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Field dressing is important because it helps preserve and maintain the quality of the meat and assures food safety in the home. The following instructions are for field dressing the deer for consumption. For taxidermy purposes check with your taxidermist to find the correct way to preserve the integrity of your trophy.

Below are a list of items needed. It is good to have all your equipment assembled before you begin.

To field dress a deer, you will need:

A sharp hunting knife
A deboning knife
About 12 feet of nylon cord or rope
Plastic bags
Clean cloths or paper towels (not recycled)
A canteen of fresh water
Surgical or rubber gloves (if desired)
A five gallon bucket lined with a trash bag.


Some hunters skin the deer on the ground. As this can be somewhat awkward, this method is not recommended. If at all possible hang the deer up in a tree. This is done by using nylon cord or rope to tye a knot around the deer's back feet and throwing the cord over the tree limb and hoisting the animal up. The deer's back feet should be toward the sky and his head toward the ground at this point.

1. Removing scent glands:

Take notice of the inside of his back "knees." There should be a patch of hair growing there that is longer than the rest of the hair surrounding it. This is the deer's scent glands, which give off a very strong odor. It is a good idea to cut these glands out as soon as possible after the kill to avoid contaminating the taste of the meat. If you have not cut those out before hand do so now. Dip the knife in and make a circle around the scent glands and remove them. Discard the scent glands in the five gallon bucket lined with the trash bag.

2. Make the initial cuts

When finished, your initial cuts will look much like a stick figure. You will have one long cut down the middle, two foreleg cuts, and two backleg cuts.

2a. Make the back leg cuts:

To make the back leg cuts, begin with a very sharp knife, make a slit from the second joint of the leg, the knee, to the rectum of the deer. Go to the other leg and make the exact same slit from the knee to the rectum again.

2b. Make the center cut:

Make a split from the rectum down the middle of the deer to the bottom of the deer's chin.

2c. Make the foreleg cuts:

Make a cut from the deer's forelegs working inward to the belly cut.

3. Removing the entrails

Be sure to begin gutting as soon as possible as it is extremely important to the quality of the meat that it be cooled down. At the top part of his back legs cut the penis off. Run the knife down the deer's midsection being careful not to cut into the entrails. You want to cut into the deer's belly, opening it up but without actually cutting the entrails. Avoid cutting into the intestines by using the handle of the knife and the heel of your hand to crowd the intestines away. Place the five gallon bucket underneath the deer to catch the entrails. Split the deer wide open down the midsection. Roll the entrails out into the bucket. If you want to keep the heart and liver you can take them out. The heart is oblong shaped. The liver is dark and large. There will be a melt that runs along the back side of the liver that is not good to eat. It favors the liver but is a lighter color.


4. Skinning the deer

Begin the skinning of the deer at the top of his hind legs. Cut the tail of the deer off moving downward. Let the tail come off with the hide. Continue working in a downward motion, using your knife to cut the skin off. Cut a ring around each of the deer's hind legs in the same place where you made the initial cut. Peel the hide off of the bone. Cut a ring around the forelegs where you made the initial cut and peel the hide off from there also. At the ears, take your knife and make a ring around his ears and the back of the neck. Continue pulling all the hide off until deer is completely skinned.
5. Cutting up the deer for consumption

The method to cut up a deer varies according to each individual's taste. Some people cut off the meat and grind it up to be used like ground beef in chili or stews. To cut the meat up into steaks, use a deboning knife to remove all of the meat from the bone. Do not worry with the size of the steaks at this point. At this time you are just trying to remove the meat from the bone. Place the hunks of meat into plastic bags packed as full as possible, tie or close the bag, and place in the freezer. Be sure to rinse the bags throughly to remove any blood on the outside of the bag. Let the meet chill until firm. This will allow easier handling of the meat.

Once the meat is firm you can take it out of the freezer and begin slicing it into pan size steaks. Place a sheet of white butcher paper on the table. Place several steaks on the paper and wrap it up. Freeze until ready to eat.

Field dressing a deer can be a difficult and messy task but with each experience you will become more skillful. Soon you will be able to dress the deer quickly and cleanly, and others will requesting your expertise.