as a gauge. In the above example, the buck's realistic meat yield would range form 58 to 68 pounds. A 10-pound difference doesn't seem like much when dealing with a large deer , but it's noticeable when the deer is a fawn or yearling.

Conclusion

In most cases, hunters will likely see little difference in meat yields between the deer they shoot. Does and bucks from similar age classes yield similar amounts of venison. In fact, don't expect to see big differences in your net venison yield unless you're comparing relatively young deer with a big, mature, deep-chested buck.



This product was added to our catalog on Sunday 10 July, 2005.

Copyright © 2014 Butcher and Packer. All Rights Reserved.