How to Make Venison Bone Broth
As a kid, we ate a lot of venison and tried to use as much of the animal as we could. But there were always a few things (deer bones, hides, organs, etc.) we never seemed to utilize ourselves. I followed the traditions we had, but I always wondered what I could do differently.
As I started hunting on my own, I began to feel really guilty about this waste. We always donated the hides to a habitat program in town and I started to really enjoy eating the organs/offal. But it seemed like something could be done about those bony remains.
That’s when I discovered venison bone broth. I think I stumbled across it on Hank Shaw’s website.
If you haven’t heard of bone broth before, you probably would have soon. It’s one of those old practices that are becoming crazy trendy again in today’s local food culture.
But I didn’t care about trend. I cared about using as much of the animal I killed as possible.
Eventually, I had invested too much time reading articles about wild game bone broth to NOT try it.
Luckily, the 2016 deer hunting season was kind to me. I was able to kill a young whitetail buck, and decided it was time to put those venison bones to work.
If you’re just looking for the venison bone broth recipe, keep scrolling…
What is Venison Bone Broth?
The idea behind deer bone broth is to essentially pull the good stuff out of a deer’s bones to use as a base for soups, stews, or any number of recipes. It is a gelatinous liquid that results from slowly simmering roasted venison bones and meat for a long time (at least 8-10 hours), which produces a collagen-, nutrient- and mineral-rich broth.
The many articles I read all seemed to indicate how healthy bone broth is, especially for supporting joint health or healing injuries. Of all the claimed bone broth benefits, it seemed crazy I had never tried it!
While people typically use beef or chicken bones for their broth, I figured deer bones would be similar enough in certain respects to cows.
Venison Stock vs. Venison Broth
After scouring the internet, I was able to determine that broth is only slightly different from stock. Most people say that stock is made from simmering bones (along with certain vegetables and aromatics), while broth must also include some meat. I included some of the shank meat in my recipe below, so I’m calling it broth. But as long as it tastes good, who really cares?
Which Bones to Use for Bone Broth?
The best bones for bone broth should either be from joint connections or larger marrow bones. To develop good flavor (and be a true broth), you also need some actual meat. Since I process/butcher my own deer, I was able to easily save these various pieces for making venison bone broth later in the winter. I tried to use an equal proportion of each of the following three ingredients.
- Joint bones are the ones that, unsurprisingly, form joints. For example, all four “knee” joints, the shoulder blade/arm joint, and the hip ball socket joint are incredible. These joints contain loads of cartilage and collagen, which are critical for later in the process.
- Meat bones are the ones that contain a lot of marrow inside, and typically are the larger bones (think of venison soup bones). I used the deer femur and upper leg bones for these. Venison bone marrow is delicious in its own right, but it definitely adds some flavor here.
- The remaining component is meat. Since deer shanks (lower leg) are full of connective tissue, I decided this would be a great way to finally use them without having to spend forever cleaning them of membranes and tendons.
Venison Bone Broth Preparation
As I mentioned, I vacuum-sealed the bones for bone broth in plastic bags after hunting season to preserve them for a winter bone broth session. After the holidays wrapped up, it was time to thaw them and get started.
The first hurdle was to break them apart. To expose the most surface area and therefore leach the most nutrients out of the bones, I needed small pieces (i.e., 3 to 4 inches). I tried sawing a couple bones (without a proper bone saw), but didn’t like all the bone dust it produced. Instead, I used a much more fun method: an axe.
Alright, it was a hatchet; I didn’t want to go all “Here’s Johnny!” on my countertop.
My Smith & Wesson Bullseye hatchet came as a combo with a gut-hook knife, and it has got me through many camping and hunting adventures.
It’s a great way to relieve stress, but you should wear eye protection because the bone chips will fly! I laid the deer bones on a large cutting board and began taking short (but firm) swings with a hatchet. After a few chops, the bones would typically break in a semi-jagged fashion. I used a knife to sever any remaining meat or connective tissue.
