Field Dressing Deer 101

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Since I created this website, I have had several requests to add a page showing how to field dress a deer.  There are a few pages on this website showing how I process the deer I harvest and other things of interest and finally got around to doing a Reader's Digest version of how to field dress a deer.

Personally, I believe deer meat and any wild game harvested taste much better when immediately field dressed.  There are those of the opposite opinion, but I can smell and taste the difference.  Many hunters soak there game in vinegar water to remove the harsh smell and taste that may be present by not properly field dressing and processing which renders meat that is bland in taste IMHO (in my humble opinion).  Others will use strong marinades that overpower the meat leaving the primary flavor of the marinade.  Marinades primary function are to tenderize the tougher cuts of meat yet still impart some additional flavor without removing the entire natural taste of the meat, otherwise you might as well be eating grain fed cattle.

Basically, the only tool necessary to field dress a deer is a knife, preferably one of the drop-point design with a blade length from 3 to 5 inches and around 4 to 4.5 inches being the optimum length.  I have observed hunters with hunting knives on their side long and large enough to field dress a Mammoth of Mastodon........grin if you must.  You need a knife blade at least 1/8 inch in thickness and could be hollow or flat ground depending on your personal preference.  I have used many different knives over the decades for field dressing deer and to name a few; Smith & Wesson, Buck Vanguard, Buck Folding Hunter, Randall Made # 3, Old Timer, J.A. Henckels and several others.  I am currently using a Buck Folding drop-point lock open knife with a 3.25 inch blade which is a little short for field dressing but still works fine and is more versatile than a knife dedicated solely for field dressing big game animals such as several of the above listed knives including the Smith & Wesson, Buck Vanguard and the Randall Made # 3.

SAFETY RULE  # 1,  Always make certain the deer is dead before getting extremely close, otherwise a wounded deer can inflict serious bodily injury and possible death.  Approach the deer with caution from the rear and touch the deer with a stick, bow, gun barrel, etc., making sure there is no movement.  Follow up by checking the deer's eyes which will be glazed over and most of the time the deer's tongue will be hanging from the mouth, but not always!  Below a few sequence pixs with narrative comments:

Reposition and move the deer if necessary where you have room to work and you can roll the deer on its back and straddle the carcass and hold in position with the inside of  your legs.  I normally leave the deer on its side at this stage of field dressing.  Insert your knife about 4 inches deep beside the rectum and as close to the pelvic bone as possible.  Cut around the entire rectum pulling it aside to keep from cutting into it.  Pix below:

The next step isn't mandatory and most do not tie off the rectum (anal opening) but showing it in case you desire to do so which can keep feces from inside the cavity.  Processing hogs and cows, this technique is commonly used on the small country farms.   I used an old boot string that I carry in my pack pack and you simply tie off the end of the rectum (anal opening) with a square knot or surgeon's knot, etc..  I prefer the surgeon's knot since it maintains tension or friction while completing the knot.:

After cutting around the rectum and tying it off, roll the deer onto it's back and hold it into position between the inside of your lower legs.  Insert your knife tip at the base of the breastbone and pull the skin up with your other hand and cut slowly with the tip of the knife so the paunch and intestines are not punctured cutting within a few inches of the milk bag or testicles.  You can insert your first two fingers between the skin and stomach after you have made the cut a few inches in length and form a V with the two fingers and place the tip of the knife blade between the V of your fingers to help keep the stomach and intestines away from the knife point.  At this stage, you do not have to cut into the breastbone to the neck because you can cut around the diaphragm and remove the heart, lungs, etc., but I normally will cut the entire length of the breastbone which is optional.  The disadvantage of cutting the entire length of the breastbone is that you can accumulate dirt and debris from dragging the deer out, but it has never been a problem for me.  I cut a small nick in the stomach, but avoid any cuts into the stomach as it can contaminate your deer meat.  I was lucky this time and didn't contaminate anything.  Pix below: 

I elected to cut the entire length of the breastbone which isn't required and it takes a good sharp knife with some backbone to do so.  I try and stay slightly off center of the breastbone which makes it a little easier, but it takes some "man power" and effort to make the cut:

As you can see, the little Buck folding lock open knife cut through the entire breastbone without a problem.  Roll the deer back on its side and pull out the stomach and intestines and get hold of the lower intestine and pull the rectum through the pelvic opening which will not be a  problem if you cut deep enough and close to the pelvic bone.  The pix below shows the rectum tied off after pulling through the rectum.  Continue to pull the intestines out and use your knife as needed to help free it up and cut around the diaphragm close to the rib cage and remove the heart, lungs, etc. and sever the windpipe as high up as possible.  Cutting through the entire breastbone is not mandatory since you can pull the heart, lungs, windpipe, etc. out once you have cut around the diaphragm.

Continue to pull the intestines out and use your knife as needed to help free the entire internal organs. 

Roll the deer onto its stomach and allow excess blood to drain from the carcass:

Below pix of the little Buck # 345 USA folding lock open knife with a 3 1/4 inch length drop-point blade which would still shave hair after field dressing the above deer.  I removed the belt clip from the side of the knife and use an older leather Buck belt case instead:

It only takes between 5 to 10 minutes to field dress a deer once you have done it a few times and certainly renders much better tasting meat in my humble opinion.  Also, when dragging a deer out and/or loading onto your four wheeler or truck, you have about 20 to 30 percent less weight to handle.  Work smarter not harder!

Check out my deer skinning and quartering page for the above doe and Venison Chop Shop page and as Paul Harvey would say,  "The rest of the story."

NOTE:  I have used the book After Your Deer Is Down by Joe Fischl and Leonard Lee Rue, III published by Winchester Press Tulsa, Oklahoma since 1982 which is a photo essay of the care and handling of big game and very detailed.  

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 10-11-13.


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