Good paper on Field Dressing Deer. A friend, an avid Dove Hunter, told me Sunday he often kept a sheet about how to field dress a deer with him, while deer hunting. Enclosed is just such a sheet. Note videos are available, and several web sites give you still pictures. It might be good to see just how messy field dressing can be, to prepare yourself. Paul
Field Dressing FAQ has good pictures. (This file is NOT that website.)
offers videos providing in-depth coverage and "how-to" instruction on Field Dressing and In-house Butchering Techniques.
I. CONTENTS OF A FIELD DRESSING PACK
A (sharp) hunting knife. Two knives are better in case one gets dull.
Surgeons gloves (two pair or more) to avoid getting infected with animal disease that is found in the blood and fecal matter. Surgeons gloves greatly reduce the risk of frostbite that can be caused by contact with 'warm blood' in cold weather.
Several pieces of 3/8" rope for securing animal legs for dressing operations and for hanging portions of meat after the butchering process.
A water container which is used for washing the carcass clean and for cleaning yourself after completing the field dressing operation.
Two or three plastic bags with tie wraps. These are used for saving the heart and liver of the animal. If you do not wish to save these organs then one bag can be used for storing all of the other items on the list. Large "ziploc" bags work great! 30lb trash bag is plenty big enough for the liver!
A couple of clean rags should be included for wiping out the body cavity and for keeping your hands clean in the process of field dressing your harvest.
A piece of heavy string or twine or electricians wire should be included for use in attaching your hunting license to the carcass of the harvested animal.
A ballpoint pen of lead pencil which can be used for filling out the information on your license tag.
Optional equipment could include a small axe, saw, or other tool for cutting through heavy bone.
Marking tape can also be included so that you can re-locate your animal if you have to leave to get transportation.
Include a large plastic tarp if you intend to skin and quarter your animal in the field. The tarp helps to keep the meat out of the dirt.
Cotton bags large enough to hold quarters of the animal is also helpful to speed the cooling of the animal parts and to prevent flies from contaminating the meat with their eggs.
II. FIELD DRESSING BIG GAME (Elk & Deer)
Once you've successfully tracked down your game, the first thing you want to do is make sure it is dead. Cautiously approach it. While staying on your feet reach out and tap the eye with the end tip of your weapon or a long stick. IF the animal is alive it will thrash about, if it doesn't move, it is dead.
Next, take your weapon and put it safely away from your work area. Always make sure the gun is no longer loaded.
Tag the animal to show that it is legally harvested and in your possession. If the animal is male, simply tie a copy of your license to the antlers by putting a string through a hole you've punched through the license. If it is a female, you'll need to cut a hole in one of the does ears, and thread a piece of electricians wire through the hole and then attach the copy of your license.
Once the animal is successfully tagged, take out the contents of your field pack.
If you are working by yourself, handling the elk or deer is very tough. It is best to have a partner with you.
Determine now if you want this animal mounted for your trophy room. This decision will determine how you make your initial cuts.
Position the animal by getting the bottom end of the it downhill. By positioning the animal this way you allow the innards to move in such a way that a void is created between the breast bone and the paunch behind the diaphragm of the animal where you can start your incision in the belly. You will also want to ROLL the animal on it's back.
NOTE: Some people like to make the initial cut from the rectum to the base of the jaw. In this INSTRUCTION the cut will be made at the top end of the brisket located between the legs. To locate the brisket, poke your fingers into the fur between the legs.
WARNING: Field dressing is not a speed competition. Take your time and don't get excited! You'll end up with a better end product and more meat on the table.
Initial cut: Get the cut started at the beginning of the brisket. Follow the center line nice and smoothly, taking short strokes with your knife to the end of the brisket so as to not cut into the intestines. Spoilage of meat will occur if the intestines are cut open. Taking care not to puncture the intestinal area, continue the cut all the down to the mammary glands (female) or penis (bull).
NOTE: Remember that you must leave proof of sex. If you are dressing a Bull, make your cut down along the side of the penis, and right through the middle of the scrotum and testicles so that 1 testicle is left with either side of the hide. If you are dressing a Doe, cut through the mammary glands so that 1 gland will be left attached to either side of hide.
TIP: Once you've successfully completed the initial cut from the beginning of the brisket to the rectum, press down on the inside of the animals legs to 'open' the carcass as wide as possible. To allow for a wider opening, you can cut the muscles in the pelvic girdle, very carefully so as to not cut into the abdominal wall, using short strokes of your sharp knife. Then press down on the legs with good pressure.
Next, carefully skin the abdominal area first to ensure that minimal hair is ends up in the cavity. To skin the abdominal area take short cuts using just the tip of the knife being careful not to cut holes in the hide. You'll want to skin back about 6" on each side of your brisket to rectum cut. Once the abdominal cavity is fully exposed, continue skinning the hide back away from the meat. This will save you time and work once you're ready to remove the internal organs.
WARNING: ALWAYS be cautious of the fact that you have a deadly weapon in your hand - YOUR HUNTING KNIFE - and it can kill you if you're not careful!
