If you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you have already harvested a deer or you’re proactively planning for when you do. In either case, congratulations on taking a step toward a lifestyle that is sure to satisfy and sustain.
Though deer hunting is thrilling and provides various benefits for you, your family, and conservation, it takes work. Perhaps the most intimidating part of the whole endeavor is dressing a deer, especially if you’ve never done it before. But it will become second nature once you do it enough.
After swooning over the success that lies in front of you, grab your gloves (if desired) because it’s time for the dirty work. This guide to field dressing a deer for beginners explains an easy process to get the job done.
A good knife is the most crucial component to field dressing a deer. A sharp knife four-to-six inches in length or a knife with a gut hook will be most useful.
Kick around an open spot in the leaves on the ground if you’re in the woods to create an area to place your knife when you aren’t using it so you don’t lose it during the process.
A good knife is the most crucial component to field dressing a deer.
The Anus is Heinous
Lay the deer on its back. Cut around the deer’s anus about ¾ of an inch and three-to-four inches deep. Be mindful of the bladder when making this cut. Urine won’t necessarily contaminate the meat, but you certainly don’t want to use it as a marinade.
If you killed a buck, remove the exterior genitals. If you killed a doe, do not remove or cut through the utters. This can result in a mess if milk is present.
The Upward Cut
This section only applies if you are not mounting the deer. If you are mounting the deer, move to the downward cut.
Stand straddling the deer. Flip the knife upside down. With your free fingers, feel for the bottom of the deer’s breastbone. Insert the knife beneath the breastbone at an angle to avoid puncturing the stomach. Firmly pull up on the knife at an angle cutting through the chest until the heart and lungs are exposed. This might take some extra effort. If you cannot physically cut through the chest with your knife, a small saw can be used.
Grab the esophagus above the heart and cut it across.
Hold your knife firm and begin to make your cut.
The Downward Cut
This section applies whether you are mounting the deer or not.
Face toward the deer’s lower half, straddling the deer again. If you skipped the upward cut, make the first incision where the stomach meets the breastbone.
From the breastbone incision, start making a straight cut down the deer’s abdomen toward the pelvis. The deer’s belly skin will be tight against its stomach and other organs. Use your free hand to create space between the stomach lining and the skin as you cut to avoid puncturing any organs. This is a crucial step in this guide to field dressing a deer for beginners. Juices leaked from innards can ruin the deer meat you intend to consume, making it inedible.
Reach up into the cavity for the esophagus and cut it across if you have not done so already.
Remove the Guts
Grab the esophagus and pull it down toward the pelvis. As you pull, detach any connective tissue with your knife that keeps the organs attached to the inner wall. The intent is to pull all the innards out cohesively into one large pile.
If the anus does not pull out easily, pull harder on the lower intestines and cut what is needed to remove it.
You should successfully have a gut pile lying on the ground outside of the deer.
Hang the deer by its hind legs to drain the remaining blood.
Last Step to Dress for Success
Turn the deer over and lie the carcass on a slant with the cavity open, or hang the deer on a tree by its hind legs, to drain the remaining blood.
Grab a beverage to calm your own guts, call your buds, and take a breather. You just got through the dirtiest part of this hunting endeavor. But it’s all worth it when you’re sitting around the table with your loved ones enjoying a venison meal with a story to tell, we promise.