How to Process a Deer at Home: Part 1 (How to Field Dress A Deer)
One of the most intimidating parts of learning to hunt is the right way to field dress the animal you have harvested. We know the process can seem daunting, but if you follow our basic tips, you'll know the right way to dress your deer.
Why You Need to Field Dress Your Deer
Field dressing is basically the process of removing the internal organs and blood. You want to field dress a deer as soon as possible, particularly if you punctured the stomach. Field dressing cools the meat down quickly and helps prevent bacterial growth. You can tell when an animal was not dressed quickly because it will have a very strong, gamey flavor.
What Type of Knife Do You Use?
A lot of hunters will have a special knife that they prefer to use. I do, and it is a knife a friend made for me. It may be better than some knives and worse than others, but it is the one I like.
If you are looking for a good field dressing knife, we recommend the Outdoor Edge RazorMax. The replaceable blades make it easy to keep a sharp knife on big jobs, and the two types of blades let you field dress, debone, and slice meat with one tool.
Getting Started with Field Dressing
I carry a pair of disposable nitrile gloves because it makes clean-up easier. This is a messy job.
When you field dress a deer, you will start at the anus and work forward. Use your knife blade to carefully cut a circle around the anus, then press the blade in to loosen everything up.
Okay, this is where you want to be careful. You can brace the deer with your knees to hold it in place. You want to cut the skin from the bottom of the ribs down to the pelvis without puncturing the stomach. You want to make swift, sure, and shallow cuts.
The best way to start is to lift the skin up with your hand and make a puncture with the tip of your knife. A clip blade knife can be handy here, but a good-quality drop point will work well. Be confident.
Getting Into It
Once you are through the skin and fat layer, you will see the stomach and other internal organs. Use your hands and your field dressing knife to carefully cut the diaphragm muscle. You can then reach with your hand and find the heart, then use your knife to cut the esophagus. You have to cut the esophagus in order to release the heart and lungs, before you can remove the innards.
The next step is simply to pull the stomach and intestines out, being careful to not cut or rupture anything. Once the contents of the cavity are out, you can simply cut the large intestine off. Lastly, you want to go back around and pull the anus out. Since the large intestine was cut off, this should just pull out, and you should have a pass-through into the cavity where the stomach contents were. At this point, your deer is field dressed and ready to get to the freezer.
In another post, we'll go over how to properly process your deer.
Quick Tips From The Bearded Butchers
- When you harvest a deer, make a clean shot.
- Save the heart! Grilled deer heart is a fabulous and healthy meal.
- Field dress your deer as soon as possible.
- When you are cutting the stomach contents loose, be careful not to cut into the tenderloins around the spine.
- Don’t forget in all the excitement to put your tag on your deer as soon as it is down.
If you're more of a visual person, and want to see a video of us breaking down the process, watch our video below on how to field dress a deer.
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