The hindquarters, or hams, contain many of the choicest cuts of meat on a deer, so you want to process it with as much care and attention to detail as possible to get the most out of it. In the rear quarter you’ll find the sirloins and rounds, both of which are great for cooking whole or slicing into steaks.
Deboning these back legs is relatively simple and only requires a few well-placed cuts. Watch this video first to see how to remove the hindquarter from the deer’s body. Once you have it off, lay the ham on a table with the inside and ball joint (where the femur connects to the hip) facing upward.
You’ll see a thin strip of meat running straight from the ball joint to the knee. Lightly cut the fascia holding it to the larger muscles on either side, pull it free, and add it to your grind or stew meat pile. That will expose a seam that runs right down to the femur. You can feel the bone through the meat with your fingers to place your cut, then slice gently downward until you hit the femur. Be careful not to cut against bone and dull your knife.
From here, you’re trying to free the bone from the muscles while leaving the muscles as intact as possible. You can accomplish this by pushing the meat apart to show the bone, then making long, shallow cuts along the length of the femur, tracing its outline.
This is one of the cuts Steve Rinella had in mind when he was designing the Meatcrafter Knife with Benchmade. A long blade with a sharp, flexible tip helps to bend around the femur to get all the meat off the bone. This is a difficult cut to do well with a short, stout hunting blade.
As you work around the ball joint, however, you may need to leave some meat and tendons attached. Don’t worry; these bits would be very tough but they can add a little flavor if you use the bone to make broth or stock.
As the femur starts to come free, you need to free the upper part of the hindquarter from the shank. You can either follow the fascia lines and keep muscles whole or just cut cleanly across from the inside of the knee to the knee joint. Keep trimming around until the ham comes free from the femur and the shank.
Now that your hindquarter is deboned, you can continue to part it out by separating individual muscles or you can truss it up and smoke it whole like a pork ham.