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Field Dressing

Field dressing is not hard, just messy.  It is recommended that you have a field dressing kit that can be purchased from any store that sells hunting equipment, including Wall-Mart.  It includes a pair of plastic film gloves that cover hands and arms up to the shoulder.  You will also need a sharp knife, some rope to haul the deer with, and a large light or lantern if you have to dress the deer after dark.

Lay the deer on its back with hind legs spread.  Kneel at the tail and cut out the penis or teats, making the cut of the skin about 4-6" in diameter and only deep enough to remove the organs (not a deep cut).  There is a membrane that separates the skin and the innards, place the first two fingers of your less dominant hand (left hand if you are right handed) between the skin and that membrane.  With the skin slightly raised with the fingers, insert your knife between the two fingers, blade facing upward.  You want to cut the skin but not the membrane.  Run your fingers and knife up the middle of the deer slitting the skin all the way to the sternum (breast bone).  When you get to the sternum you are entering the lung cavity.  If you have hit your deer well the lungs have already collapsed.  If not, use your knife to collapse the lungs.

Cut the sternum up as far as you can.  It is not bone but cartilage, but it cuts with difficulty.  It is useful at this point to break off a stick about 6" long to spread and hold open the sternum.  Reach up in the lung cavity as far as you can and cut off the windpipe.

You will find a number of membranes that attach the innards to the body cavity, each of which must be cut to allow the innards to fall out at the appropriate time.  Then cut around the  bung hole, grab the large intestine which attaches to it and pull it into the body cavity.  Be sure that it is cut free so that it will fall out with the rest of the innards.

Now you can turn the deer over, and if you have done a good job of cutting the membranes the innards will roll out when the carcass is lifted slightly.  Separate the heart and liver from the offal and put them in a plastic bag along with the plastic gloves (keep our woods clean).  Your deer is ready to haul out of the woods.

If you are alone and have a long haul, put the head between the front legs and tie the legs together so that when the deer is on its back the head is raised from the ground.  Make a large loop with your rope and tie the free end also to the front legs so that you can pull the deer with your chest rather than your hands.  You will find it much easier.

Once the deer is transported to your home or camp, hang it up by the head.  If you have water, use a hose to clean out the body cavity.  You can let it drip dry overnight if the temperature is 50 deg or below.  In warm weather it is best to skin the deer, quarter it and get it into a cooler with ice or into a refrigerator immediately.   In any event, you should remove the tenderloins at this time.  They are two strips of muscle located inside the lower body cavity flanking the spine.  They tend to dry out if the deer is hanging for a day or two.

2007 Bow Hunter's Advantage

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