(Illustrations by Mike O'Brien)
There are a lot of ways to skin a deer. Other than the presence of a knife, no two ways are alike.
But nowadays deer hunters are busy. We don't have time for the agonizingly slow process of hanging a deer with gambrels and peeling off the skin, slice by slice.
The need to quicken the pace of our skinning parties long ago gave birth to "the golf ball method," a tried-and-true piece of redneck lore that will be passed down through generations.
It's a trick every deer hunter must have up his or her sleeve. Here's how to skin a deer with a golf ball.
Step 1: The Right Setup
This process starts with the right setup. You've got to find an area that has a suitable tree or other vertical brace that also allows you to easily maneuver a vehicle in and out. The tree or brace you choose must enable you to hang your deer high enough (by the neck) that it does not touch the ground. The average whitetail deer is about 82 inches in length and will be much longer than that when hanging. So you'll need a tree with a proper tie-off spot preferably 8 to 10 feet off the ground.
That tie-off will need to have a large load-bearing branch that is capable of easily holding the deer's mass while withstanding the pulling force of your vehicle (test the branch using your own weight first). The tree will need at least a 50-yard clearing in one direction to allow you plenty of room to drive forward.
I've seen the golf ball method carried out to perfection in suburban yards and in staging areas at backwoods deer camps. Finding a spot will surely take some redneck ingenuity, but it can be done in most places. Now that you've got a spot picked out, you'll have to gather the necessary tools for the job.
This doesn't really take much: a vehicle with a ball trailer hitch, a knife, a length of rope, a golf ball, and a buddy or two to help with the work.
The trailer hitch can be pretty simple, as even the cheapest are tested at 60 times the weight of a deer. You can pick up a 2-inch drop starter towing kit at your local hardware store for $25.
The rope and the knots you tie with it are likely the most important parts of this equation. Don't be afraid to overdo it with the strength of rope here; I would go with a synthetic winch rope tested at 3,500 pounds. You'll need two lengths, a minimum of 6 feet to tie from the tree to the deer and a minimum of 12 feet to tie from the hide to the trailer hitch.
As for the golf ball, I prefer a Nike One Platinum. That's what Tiger Woods uses, and I always like to go with quality.
Step 2: Hang Your deer
From this point on, you should be able to hang, cut, and skin your deer in less than five minutes. Before you start, of course, you should have already field dressed your deer. Do not skimp on this task: Cut down to the brisket, remove the heart and lungs, and also crack the pelvis.
To hang your deer you'll need to start with it in the back of a truck. With your buddy driving and you standing in the bed, back the truck right up to the tree. Now tie off your first length of rope to the load-bearing branch using a Two Half Hitches knot or Bowline knot (if you don't know these, get familiar; they're simple). Stretch the rope tight and, with your buddy's help, lift up the deer's neck and tie a Bowline knot around the area just below the skull. Bowlines are great for this task: They can be tied with one hand and will hold steady when under tension.
Be sure to check your knots twice before standing aside to oversee the next step. Have your buddy slowly pull the truck forward with the tailgate down until the deer flops down and hangs by its neck, swinging back and forth. This is the perfect, safe, hands-free way to check your rope and knots.
Step 3: Make Your Cuts
Now that your deer is securely hanging from the tree, it's time to make the three necessary cuts. Make two cuts around the deer's front legs above the joint and pull the hide up a bit to ensure it's not still connected to the joint or lower leg.
Next, make a horizontal cut around the deer's neck about three to four inches below its ears. Free the skin from the neck and peel back until you have a good handful or a few inches of hide to work with€¦now grab your golf ball.
Step 4: Insert the Golf Ball and Tie Off
Place the golf ball in the center of the excess hide and squeeze the skin tight, firming up that ever-important connection between the two. Now tie the rope around the extra hide at the bottom of the ball. For this you can also use a Bowline.
Pull it as tight as humanly possible until the golf ball looks like a stressed-out eyeball protruding from the socket.
Step 5: Tie to Hitch and Drive Forward
Now, with the truck backed up to the deer, tie the other end of the rope firmly to the hitch using whichever knot you trust the most. (I would suggest a Bowline.) Have your buddy pull the truck forward and watch as the hide slides right off like a sock, leaving you the backstraps free and clear for the cutting. And that, really, is the fun part.
This works best when the deer is still warm. If it's not, you may encounter a few rough spots; be ready to jump in and help things along by cutting or pulling where needed.
Stay safe, be careful, and enjoy your newfound speed in the skinning game.