How to Field Dress a Deer

by Zach Lazzari
Hunter holding up gun in the forrest.

Hunter holding up gun in the forrest.

Field dressing is an essential skill for big game hunters. The process involves the removal of guts and the preparation of meat for transport from the field to the butcher table. Field dressing a deer requires very few tools. Rope, a sharp knife and a pair of gloves are adequate. Although gloves are optional, they do add a layer of protection against body fluids and exposure to disease.

Prepare the Animal

  1. Attach your license or tag to the deer immediately after locating the dead animal. Poke a hole in the ear and tie the tag to the ear, for legal purposes. Drag the deer to a level area where the body is stable. A slight incline is acceptable and sometimes makes removing the entrails easier. Tie the uphill legs of the deer to a tree if placed on an incline. Roll the deer with the legs spread and the stomach facing the sky. Tie off the legs on either side if the deer will not remain upright. Put on rubber or plastic gloves to protect your hands from blood, if desired.

Making Incisions

  1. Use your fingers to locate the base of the breastbone. Make a shallow incision with a sharp knife to break through the skin. Hold the knife with the blade facing up and the tip pointing toward the tail. Run the knife down the stomach until you reach the genitals. Keep the incision shallow, only cutting through the hide and avoiding the intestines. Cut around each side of the penis on a buck or the udder on a doe. Continue the incision around the rectum, making a full circle and being careful not to pierce the rectum.

Final Preparations

  1. Reach inside the body of a buck and cut the base of the penis and testicles for removal. Tie the end of the anus with a string to prevent intestinal leaking. Locate the white sac or urinary bladder near the pelvis. Pinch the base of the bladder and cut it loose. Immediately remove the bladder from the cavity. Return to the breastbone and use firm pressure with the knife to split the bone in half.

Removing the Entrails

  1. Roll the deer on one side. Face the cavity downhill if possible. Reach through the breastbone and cut the windpipe with a sharp knife. Pull the windpipe and all the entrails out in one motion. Allow any excess blood to drain from the carcass. Roll the deer on its back after all the entrails are removed and the cavity is empty. Leave the cavity open to cool and dry the animal before transport.

About the Author

Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer specializing in hunting, fly fishing and the general outdoors. He guided fly fishing trips for 10 years in Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Patagonia-Chile. Zach lives in Montana and splits time between the river and keyboard.

Photo Credits

  • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images