The Process Of Field Dressing a Deer
The thrill of the hunt is what attracts so many to this sport. The bigger the buck, the better the bragging rights. Deer is an excellent meat that is low in fat and high in protein. Harvesting your prize will be a bit trickier than the hunt itself. You must preserve the meat and harvest anything else you want to keep. Deer heads and skins also make nice mementos, and they can be sold for big money. Once you have got your deer, you need to break it down properly so that it is safe to eat.
Gathering Tools For The Job
Gather your tools first and foremost. You need to have a sharp blade, preferably a surgical one, to be able to cut through the various ligaments and tendons. It is always nice to have an extra person when gutting out a deer. This process can be done on the ground or by hanging the animal. Be careful as the deer will stiffen very quickly, especially when it is cold outside. Having that extra person can help a lot. You will get dirty, so make sure you have some towels and a change of clothes. There will be blood and other bodily fluids in contact with your skin, so gloves are recommended.
Hanging The Deer For Easy Access
The first step is to hang the deer. The easiest way is with a tractor and a lift bucket to hoist the deer into the air. However, a winch and a frame will also work nicely. Make sure you have access to fresh water. A garden hose and sprayer are perfect. Use a strong rope or strap and tie it around the neck. You want to get it around the antlers and under the head. Put it as high up as you possibly can. Old school hunters prefer to hang their deer by the Achilles’s tendon, which puts the head in a downward position. Regardless of the method you use to hang the animal, the process is the same will be the same.
Keep in mind, by having the head suspended in the air, it makes removing the stomach, bladder, and intestines, easier. Additionally, the meat is less likely to be contaminated when it is done. If you have no intentions of mounting the head, cut the throat so that it falls down into the body cavity. You can lay the deer on the ground too, but it is not as easy to gut this way.
The Harvesting Process
The first part of gutting the deer is to split the pelvis area. Be warned, the smell is quite overwhelming. You may need to wear a mask if you are sensitive to smells. If there is a lot of hair there, you need to try to lift the skin and get around it. The goal is to work upward. If you go in through the stomach and gut, it will explode the contents of the stomach, which will contaminate the meat. Split upwards from the base of the sternum. Gently reach inside the abdomen and begin pulling out the organs. A little trick is to take two fingers and gently lift the skin as you are cutting it with the knife.
It should be noted that the kidneys and liver have supporting membranes that attach them to the body. If you prefer to save these vital organs for consumption, then you need to make sure that they do not come flopping out with the stomach.
Tips For Dealing With The Bladder
The bladder can be tricky to harvest. It is located in the lower area of the abdomen, near the spine. It is similar in appearance to a clear balloon, but it is filled with urine. Grasp the bladder and hold the urethra closed. You must cut it free and not allow it to drain. A trick is to put the bladder in a plastic bag while it is still attached. Once the organ is cut free, it will be safely enclosed in the bag. If the organ does rupture, it will save the meat from contamination. If an accident does occur, and the organ is pierced, then simply wash it off with the garden hose.
The Anus, Heart, Intestines, Lungs and Esophagus
The anus and the intestines are the most difficult part of the deer to harvest. The reason is not that the organs are hard to remove, but the risk of contamination is great. To remove these organs, take a knife and cut a circle about one inch around. Remove the rectum slowly and gently, and place the organ in a bag. Make sure the bag zips closed so there is no risk of feces getting into the meat.
Esophagus, Lungs, and Windpipe
There are connective tissues that surround the intestines. Remove this tissue first, then you can extract the intestines from the body. Using a heavy knife, or saw, cut the center of the rib cage. At this point, you want to be careful the heart doesn’t fall, if you intended to save it for food. While in this vicinity, pull out the esophagus, lungs, and windpipe. Once removed, thoroughly wash the body cavity. Any organs that you want to consume should be placed in a bucket of cool water. Keep in mind that the heart and kidneys can be consumed, but it will require extra preparation to make them safe.
Throwing Out The Extras
To get rid of the remnants of flesh and body parts left over from the harvesting process, dig a hole to bury them. In some areas, the Fish and Wildlife service may have a disposal to utilize. Some landowners allow the extras to be left for wild animals to consume. If you want to harvest the skin, you will need to allow the deer to hang for about 24 hours to remove all blood.
Skinning The Dear
To skin the deer, remove each of the hooves at their elbow. Take the point of the knife and find the joint. Make an incision at this point. Move the knife around the joint cutting any ligaments. Give the joint a little twist and it should snap off.
The skins should be cut starting at the base of the skull. Then move to the base of the neck and down the breastbone. Lastly, make the cut by the stomach, pelvis and the forelegs. Make sure that you are only cutting the skin. You don’t want to cut any of the muscles or the abdominal tissues. Start at the shoulders and work your way down through the chest area. Be careful and make sure that no muscles are tearing loose with the skin too. Take a nice and slice through the subcutaneous membranes as this will make the skin easier to remove
Pulling the skin off the carcass takes a strong hand. Some use their vehicle to do this job. If doing by hand, start pulling the skin a bit at a time. Slice the tissues that attach to the muscles as you go. Try to only do a small section at a time. Using a vehicle or a four-wheeler is easier to remove the skin. First, tie a golf ball or stone under the skin. Next, take the rope and loop it around the ball. The free end of the rope should be tied to the truck. Slowly drive away from the animal, which will pull the carcass as you go. This requires little effort and makes the job simple.
Removing The Head
Lay the deer down on a flat work surface. Under the jaw line, you need to cut the ligaments to loosen the connective tissues near the neck area. Give the head a twist to break the neck. This will allow you to remove it easier. If you want to save the antler, use a saw to remove a portion of the skull. Typically, about an inch below the base of the antlers is good. Don’t use this method if you want to preserve the head. If you want to keep the head, you need to keep it cool. You should remove any meat that you want to keep, from the skull, during this process. If you want to keep the skull, boil it and remove all tissues. This will bleach it, and when you add hydrogen peroxide after the boiling process, it will make it white.
Enjoying The Fruits of Your Labor
Wash the meat you have collected with cold water. To transport it from one location to another, you need to use plenty of ice. Never wrap the meat in butcher paper or cling wrap. You don’t want to trap any heat inside the meat as it will promote spoilage. Never let the meat get above 40 degrees or it will spoil. Freeze the meat right away to prevent any contamination. The whole process from start to finish shouldn’t take more than an hour. The better you get with gutting, the easier and faster the job will be.