How to Make Bone Broth
Roasting Bones for Bone Broth
Now it’s time for the real bone broth recipe. After everything was cut up, I roasted the venison bones and meat to caramelize the natural sugars and develop some good flavor and color. I arranged them on a pan and drizzled a little oil over the top. I then roasted them at 400°F for about 45 minutes. At that point, I added a few roughly chopped onions and carrots from the garden and roasted the whole thing another 20 minutes at the same temperature. The meat and veggies should be pretty dark when you take them out, so don’t panic.
I then dumped all the bones, meat, veggies, and juices/browned bits into a crockpot and covered them with cold water and a splash of apple cider vinegar. I turned the crockpot on ‘Low’ and walked away. This is both the easiest and toughest part of making venison bone broth. You don’t have to do anything, but it’s so tempting to finish the process! The best bone broth comes from a very long, slow simmer, which draws the most minerals and collagen out of the bones. So just leave it alone for at least 8 to 10 hours.
Straining and Cooling
After the venison bone broth was finished cooking, I used tongs to pull the larger bones and meaty pieces out of the crockpot. I then strained the liquid into a large bowl, using a fine meshed strainer lined with paper towels to really clarify it. Since it was a cold winter day, I put the lid on the bowl and placed it in my garage to quickly cool without heating up my refrigerator. But after a couple hours, I moved the bowl to my refrigerator.
Once it had cooled for a day, the venison fat accumulated and formed a hard surface at the top of the venison bone broth. Unlike beef fat, venison fat is simply terrible in my eyes. It sticks to the roof of your mouth and has an off-taste. I carefully skimmed ALL the hardened fat off of the top and discarded it.
Now you get to find out just how good your venison broth recipe was. A good bone broth will almost look like Jell-O® when it is cooled. If you included the right proportion of joint bones and let the broth simmer very gently for a long time, there should be maximum gelatin retention.
That’s some serious jiggle!
Preserving Your Venison Bone Broth
At this point, you’ll either need to use or store your venison broth. I had it last a few weeks in the refrigerator without smelling foul, but I wouldn’t be comfortable pushing it past that. I actually canned most of the broth in small glass jars to be frozen. Canning venison broth is very simple if you’re freezing it. Simply ladle the gelatinous mixture into jars, leaving an inch of head space so it doesn’t explode.
When I plan on making a soup, stew, or wild game sauce, I just take a jar out and let it thaw. Then I plop a couple spoons of the golden jelly in the pot with the other ingredients. Bam! An instant wild game flavor infusion with tons of sneaky venison bone broth benefits. Try using it to braise venison shanks – you’ll be amazed!
Venison Bone Broth: Are You Game?
It bears to mention that a high quality bone broth will use organic ingredients where possible. Many people struggle to get a truly grass fed bone broth, just because it can be hard to find cows raised that way. Luckily if you killed your own deer, an organic bone broth is a given. That’s one of the benefits of being a modern hunter.
Since you probably don’t still have the bones from a deer you shot this past fall (why would you?), consider saving them next year to try this recipe for bone broth. It’s a great way to respect the animal and use every bit you can.
Or if you can’t wait, make a beef or chicken version to practice and provide some warm and flavorful culinary relief this winter. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Venison Bone Broth Recipe
- Assorted venison bones (joint bones, marrow bones, etc.)
- 4 venison shanks
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 large carrots, roughly chopped
- Water to cover (in crockpot)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Break the bones into manageable pieces that will fit in a crockpot (4-inch chunks are perfect). Roughly chop the onions and carrots.
- Drizzle olive oil over the bones and meat. Roast in a 400°F oven for about 45 minutes. Add the vegetables to the roasting pans and roast another 20 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture into a large crockpot. Cover with water and the apple cider vinegar. Turn on ‘Low’ so the mixture barely simmers for at least 8 hours.
- Use tongs to pull the bones and larger meaty pieces out. Line paper towels in a fine meshed strainer and place over a large pot or bowl. Dump the liquid or ladle it into the strainer. Let it completely chill.
