With all of the excitement looking forward to deer hunting season, it’s easy to forget one of the most important aspects of the hunt: what to do after you shoot it. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a little knowledge beforehand. Once you do it,however, you’ll always remember how to field dress your deer.
It is vital to cool the meat. If you’re hunting in warm climates, it is even more crucial to quickly dress your game. Here’s a step-by-step method that is easy to follow:
Hopefully you are with someone who is knowledgeable about field dressing. If not, you can do it. I was alone when I shot my first deer and I gutted it myself after reading about it. That was before YouTube. I would highly recommend watching one of the many videos available such as the one below.
The first thing you want to ensure is that you have a few sharp knives. I can’t tell you how critical this is. Hopefully you know how to sharpen those knives. I highly recommend the Piranta knife by Havalon because of the easily replaceable blades.
The first thing you want to do after ensuring the animal is dead is to position it for gutting. Lay the deer on its back. Try to keep the back end of the deer downhill a bit. You can tie one leg to a tree or bush to hold the legs open. Make a comfortable work area free from things to trip on.
Be safe! Many people wear gloves and it makes clean up a bit easier. You will get blood all the way up your arms so be aware of that.
Next, cut the anus out by cutting a circle around it (hence the Havalon knife as it’s like a scalpel) until it is loose. Carefully separate the sex organs from the body. We will remove them later. (Note: some states require you leave them on.)
Cut down to the pelvic bone. The next part is tricky: Cut a slit from the lowest part of the abdomen all the way to the sternum. Be very careful to not penetrate the organs. Go slowly with the blade pointed upwards. I take my other hand and make a peace sign and insert them into the cavity pulling the muscle tissue up as I cut (one finger on either side of my knife). This ensures that I don’t cut the stomach or any organs. Continue as far as you can until you reach the hard sternum bone.
Open up the cavity, reach up as high as you can and cut the windpipe as far up as you can. Be careful for sharp bone fragments as they can cause a nasty cut. Return to the hind end and pull the anus you cut around through and tie it off with a string to avoid poop spilling out.
Now, start pulling the entrails out from the top (windpipe). They will come out pretty easily but you may need to cut connective tissue as you pull. Be very careful not to cut yourself. Roll the deer on one side and cut the connective tissue if need be. You can roll it to the other side to do the same thing. All of the entrails should come out with a little perseverance.
When you get to the hind end, be very careful not to break the bladder. Think like a surgeon and work carefully. Things will make sense as you cut. Pull all the guts out and put them aside. Inspect the cavity to make sure it’s free of all entrails and let the blood drain for a few minutes. In warmer weather, you can cut sticks to hold open the abdominal cavity. This will help cool down the meat which is essential to preserving it.
You can now drag the deer or load in on your ATV etc. and haul it back to camp to skin. Skinning should be done as soon as possible (remember, we are trying to cool down the meat). Stay tuned for tips on how to skin a deer.