Ask The Biologist

Don’t Spoil the Meat!

Don’t Spoil the Meat!

By Bob Humphrey

Here's another buck myth that needs to go away.

QUESTION: I harvested my first deer this fall, a buck. When my neighbor came over to see it, he told me I needed to cut the tarsal glands off or it would spoil the meat. I never heard that and am wondering if that's true.

ANSWER: No, it's not. I guess you might call that a rural legend. Myths like once a spike, always a spike; you can tell a deer's age by antler points, and a good cold snap triggers the rut have been perpetuated for years but have no basis in fact.

Deer have tarsal glands on the inside of their hind legs that secrete compounds consisting largely of fatty acids. During the rut they become more productive and these compounds, when combined with urine and exposed to the air, create a strong, musky odor. Once the deer dies, the glands stop producing and the odor gradually vaporizes. In the meantime, leaving them on the animal will not affect the meat.

However, fresh tarsal glands can make a great cover scent and an even better attractant, and many hunters cut them off for that use. Perhaps your neighbor had an ulterior motive for helping you get rid of them.

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