- Skim the fat that hardens on the surface and discard. Ladle the bone broth into glass jars and freeze them, leaving at least an inch of head space.
Thank you for your comments and advice on making venison bone broth. I have just started making bone broth however getting grass fed and organic bones is a real challenge and very expensive. We get a couple white tail deer each year and felt what a great way to use the bones. I will definitely be trying this next fall.
Thanks for your comment Dorothy! I’ve now used my venison bone broth in several soups and stews, as well as for braising other meat (game and domestic). I really enjoy it. I’m ashamed I didn’t start using the deer bones sooner! Let me know how it goes when you try it.
Sue Windle says
Want to use venison since they are not receiving antibiotics, hormones.
Aaron Olson says
This is awesome, thank you for the recipe 🙏🏻
Absolutely. It was a fun experiment – one I’m likely to repeat!
Farmer B says
My hunter and I just processed the first buck of the season. I am trying your method with a bit of a twist. I don’t like to waste any bones, so I am using the whole lot of them. I am going to be roasting them for a lot longer because I only have one oven to use and a fridge that can’t take all the bones. The turkey roasting pan is mounded with bones. There is still a lot of meat on them, so I will be gleaning after the simmering. Thanks for encouraging the fullest harvest of the animal. We only threw away the offal and the skull!
Good deal! Let me know how all the other bones turn out. It is definitely nice using as much as possible. I try to use as much of the offal as I can too (heart, liver, etc.), but I may have to get really adventurous and try the tongue or caul fat one day!
Lee Deavers says
I have been making fowl, fish, and beef broth for past two years. I never thought about using deer. I can’t wait to try it.
I wonder what the difference is nutritionally?
That’s a good point. My hunch is that venison bone broth is similar to beef broth – probably some mineral differences.
I would like to try this, but is there any worries about CWD?
Great point Steve! From the research I’ve done and wildlife professionals I’ve talked to, I believe it’s safe to use the bones I mentioned in the article. I wouldn’t use spinal bones (body or neck) because the prions behind the disease accumulate in the spinal cord. If you’re in an area prone to CWD outbreaks, you probably have to get your deer tested anyway, but I would recommend that route if you’re ever unsure. It seems the jury’s still out on whether eating CWD-infected deer is really responsible for causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. But better safe than sorry! Thanks for the question.
Emily Dykstra says
Thank you! After reading this article I made some amazing venison bone broth! Then made soup with it tonight! A great guidline/recipe to follow!
That’s great Emily – I’m glad you liked it! I’m about to do another batch from a deer I got a few weeks ago. Good thing, since I ran out of broth months ago!
Mike Colquett says
I live in an area where there are deer processors and they usually discard the bones of the deer they process. I have just started to make bone broth so I went to them and ask them for their bones. They gladly gave me an ice box full of back leg bones which fit all of the requirements you listed. I just finished my first batch and it smells great. Have not tried it yet, but am looking forward to doing so. Thanks for your article, and information. I plan to freeze my bounty of bones and need to know if that is advised.
Great score Mike! I have frozen my deer bones for a few months between deer season and mid-winter (when I prepare bone broth) and there were no issues with it. I have no experience with longer freeze times, but I’d try to use them as soon as possible just to keep it freshest.
Breanna Suhoversnik says
Our family is in the middle of processing 3 deer this weekend, and I was wondering about making broth – we’ve only ever done it with our poultry. Thank you for your blog – gonna give this a go this week.
That’s great Breanna! Let me know how it goes.
I only recently became aware of bone broth. So, when I saw how much a quart carton of the stuff was, I thought there must be a more cost effective way to get this. Then I saw how much grass fed beef bones cost…
I’ve only been hunting for a few years now, but I always try to harvest what I can from the carcass. Now that I’ve found this article, I’m excited about saving those deer bones! The only thing that bums me out is all the bones I left for the coyotes… But that will be a thing of the last!
