Field dressing an animal in the field means you aren’t going to process and bag up all the different cuts of meat right there. Although you certainly could completely process the deer right there in the field, it is not common practice and not recommended. That is a different story if you live and hunt in the wild of Alaska. No matter where you are hunting, the idea behind field dressing is to get the animal to cool down as fast as possible. You don’t want the meat to spoil before you can finish processing it.
The basic premise of field dressing is to rip out all of the guts and expose the valuable meat inside to cool outdoor temperatures. If the meat is exposed to cooler temperatures, it will cool down much faster. Field dressing is imperative in the early hunting season when the temperatures may still be a little warm. Another perk to doing this is the animal is much lighter to drag out of the woods. Especially when you discard all the organs and excess material, you won’t use anyway. All this adds up to 50 pounds or more, so why not do it in the field before you leave?
Before leaving home to hunt, you should have a bag with you. It should have all the essential tools you need during and after the hunt. One of those things should be a strong, sturdy knife. A buck knife has a heavy spine and a very sharp edge. You may wish to have a whole kit with you, but you really only need one knife. The other items that come in the kit can be helpful. This depends on your preference.
1. Cut into the abdomen
To begin, you will want to pull the deer to a hill. It doesn’t need to be a steep hill, just something that will allow the blood to drain away from the caucus. This job is messy. Why get your boots dirty too? Spread the hind legs of the deer apart and position yourself behind it. The body should be lying on its back with the belly facing you. It may be slightly on the side but set it so the stomach can be easily reached. Place the knife at the base of the belly, and make a small incision. Be careful not to stab the knife in toward the guts. Instead, slice along the bottom of the abdomen to create a small incision. Puncturing the wrong organ can render the meat completely useless and foul.
2. Continue cutting toward the neck
After the incision has been made, it will be easier to insert the blade into the animal and slowly guide it toward the neck of the animal. At this point, you only want to separate the skin to see things inside clearer. You won’t have exposed the internals yet, but you are close, so be extremely careful to cut small layers at a time. Begin to separate the tissue beneath the skin a little at a time. At this point, you should be at the area of the rib cage. Use the rib cage as a guide to cut a little easier. It is possible but challenging to puncture any organs in this area. Once you have reached the base of the rib cage, you should be extra careful as the organs are just behind this area. Once you have separated the tissue, the force of everything pushing may begin to fall out as you cut further down. It is easier to place your fingers behind this tissue and use them as a guide to pull the tissue away from the organs. Continue cutting all the way back down to the pelvis area.
Doe’s will have mammary glands and teets that can be cut away. They are the tissue separate from the rest of the organs and attached to their teets. If a doe has recently been nursing, the glands behind the teets may be somewhat large. Remove this by cutting the skin around them and pulling the whole thing out. Then, toss them to the side.
3. Cut to the pelvic bone
Continue cutting and separating the tissue until you get to the pelvic bone. If you have a bone saw, you may want to cut through that bone. If you don’t, just cut the tissue to open the area more. Careful not to cut into the hams; separate the two. The guts should all be hanging out of the body now, with some blood draining. Try not to step into it as you work.
4. Cut away the anus
Cut away the rectum and other areas discarding them as you work. While working in this area, take extra precautions to ensure you don’t puncture any intestines or other organs.
5. Separate the ribs
The next step in learning how to field dress a deer is to go back to the ribs’ base and separate them. This is where the sturdy knife comes into play. Place the knife’s blade at the bottom of the rib cage, and force your way through. Cut each rib bone all the way to the top. This will expose the chest cavity and make cleaning out the chest cavity easier.
Cut away the tissue from the inside of the rib cage. The organs should fall out but still be connected. You should still be cautious. Ensure that all tissue is separated from both sides of the rib cage.
6. Cut the esophagus
Reach up inside the neck of the creature and find the esophagus. Cut this, and all the organs will be separated from the caucus.
7. Pull out the guts
Pull all the guts from inside the body, and drag them off to the side. Rock the body to drain the remaining amount of blood from inside. The animal is now ready to drag from the woods. Tie a length of rope to each of the back hoofs and pull. It will be heavy but not as heavy as it was about 20 minutes ago.
Check out this YouTube video for additional information: