Information On Field Dressing A Deer

Deer are a renewable resource but hunters have a resonsiblity to use this resource responsibly and field dressing a deer is an economical way to ensure that the venison is not wasted.

There are many positive aspects to deer hunting. Not only does it help control the deer population it also provides hunters with a meat source that is better for them than beef, pork, ham, lamb or turkey! Venison is very low in fat and low in calories but high in protein. It is also a meat high in phosphorous, iron and vitamins as well. Deer are a renewable resource but hunters have a responsibility to use this resource responsibly and learning to butcher your own deer is an economical way to ensure that the venison is not wasted.

Immediately after a deer is shot you need to begin to field dress the venison so you can preserve the quality of the flavor and prevent any meat from being ruined due to spoilage or bacteria. Although some experts believe that it is unnecessary to slit the deer's throat to let the carcass bleed, most hunters still believe it is a good practice to cut entirely through the windpipe. The same controversy applies to the removal of the metatarsal glands located inside of the rear legs. These glands secrete a strong smelling musk during the rut and can contaminate the meat if you are not careful in removing them. This can be saved until after the field dressing, or if you do cut them off, be sure not to use the same knife to continue skinning the deer. If you do not intend to leave the hide on for hanging any length of time, they will not need to be removed and can come off when you skin the deer.

Start with the deer on its back on fairly level ground. The most important tool in field dressing a deer is to use a very sharp knife. The basic concept is that you will unzip the deer down the front and empty out the entrails. You will need to split the pelvis bone all the way to the anus to expose the full length of the colon and reproductive organs. By dressing the deer in this manner you are helping the carcass to cool which will deter the growth of bacteria that will begin forming around the wounded area. Although this may sound simple, removal of the bladder and large intestines is critical to keeping your meat clean.



The second tool that can help you in removing the bladder and colon is to have a strong rubber band handy. You won't find this tip in many hunting guides but practiced sportsmen find that tying off the colon at the anus with a rubber-band after you have cut around the anus, will make the field dressing job much easier. It will prevent any contamination from spilling into the carcass and will make it so that you do not have to split the pelvis to remove the colon from the pelvis. This tip also applies to the urethra.

Next tilt the deer on its side and cut away the liver and kidneys from the spine. It is also helpful to have a plastic bag to save the liver and heart for later use. Repeat the process until all the inner organs have been severed and removed. To get to the heart and lungs it is necessary to cut the diaphragm. The windpipe, heart and lungs will also need to be removed. Some hunters like to split the ribcage to do this while other hunters simply reach inside (this is obviously more messy than splitting it but saves time and effort).

Some hunters remove the hide as soon as the deer is dragged back to camp while others choose to let it cool in the hide. Which ever you choose the method remains the same. The deer is hung from the antlers and the hide is cut along the interior of both hind and front legs. Then the hide is pulled from the top (this takes a great deal of strength) and the tissues holding the hide on can be periodically cut with a knife to allow the hide to slip off until it is removed.

If you have an electric winch the removal of a hide can be greatly simplified. Hang the deer as described then get the hide started over the shoulders. Make sure the deer is well secured and attach the end of the winch to the hide. Turn the winch on slow. As it pulls on the hide help it over the rough spots and cut as necessary. It is not necessary with this method to cut the interior of the legs, they can simply be pulled off.

All hunters have their own favorite way to field dress their kill. Which method is the best? Whichever method you feel the most comfortable performing. Even a sloppy field dressing is better than not performing one at all.

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