I’m right there with you. Tough to think about all the times we just threw the bones in the woods. I’m always looking for more ways to use more of the animals I kill. This is a great way to do that. Let me know how it goes!
Great post, I am gonna try this with the next deer I kill. Couple questions. First, I don’t need to actually go through the canning process, just pour it in an air tight jar and freeze? Second, how long will it last in the freezer?
Hey Terry – no, you don’t need to go through a whole canning process – I just freeze mine in whatever random jars I can find. I actually just found a jar from when I did this article and it has been fine so far (used it for soup). Good luck! I’m hoping for another deer this fall to replace mine.
I love this! I have been making bone broth for years with pheasent, grouse, and domestic meats and have been looking to start using venison. I have a daughter who at 11 developed a severe form of RA and the cologne rich broths are great for her! We are blessed with a couple deer each year and this will become part of our processing routine for sure! This season we are unable to hunt unfortunately but I have our neighbors and family members reserving bones for some future liquid gold! Thanks for sharing! I respect your efforts to utilize as much of the animal as possible! 👍🏻
That’s great Beth – I hope they do reserve some bones for you. It’s definitely important to use as much as possible. I just shot a deer this last weekend, and for the first time saved the caul fat (around the organs) to use for meatloaf or meatballs. We’ll see how it goes!
I have been making bone broth for years…did you know you can reuse you batch of bones several times to get subsequent batches of broth? Each batch will dilute a little and be a bit less flavorful and not have as much collagen and minerals, but it will still be in there! I’ve gotten as many as 5 batches of broth from one set of beef bones! You will know the bones are depleted when you can pinch them and they crumble! Talk about less waste!! 😉
Hey Cher – I did not know that. Thanks for the tip!
Had read your post a few months ago and bookmarked in case I got a deer this season. Got an 8 pointer today and have a batch in the crock pot right now. Smells good thus far.
Awesome Matt! Congrats on the deer and I’m thrilled you’re trying it out. I just used some fresh bone broth today to make onion gravy for venison meatballs. Let me know how it turns out.
It turned out well. Will add a few more carrots and some celery to the veggies next time as I did not have any on hand this time. However I enjoyed the taste of what came out and have it in the freezer ready for my next soup or gravy.
For those who don’t get a deer, if you can find a nearby deer-processor he may give you the bones for free. I did just that and was so glad to get them. I’ve already used up all the broth I made from our own deer. I use a pressure canner to cook them for several hours and feed the bones to chickens or pigs when they cool. (the bones just disintegrate.)
Great point Becky! Most people just throw them away, so might as well reach out to everyone you know! Thanks.
Daniel J. Peters says
I made this yesterday. I simmered the roasted bones for 12 hours. I had 6.5 lbs of bones, and I ended up with a little more than 2 gallons of broth. I keot topping up the pot as I simmered and skimmed.
I chilled it, and was disappointed that there was no ‘jiggle’, it’s liquid broth.
I’ve already packaged it in jars, so I’m not going to reduce the whole batch with more simmering. I assume this just means my broth will take up more freezer space than if I had allowed it to reduce further. Has anyone else had this same experience?
Hey Daniel – glad you tried this out. I have not had that happen, but have two theories. One – you might be correct that too much water was added, keeping it liquid. I don’t add any water to mine as it simmers. Two – were there joint bones (“knees”, shoulder, etc.) in the broth? Maybe the ratio was a little off so not as much collagen? I have noticed some batches turn out more “jiggly” than others despite using the same recipe.
Daniel J. Peters says
Yeah, I had both knee joints on the rear quarters, and the front shoulder and knee joints too. Plus whatever hip cartilage came with the rear quarters. I’m pretty sure I just diluted it too much when I was simmering.
I’m guessing that won’t matter aside from having more volume for storage. I can always reduce it when I use it if I need to. Does that sound correct?
Alright, I think you’re right about just too much water. Shouldn’t make a difference for stews or anything, but could reduce it first if using more for a sauce base maybe?
Daniel J. Peters says
Thanks for the recipe. I’m looking forward to tasty soup!
