Hunting > How to Field
Dress a Deer
How to Field Dress a Deer
Admittedly, the field dressing chore is not the most enjoyable part of
the hunt, but the extra time spent taking care of the meat will pay
dividends at the table. Field dressing takes effort, so your heavy
hunting coat should be removed and your sleeves rolled up so they wont
be soiled. Disposable vinyl or latex gloves lessen the chances of
passing infectious diseases and make hand cleaning easier.
Blood and digestive juices from organs possibly penetrated by the shot
must be removed from the body cavity quickly, and the sooner the
organs, which deteriorate rapidly, are removed, the faster the meat
will cool. Field dressing also eliminates dragging unnecessary weight
when moving the animal.
Before starting the field-dressing process, keep in mind that it is
important to keep dirt and foreign objects away from the exposed body
cavity. Removing the scent glands is not considered necessary, but is
done with care by many hunters. Some archery hunters save the glands
for use as scent while hunting. Removing the glands carelessly can
taint the meat.
Roll the carcass over on its back with the rump lower than the
shoulders and spread the hind legs. Make a cut along the centerline of
belly from breastbone to base of tail. First cut through the hide,
then through belly muscle. Avoid cutting into the paunch and
intestines by holding them away from the knife with the free hand
while guiding the knife with the other.
Unless the head will be mounted, the cut should pass through the
sternum and extend up the neck to the chin to allow removal of as much
of the windpipe as possible. The windpipe sours rapidly and is a
leading cause of tainted meat.
With a small sharp knife, cut around the anus and draw it into the
body cavity, so it comes free with the complete intestines. In doing
this, avoid cutting or breaking the bladder. Loosen and roll out the
stomach and intestines. Save liver. Split the pelvic or "aitch" bone
to hasten cooling.
Cut around the edge of the diaphragm which separates the chest and
stomach cavities, and split the breastbone. Then, reach forward to cut
the windpipe and gullet ahead of the lungs. This should allow you to
pull the lungs and heart from the chest cavity. Save heart. Drain
excess blood from the body cavity by turning the body belly down or
hanging animal head down. Prop the body cavity open with a stick to
allow better air circulation and faster cooling.
A clean cloth may be useful to clean your hands. If you puncture the
entrails with a bullet or your knife, wipe the body cavity as clean as
possible or flush with water and dry with a cloth. Don't use water to
wash out the body cavity unless the paunch or intestines are badly
Veteran hunters may have variations in the steps of field dressing.
The important points are to remove the internal organs immediately
after the kill without contaminating the body cavity with dirt, hair,
or contents of the digestive tract and to drain all excess blood from
the body cavity.
All parts damaged by gunshot should be trimmed away. If the weather is
warm of if the animal is to be left in the field for a day or more, it
may be skinned, except for the head, and washed clean of dirt and
hair. It should be placed in a shroud sack or wrapped with porous
cloth to cool (cheesecloth is ideal). The cloth covering should be
porous enough to allow air circulation but firmly woven enough to give
good protection from insects and dirt. Lacking porous cloth, hunters
often coat the inside of the body cavity with black pepper to repel
insects. Adequate cooling may take six hours or more, depending on