By MWF North-Central Field Representative Morgan Marks.
Hosted and instructed by Katie Vivian, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 4 Fisheries Biologist and her husband, with instructional support from Ashley Hammans, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Giant Springs Hatchery Culturist.
On a beautiful Sunday in late November, 10 women gathered together outside Great Falls to build their skills and learn about butchering and processing deer. Through scheming and conversations shared between Katie Vivian, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 4 Fisheries Biologist, and Morgan Marks, Field Representative with Montana Wildlife Federation, the idea for an all-women’s butchering workshop took shape over the summer and early fall and came to fruition as the general rifle hunting season neared completion.
Women who attended were avid hunters and others had not hunted before nor harvested game, but shared that they attended out of curiosity and a desire to learn more about butchering wild game. One participant was 12 years old, and organizers were ecstatic about reaching youth with these important and traditional skill sets. Women traveled from across Montana to participate and grow their skills, including from Helena, Missoula, Great Falls, and Bozeman.
Katie led the workshop and shared skills she learned independently through experiences hunting and harvesting wild game. She is self taught and hell-bent on teaching others, especially women, because she believes that every person can butcher wild game. “While the practice of butchering takes time, it’s rewarding to break down an animal you harvested,” she said, “and learn from it. For example, you can see how accurate your shot was and better understand how to make adjustments in the future.”
In the days leading up to the workshop, two whitetail doe were generously harvested by Katie and her husband, and donated to the workshop for women to learn from. Topics included the following:
- Experiential learning
- Safety around butchering wild game, especially with sharp knives and mindfulness about butchering with more than one person
- Field dressing and the Gutless Method
- Skinning animals taken out whole and skinning in the field
- Quartering and deboning
- Meat care and preparation in regard to temperature, place, freezing, labeling and materials needed for every step of the butchering process
- Anatomy of deer and what parts of a deer are best for what cuts of meat
- Awareness of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and guidance around CWD positive wild game
- Trimming and packaging meat into freezer ready products
Stay tuned for more workshops in 2023 pertaining to skill building, leadership development, and advocacy! If there’s a specific topic you’re interested in, have questions about, and want to learn about, please contact MWF North-Central Field Representative Morgan Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org
The goals of these women-focused events are three-fold: to increase women’s access and participation in outdoor recreation; give women the tools, skills and confidence to continue to build upon skills learned in a safe and welcoming space; and increase women’s involvement and representation in conservation. Studies have shown that creating a space for women in hunting and fishing not only helps them access the sport, but also keeps them involved in the sport over time. That’s the goal of women focused events, to continue creating spaces where women can learn, gather, network, have fun, and grow.
Lastly, our community is an inclusive one. We welcome all womxn and gender non-conforming folks to this event and other women-focused events. If you identify yourself as a woman, no matter the complexity, we welcome you.
The clinic aimed to not only teach women how to butcher their harvests, but also to foster community and friendships among women. With similar goals, MWF and Artemis Sportswomen hosted the 2nd Annual Women’s Ice Fishing Clinic in February. Read all about that event HERE.
Many thanks to North40 for their generosity in donating two sets of knives! Two women were able to go home with a new knife set to put their skills to work this hunting season and they were thrilled. We have much gratitude for North40 continuing to support women-led and women-focused skill development events such as this.
The below photos were taken by Cameron Evans and show the indoor portion of the workshop. Deer meat was trimmed from bones and placed into containers for grinding, stew, steak, and disposal. Fat was saved to be made later into tallow soap. Processed meat was packaged with freezer paper and vacuum sealed bags. If you’re familiar with cuts of meat and butchering wild game, you’ll be able to identify specific cuts of meat, such as the beautiful and prized backstrap depicted in a few photos.