hunters carrying dead turkeys on their backs

Big Green Blog

After the Shot: Field Dressing a Deer

10.21.2022 | By Remington Contributor

Buck down! Congratulations on notching your tag, but after the trigger is pulled, the real work begins. The first step to prep your deer for the grill, crockpot or jerky drying rack is field dressing the animal.

Field dressing means removing the animal’s internal organs to preserve its meat. This process stops bacterial growth by cooling down the meat, draining blood, and removing organs and waste products that could contaminate your deer.

  • Position the deer belly up on its back - Ideally on an incline to elevate the head and help blood drain as you work
  • Work on as clean of a surface as possible, free of debris, sticks, etc. Consider pulling your deer on top of a plastic tarp
  • Cut up the midline – Start by cutting the hide and pulling back, then cut into muscle starting directly above the genitals, make a shallow cut from the pelvis up to the ribcage, or sternum. This is a good time to use your gut hook, position the blade point up to avoid puncturing internal organs while opening up the chest cavity. If it’s a buck, cut and remove the genitals.
  • Want a shoulder mount of your trophy? Cut no further
  • If not mounting, use a bone saw or your knife to cut through the sternum and open up the rib cage
  • Cut the diaphragm – The thin membrane that separates the chest from the stomach. Cut away from the bottom of the spine up the cavity walls
  • Cut the windpipe – Grabbing the windpipe above the heart and lungs, reach up into the neck as high up as you can above the rib cage and cut the windpipe to free the entrails
  • Remove internal organs – Pull the cut portion of the windpipe from the head towards the lower legs. This should pull free the heart, lungs, intestines, etc. Cut the colon free and set the whole gut pile aside. Save the heart and liver if you’d like
  • Drain Blood – Flip the deer over on it’s now empty and opened chest cavity to drain. You can also hang your deer to help do the same

Alternate Method: Quartering

One popular alternate method of getting your meat out of the woods is by quartering the animal. This is useful with larger game like elk, or if you have a long pack out to the truck. This method leaves some useful meat behind but can come in handy.

  • With the deer on its back, cut around each leg’s hip and shoulder’s ball joints, remove connecting issue and work each leg free to take all four legs off your deer. Avoid the internal organs, being careful to not puncture the stomach etc. as you work the lower legs free
  • Turn deer over on stomach, make an incision down each side of the spine. Finding the backstraps, cut free as far back towards the rump as possible, then slide your knife under each backstrap up toward the head. Cut the straps free as high up as possible
  • Don’t forget the tenderloins. Above the flank and ahead of where you’ve cut the back legs free, reach in underneath where you’ve removed the backstraps and cut the tenderloins free

Recommended Gear

  • Sharp skinning-style knife, 4”+ long
    • Knives with easily replaceable blades are popular so you stay sharp and make easy cuts
    • Knives with a gut hook are handy
  • Bone saw - If removing head, or sawing through sternum
  • Latex gloves
  • Clean up: Wipes, paper towels, etc.
  • Sled, ropes, a tarp, or a buddy to help haul deer

Now you’re ready to fire up the grill, pack freezer bags for later consumption, or get your drying racks loaded up.

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