Removing the brisket. The brisket is basically cartilage and it is hard to cut it through the middle with the potential risk of injuring yourself if you try to cut through it. It is best to handle the brisket safely yet efficiently with minimal exertion. Locate the soft cartilage on either side (depending on if you are right or left handed). Choose which side you will cut into. Start your knife at the end of the brisket in the soft cartilage and make your cut smoothly, you'll have to work your knife a little, until you get to the spot where the brisket begins near the inside shoulder area of the animal. Once you've got one side cut away from the ribs, simply go to the other side of the brisket and cut along the soft cartilage in the same way. This will allow you to remove the brisket safely. You don't have to straddle the animal or risk injury to your femoral artery. Removing the entire brisket makes it easier to reach inside and finish separating the internal organs from the backbone.
CAUTION: [At this point a lot of hunters do this procedure carelessly and don't know that they could injure themselves, and quite possibly kill themselves. While straddling the neck and upper chest area of the Elk or Deer they try cutting right through the center of the brisket and if their knife hits the bone and hard cartilage just right the knife ends up in their gut or worse, their groin, and worst of all the knife cuts the femoral artery, and by trying to 'save' time they end up bleeding to death or dying from shock or the elements before anyone finds them.]
Now that the brisket is removed, you're able to identify the internal organs, lungs, heart, and the diaphragm which is a piece of flesh that is a partition wall that separates the heart and lungs from the 'sewage treatment plant' - i.e. the stomach, intestines, liver, etc.
If you move the lungs to the side, you can see the windpipe and esophagus which need to be separated from the backbone. You want to carefully cut thought the bone that remains from where the brisket used to be. This will allow you to sever the windpipe a little higher and give you a better handle to work with. Sever the windpipe, and notice that the lungs go down, as the air in them is removed. At this point you will want to use your knife to separate the windpipe from the backbone, making short cuts with your blade while pulling on the windpipe to expose the backbone.
When you get to the diaphragm continue separating it from the rib cage being extremely careful not to damage the intestine.
Next, give the windpipe a tug and pull the internal organs out of the cavity to better expose the areas that need to be cut away from the backbone. If you are doing this as a one man operation, it can be a very strenuous job, time consuming and you might find yourself breathing heavy. Just take your time and do it right.
Once you've successfully removed the diaphragm from the backbone, you'll want to handle the anus (rectum). This part may be very messy and bloody, but you want to be extremely careful not to cut into the rectum. You risk meat spoilage if you cut into the rectum. Cut around the rectum. To cut around the rectum you may need to put your fingers inside it, and because you have rubber gloves on you needn't worry about it.
Cutting through the pelvic bone. This is where some guys like to bring in their saws, but you can cut through the pelvic bone with your knife. No Rambo knives or Arkansas toothpicks are necessary. Just work your knife through the pelvic bone smoothly and it will separate.
Once the pelvic bone has been split, continue separating the diaphragm from the backbone. You won't have much room to work with, so you will need to reach in and shift the diaphragm, so that you can see where you need to cut. Keep working to free it, and keep all the fecal matter outside of the body cavity. When the diaphragm has been completely severed from the backbone you can remove all of the internal organs and the animal will almost be completely field dressed.
With the internal organs removed, you'll notice blood inside the body cavity, but NO fecal matter or hair. [IF the animal had been shot through the abdominal cavity, you'd probably have to deal with that.]
Now you want to go through the entrails and retrieve all of the edible organs. Get your plastic bags ready. Locate the heart which is in the area of the lungs and is attached to a sac. Cut it away from the sac, and place it in the ziploc bag. Locate the liver and cut it away from the diaphragm tissue using short even cuts. Once it is completely removed from the diaphragm place it in the 30lb. trash bag.
Now you are ready to remove the windpipe from the throat, because it is one of the first places that spoilage occurs in big game animals. Cut the neck following the centerline if possible. You'll probably still be able to feel the heat of the animal. This is where it starts spoiling. Cut up to the base of the jaw, feel for the larynx and cut through it. Hold the windpipe up to get to the area beneath it and continue cutting it away from the body. Once the windpipe is entirely removed the neck is opened up so that it can begin to cool out.
To allow for room to drain the body cavity of fluids, you'll need to move the pile of entrails out of your way. REMEMBER that not everyone who uses the woods for recreation is a hunter! People don't always appreciate seeing the remains of an animal. Move the abdominal pile off and away from the trail and cover it, but leave it for the 'critters' that will eat it. By doing this you respect other people's feelings.
Now you are ready to drain the cavity. Lift it up by holding onto the ears and shoulders (this part is a two person job, if you are alone - you'll want to drag the carcass to a higher point so that enough of the fluid can be drained out of the cavity). After the fluid has drained, wipe the cavity clean with rags.
This step by step instruction can be seen in the hunter instruction video, "A Comprehensive Guide to Big Game Field Dressing," and can be purchased online or by mail-order from SportsmanVideos.com.
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