Safety concerns after the hunt should be a top priority.

Tis almost the season for camouflage, orange hats and deer hunting.

Hunter safety is important. But it’s also important after the hunt to follow health precautions. Proper field dressing, processing, preserving and cooking methods are vital, so when your venison gets to the table it doesn’t send diners rushing to the nearest emergency room.

Good food safety practices with wild game begin in the field, according to Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food safety specialist.

“After game is properly dressed, it is important to keep the carcass cool during transport until it reaches the processing plant,” Brown said. “Keep the carcass out of the direct sunlight and make sure there is adequate air circulation.”

Want to process venison at home?

Brown said go ahead, but guard against cross-contamination. Wear rubber gloves and wash knives, hands and cutting boards often with warm, soapy water.

How about aging?

Aging meat, like beef, can help make it more tender and flavorful. Aging may not be necessary with wild game. And aging meat is not recommended for carcasses with little or no fat, since the meat may dry out during the process.

Still want to try? Brown said simply keep the meat at temperatures of 34 degrees to 37 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 14 days. But note, if there is not proper cooler space, spoilage or dehydration can occur.

What about storage?

Meat placed in the refrigerator should be used within two to three days. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked meat separate.

“The best practice for freezing meat is to set the freezer temperature at negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit at least 24 hours ahead of freezing large quantities of fresh food,” Brown said. “Spread packages around the freezer until frozen, then you can stack the new items within the freezer. For the best quality, keep freezer temperature at zero degrees Fahrenheit.”

Canning is another option. However, Brown warns not to can meat without a pressure cooker and a recipe from a reliable source.

“Improperly canned meat can kill,” she said.

Free Wildlife Expo

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is presenting a free Wildlife Expo Friday through Sunday at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie. During the expo, hunters interested in processing their own venison can watch a DVD on the ins and outs of the subject at the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Wild Game Food Safety booth.