Field dressing is the process that involves removing internal organs of game that has been hunted. The removal is a necessary step that helps in preserving the meat from the harvested wild animals and it needs to be done soonest possible after shooting it down so there is rapid loss of body heat and prevention of bacteria from growing on the carcass surface. Field dressing your deer will help maintain the meat quality and will also give you an easier time carrying it from hunt area. So, you must need to know how to field dress a deer and here is A-Z guide for field dress a deer.
Things to do before field dressing
- Before field dressing, ensure that you have a sturdy, sharp knife that you can rely on for a smooth job. A knife that is at least four inches long with a large handle and guard should serve you best. It is important to note that small knives have a tendency of turning sideways in hand once a bone is hit.
- Remember that just because the deer is down does not mean it is dead. To avoid getting hurt, confirm that it is dead; reload and watch from a distance just to be sure before approaching. The only time you should set your bow or firearm aside is when you are certain there is no life in it; a good test is to touch the eye with a stick, if there is no blink then you are ready to continue.
- Hang the deer head up or lay on sloppy ground with rump lower than shoulders; the positioning is good in ensuring you do not taint the meat with the paunch juices especially if your shot was on the gut or in case you cut paunch accidentally as you field dress it.
How to field dress a deer
Step 1 – Cut a circle around the deer’s anus carefully and remove from within. If need be, tie it using a string so contents do not end up tainting the meat.
Step 2 – If your kill is a buck, remove the testicles and discard then cup free the penis so you are able to remove through the anus route.
Step 3 – Open stomach cavity beginning near the pelvis and going up to the rib cage. Guide the knife using first two fingers when you start the cut ensuring that you cut through skin and the thin meat layer only.
Step 4 – Follow the breastbone and up to the neck to cut through the ribs and skin. If your knife is sharp enough, then you will not have any problems, but be sure not to twist the blade especially when working between bones. Continue the cutting to the skull base.
Step 5 – At skull base, sever esophagus and windpipe then cut diaphragm loose. Pull esophagus towards the pelvis so all entrails including detached rectum lift right out. Be careful as you remove the bladder; pinch it shut as you free with other hand to prevent urine spilling onto the meat and in case it does, then wash immediately with water or wipe with a clean cloth.
Photo credit: Shootingtime.com
Step 6 – Clean cavity debris and ensure you remove all stomach content and other substances as fast as you possibly can.
Step 7 – Separate liver and heart if you wish to eat and use cloth bags to keep the organs cool and clean.
Step 8 – Prop body cavity open using sticks to allow quick cooling. The head should be up and you should allow cooling in an airy shady place. You can leave it hanging for at least an hour before moving it to car or camp.
After field dressing
- If hunting in an area where tags apply, then tag the deer immediately; it will help you prevent confiscation of the deer and other nasty effects that have to do with the hunting laws and regulations. In some states like Georgia, you will need to write down the date on license before you move the carcass and in others you must report the kill.
- Before dragging the carcass, ensure it is well wrapped using a cloth so that flies and dirt are kept off the meat as you move it out of the woods for transport. Avoid carrying the carcass on the shoulders to avoid risk of another hunter shooting the deer. You can easily drag it using the antlers or you can tie front feet behind head to avoid catching brush. A deer cart would be an even better choice to help you move it.
- If the trip home is bound to be long, then consider placing a plastic bag filled with ice inside your carcass so that you keep it cool and fresh.
End of the topics of how to field dress a deer
With the right tools and guidelines, how to field dress a deer is made really easy. You will love the quality of your meat once you get everything right after the kill.