Field dressing a deer is not the most fun part of the hunt, but it's just as necessary as all the careful preparation and the killing shot. Field dressing consists of cleaning the deer of its entrails, which can contaminate the meat.
Make sure the deer is dead. Many hunters have been attacked because they failed to take this precaution. Poke the deer in the flank. If there is no reaction, tap the eyeball with a stick to make absolutely sure the deer is dead.
Put on your gloves, which will protect your hands from the smells of the animal. It will also protect the meat from any dirt or germs on your hands.
Remove the doe's scent glands, which are located on the insides of her hind legs. Although a doe's scent glands are not as offensive as a buck's, they can stink up whatever they come in contact with, including your hands, your knife and the meat. Cut through the skin around the glands, making sure not to touch them. Detach them from the legs and throw them away.
Begin cutting through the skin downward from the breastbone. Be careful not to perforate any of the organs, especially the stomach and intestines, which are particularly noisome.
Fit two fingers inside with the knife point between them as soon as your incision is long enough (2 inches). Use your fingers to guide the knife along, cutting upward and outward. Firstly, it's easier to cut outward than through the fur. There is also less risk of cutting into any of the organs. Whenever possible while dressing the deer, cut outward rather than inward.
Make a V-shaped cut when you near the udder with about a 60-degree angle between the two cuts.
Continue both cuts parallel to each other when the cuts are far enough apart to run on either side of the udder (about eight inches apart), along the interior edge of the thighs, with the genitals in between the cuts.
Continue the cuts, always staying only skin deep, past the genitals and around the anus, where they will connect again at the base of the tail.
Use your fingers and small, careful cuts with the knife to lift the skin around the anus away from the flesh all around. Then use the string to tie off the anus, slipping it beneath the loop of skin through the opening you have created between the anus and genitals.
Separate the skin from the point of the V-cut, using your fingers and small, careful cuts with the knife. Extract the udder and genitals, all together, downward and away from the body. Do not sever the urethra or the rectum. All of these will eventually be drawn through the pelvic circle and out the large incision in the abdomen with the rest of the entrails.
Locate the diaphragm inside the thorax, just beneath the breastbone. The diaphragm is an umbrella-shaped membrane that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity.
Cut through the diaphragm where it joins the ribcage all the way around the animal. You do not need to be as careful with this cut, since perforating the lungs will not contaminate the meat.
Sever the esophagus and trachea at the top of the chest cavity, where the chest meets the neck. Cutting up the breastbone to the neck with a bone saw makes this easier, but it can easily be done by simply reaching up into the chest.
Remove the organs. All of the entrails should now be separated from the skeletal-muscular structure of the deer. Other remaining epithelial connections to the walls of the ribcage or the pelvic circle can be cut carefully.
Pull the genitals and udder through the pelvis into the abdominal cavity, and remove all of the entrails, including all of the internal organs from the intestines to the heart and lungs. Rolling the carcass helps the entrails slide out.
- In most Western states and some Midwestern states where Chronic Wasting Disease has become a concern, some hunters omit field dressing entirely, choosing instead to simply skin the animal and remove the meat from the carcass from the top and back, rather than risk puncturing a potentially infected central nervous system.
- If you wish to remove the heart and liver, which are also edible, simply sever the blood vessels which connect them to the other organs. Be careful when detaching the liver not to perforate the gall bladder, which is directly attached and will leak bile if it is perforated.