When freezing ANYTHING in jars or containers, put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the product, pushing out the air bubbles, then put the lid on. This reduces/eliminates frost build-up on the product. Sometimes, especially with glass jars, I’ll freeze it without the lid, plastic wrap in place, until frozen. Then place or tighten the lid. This reduces glass breakage on expansion.
Thanks for the great recipe, I’m going to try it in my Nesco roaster, bigger quantity, more water, longer roasting time.
Aha, great idea Ann – thanks for sharing that tip! I typically use it up before it has too much time for frost to form, but it has definitely happened.
This is a nice article. I appreciate your desire to utilize the entire animal! We are avid hunters and fisher folks and I abhor when people waist their wild game! I even tan the hides and make fur/leather wears out of the hides. I have been making broths from our fowl but not our venison. First off we haven’t harvested a deer in our house for the past 3 years for various reasons. And secondly I had some reservations about the potential for a “gameyness” to the end product. I enjoy the flavor of good venison and have eaten it my whole life, but bad venison is just plain bad! I’m encouraged to try after reading your post. Plus, I just got my new instant pot and can’t think of a better wat to break it in 😉
Thanks Beth! I love that you tan the hides too – that’s a bucket list item for me, though we donate them to Hides for Habitat, etc. As far as the “gameyness”, it’s important to skim the fat after cooling. That really helps!
Ingrid Williams says
Looking to make bone broth versus buying. I have osteoporosis and have fractures in my back. Dr told me to buy a certain brand but it is very expensive. Really want to try making my own . Could you please tell me how this makes and how to store it.
Hey Ingrid – sorry to hear about the osteoporosis, but I’ve heard that bone broth can be very helpful for that. For the recipe I used in the article above, I used about 5 cups of water to cover everything. When all was said and done, I think I ended up with about that much bone broth (see the various jars I used). I usually just freeze it with enough headroom that it won’t crack the jar, and then put it in the fridge to thaw a day or two before I’ll use it. Hope that helps.
Thank you for the info. Why do you roaat the bones first?
Roasting the bones isn’t necessary, but it does bring out more flavor. The roasting process caramelizes the meat and fat, which adds a deeper, richer taste to the broth/stock. I’ve seen many recipes where people spread some tomato paste over the bones first to add another flavor dimension. Up to you!
Tatum Evans says
Been hunting for years, and excited to try this for the health benefits and less waste. Question: in addition to using it in recipes, can it be heated for sipping? Like drinking warm broth, assuming it thins when heated?
I did it once…it wasn’t for me. That being said, it does thin out when heated and a lot of people like to sip it. I think if you were to season this one a bit more, it would work.
Roxanne Kimbell says
Ive been doing bone broth for years. I’m trying your method this year. I was wondering if anyone has canned bone broth in a pressure cooker or water bath? My pressure cooker says “do not pressure cook deer broth”. I wonder why not? I pressure cook deer meat when I run out of freezer space. It makes awesome chili & stew. I need long term storage for broth but run out of freezer space. When I freeze it I put it in ziplock baggies. Takes up a lot less space. Any ideas?
I love canned deer meat, but have not tried it for bone broth so can’t offer any tips for that. Good idea on the ziplock bags for freezing it.
REALLY? We were always told, just like you never freeze or cook venison with the bone because it is way too gamey. I have always hated throwing all those bones away-isn’t the game taste too strong?
I don’t really even notice the “gamey” flavor of venison to be honest, and I regularly cook shanks or shoulder blade roasts with the bones in. Give it a go and see what you think!
Jessica Wilkin says
I pressure canned my broth on 11/17/2020
It tastes wonderful! I’m in the process of roasting my second batch because I like so much. I used steak seasoning on the meaty pieces and it smells and tastes better than beef stock.
Thanks for this recipe. I usually give the bones to the area coyotes. Since we have a large family and 3 boys we often get 7+ deer that we process ourselves. I often can some meat too. I can’t wait to try this recipe.