Field Dressing Deer
To reduce your risk of exposure to disease, wear disposable plastic gloves while handling animals. Wash hands and arms thoroughly with soap and water before and after dressing.
- Step 1: Start your cut at the bottom of the breastbone. Using a clean, sharp knife, make a shallow cut by lifting the skin and muscle together.
- Step 2: Open the body cavity. Position the knife within the cut with the blade facing upwards. Insert two fingers (one on each side of the knife blade in the shape of a “V”) in the slit next to the breastbone, and push the entrails away from the blade. Do not pierce the entrails. Make an incision following the midline from the breastbone to the pelvis.
- Step 3: Remove the reproductive organs. Use a smaller incision to prevent contamination when dragging or carrying the deer.
- Step 4: Cut the skin and muscle from the bottom of the breastbone to the brisket. Hold the knife with blade facing upward.
- Step 5: Split the rib cage at the breastbone. Cut through the breastbone with a knife, or use a small saw on older or large animals.
- Step 6: Follow the previous incision from the pelvis to the anus. Split the pelvic bone with a saw. Carefully cut around the urethra. Do not sever.
- Step 7: Carefully remove the anus. Cut around the anus, loosening the connective tissues. Tie off the anus with rubber bands or string. Pull the anus and large intestine into the body cavity.
- Step 8: Make your final cuts. Hold open the rib cage. Reach into the cavity, and cut the diaphragm free from the rib cage down to the backbone. Avoid cutting the stomach or intestines to reduce contamination.
- Step 9: Roll the carcass onto its side to spill out the entrails. Loosen connective tissues as needed. Remove the windpipe and esophagus.
- Step 10: Place the liver and heart in resealable plastic bags and chill. Do not eat the meat if the organs smell bad, exhibit greenish discharge, have blood clots, or are discolored.
- Step 11: Clean, ventilate, and dry the body cavity. Prop open the body cavity with a clean stick or branch. Remove all visible dirt, feces, hair, and bloodshot areas. Clean out the entrail residue, and drain excess blood.
- Step 12: Wipe the inside of the body cavity with a dry cloth or paper towels. Use clean water and dry the insides thoroughly if you choose to rinse out the cavity.
Dispose of entrails carefully. Don’t leave them lying by the side of a road or near a residence where they can be dragged home by a dog.
If you plan to process the animal yourself, skin the animal as soon as possible to allow the carcass to cool.
Take to a professional meat processor or cut up at home.
Finally, a sure way to ruin meat—as well as earn the disapproval of non-hunters—is to tie the animal to the hood or roof of a car, where it’s exposed to heat, exhaust fumes, road salt, and airborne dust.
Credit: Field Dressing Deer Techniques courtesy of Penn State University-College of Agriculture Science-Agriculture Research and Cooperative Extension