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How to Field Dress a Deer

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Most of us don't enjoy it, but it has to be done. The timely removal of your game's innards is often necessary to ensure untainted meat, and it also helps by reducing the weight you'll have to drag back to your truck or camp. Here's how to field dress a deer:
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 10 minutes

Here's How:

  1. If you're in an area that uses tags, tag your deer immediately. The tag must remain with the deer at all times, or you risk confiscation of your deer among other nasty effects. In other states (Georgia, for example), you must write down the date on your license before moving the carcass. In other states, you must call in to report your kill.
  2. Carefully cut a circle around the anus so it's free and can be removed from within. Some folks tie it off with string to prevent its contents from tainting the meat.
  3. If it's a buck, remove and discard the testicles and cut the penis free so that it can be removed by the same route as the anus.
  4. Beginning close to pelvis, open the stomach cavity to the ribcage. After starting the cut, use the first two fingers of your other hand to help guide your knife... you must only cut through skin and a thin layer of meat, and miss the entrails.
  5. Cut through the ribs and skin, following the breastbone, on up to the neck. This is no problem with a sharp knife, but don't twist the blade while it's between bones; a brittle knife blade could easily break if twisted.
  6. Continue cutting on up to the base of the skull.
  7. Sever the windpipe and esophagus at the base of the skull.
  8. Cut the diaphragm loose. This is the sheet of muscle that separates the stomach area from the chest cavity.
  9. Allow the animal to roll on its side, and "help" the organs to come out. You'll have to pull a little, but they should be mostly free.
  10. Be extremely careful in removing the bladder! You must reach up into the pelvis and pinch it shut while you cut it free with the other hand. If any urine is spilled on the meat, remove it immediately with water from a thermos or a clean cloth.
  11. Clean any debris from the cavity. Any stomach contents or other substances should be removed as quickly as possible.
  12. Separate the heart and liver if you or someone you know likes to eat them. Cloth bags are recommended for keeping these clean and allowing them to cool.
  13. Start toting your animal back towards civilization after a break to catch your breath.

Tips:

  1. If you plan to have your deer mounted, don't cut it above the ribcage. You'll have to reach up through the ribcage to cut the esophagus and windpipe. Leave the caping (the skinning of the head & neck) to a professional.
  2. When opening the stomach cavity, slip two fingers of your opposite hand underneath the sheet of muscle you're cutting through, and pull it away from the entrails. Try to use only an inch or so of your knife blade.
  3. If you will be skinning and quartering your deer within a couple of hours of the kill, you might be ahead not to field-dress it. That way, you won't have sticks, leaves, and other debris to clean off. It also helps keep the flies off on warm days.
  4. Before you start, examine the deer for signs of old wounds. Your broadhead, a sharp piece of bullet metal, or an old broadhead (though unlikely) may be present, and could cut you if you're not careful. Take your time; what's the rush?

What You Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Some time
  • Strong stomach
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