Field dressing a deer is a skill that can be done in a variety of ways. Everyone will tell you their way of doing it and they may have a fine method. What I am going to teach you hear is a method that will be the easiest, the best for getting the most from your kill and the safest.
Some folks are not too keen on actually dressing out an animal. I love it. I take pride in preserving every cut and getting the most use of the animal. My method will aid you in doing just that.
After a long sit in that perfect hunting spot whether it be in a hunting stand or simply plopped down behind a tree, you will finally see that perfect deer. Yes, you will make that perfect shot. At least you hope it was perfect.
With freezing fingers and a cold nose, it may be less than likely that the bullet actually killed the deer right off. With that in mind, be very careful on approaching the downed animal.
Look for signs of life such as thrashing, of course. Look for the rise and fall of the chest and the blinking of the eyes. If there are no signs and the eyes appear glazed, it may be beneficial to actually touch the eye. The animal will not move if dead. If you notice the slightest movement, I suggest a finishing shot.
Your next step is to move the deer to a location that is ideal for dressing as well as safe from other hunters. Jerking and pulling that deer around may draw unwanted attention from hunters and the working ends of their long rifles. So, ensure that you have a blaze orange vest on and tie blaze orange ribbons to your animal while moving it.
The best time to photograph your deer is before you start dressing it. I am sure you did not need to read this article to figure that out. This is simply a reminder, so snap away.
Now, you should position the deer with its head up hill preferably if you choose to dress it on the ground. Do not cut the throat of the deer to bleed it. The deer will bleed out while dressing. Also, ensure that you do not cut the scent glands near the legs. This will certainly ruin the meat.
My choice for the beginning incision is at the top of the breastbone. Insert the knife with the blade facing upward. This prevents damage and cutting of the internal organs. Whenever you dress out a deer or any animal for that matter, insert the knife with the blade facing upward. This tip will save you much headache.
Insert your index and fore finger into the incision and form a “V” with your fingers behind the knife. As you make the cut along the breastbone, the fingers will act as a guide and allow for easier cutting. This cut is made all the way down to the penis or the udder.
Cut around the penis or udder with your knife. Do not cut the urinary bladder. For a buck deer, cut around the penis and testicles so they can be removed. For the doe, cut around the udder and remove it.
The next step requires your sharp knife to be inserted deeply to about three inches between the pelvis and the rectum. You will then cut in a circular motion around the rectum and vagina if necessary. Whatever you do, do not cut the rectum. You can use a string to tie the intestine shut.
You probably should not split the pelvis in the field. To avoid this, push the intestine the hole in the pelvis towards the abdomen.
The next step requires careful cutting with your knife. You will need to remove the bladder and the urinary tract. The bladder is a pear-shaped translucent sac located in the lower part of the abdomen. Pinch of the bladder with your off hand and cut it free with your knife. Remove the bladder and urinary tract ensuring that you do not get urine on the meat. It will taint the meat.
My suggestion is to empty the entrails next. Do this by rolling the deer on its side and the guts should roll out. Some cutting will be necessary especially about the esophagus. Ensure that you tie it off. You do not want the contents of the stomach spilling out. Trust me on that one.
Use your knife to cut the diaphragm away from both sides of the ribs. This is a tough membrane muscle that separates the chest cavity from the stomach cavity.
With your knife in a tight grip, stick both hands into the chest cavity and follow the windpipe and esophagus as far up as you can reach. Cut both free inside the animal. Be careful here. The last thing you want to do is to mistake that knotty index finger for the windpipe while not being able to observe what you are doing. I suggest retaining all fingers for future field dressing.
Roll the body over and drain the contents of the chest cavity. Try not to use water or snow to clean the inside of the cavity unless it has been contaminated by dirt, urine or bile. If you use water, dry it out as soon as possible.
Well, your deer is field dressed. Good job!
The next thing you have to do is remove the carcass from the field. Do not tie a rope around its neck and drag it. I only say this because I have seen it done. It is acceptable to attach a rope to the antlers and front legs to drag, but still not the best idea.
The best method for removing the deer from the field is by sleds or another option that prevents a person from tugging on the carcass.
When you get back to your base camp, suspend the deer in a tree with the head facing down. This will allow the deer to drain a bit more. Ensure that you keep the deer elevated enough so that your trusty Shepherd sidekick is not able to feast away. Also, try to open the chest cavity with a stick or two to allow it to ventilate some.
Do not leave it hanging too long. Give it a bit and then process the meat.
Next step, cook it up and chow down.
William “Cole” Doggett is an expert in knives and owns a successful Internet based website, Knife & Supply Company, LLC at www.KnifeSupplyCompany.com. His website is devoted to all things tactical law enforcement, military, outdoors and of course, Knives.