You’ve put in your time, made a good shot, and finally killed a deer. Now the work begins. The best way to learn how to process a deer is to roll up your sleeves and get started. The result will be a freezer full of tasty venison
The key to safe and efficient field dressing is a sharp, sturdy knife. Use a knife with a blade at least four inches long, a guard, and a large handle. A small knife can turn sideways in your hand when it hits bone. A butcher’s skinning knife is ideal.
Immediately after killing your deer, use your knife to cut the fleshy tissue between the elbow and tendon on one of the hind legs, then detach the transportation tag portion of your deer hunting permit and attach it to the leg. This will allow you to legally remove the deer from the field and transport it to the nearest check station. “Cleaning” refers to removing the internal organs from the deer’s body cavity. You should do this immediately upon killing a deer. Venting the body cavity and removing the organs and blood allows the carcass to cool quickly. This slows the decomposition process, which begins the moment a deer’s respiratory and circulatory functions cease. A deer’s body is amazingly well insulated and can retain heat for a long time. The sooner you clean a deer, the better the meat will taste.
Step 1. Place the deer on its back and spread the hind legs. If at all possible, try to position the deer’s head slightly uphill to allow gravity to work for you. Keeping the deer’s head uphill will enable the deer to properly drain while making it much easier to remove the organs.
Step 2. Insert your knife point under the hide only and make one long, straight incision up the belly. The natural tautness of the hide will cause the skin and hair to pull away, giving you unobstructed access to the abdominal muscle tissues.
Step 3. Using short, shallow, slicing strokes, open the body cavity by cutting the skin, fat and abdominal muscle tissue. As the tissue separates, use your fingers to enlarge the abdominal opening until you can fit your hands into the body cavity.
Step 4. Using a small ax and sledgehammer, open the chest cavity by separating the rib cage. This will allow easier removal of the heart and lungs. When working from top to bottom, the heart and lungs will come out of the chest cavity first followed by the stomach, intestines and other organs of the lower cavity.
Step 5. Upon completion of step 4, move back to your starting point between the back legs and cut all the way down through the meat until you reach the anus. With the pelvis exposed, you can now safely remove the bladder and lower portion of the large intestine.
Step 6. After all organs and entrails have been removed, simply flip the deer back over, spread the legs out and let it drain for a few minutes.
Step 7. Because cleaning a deer requires contact with blood, bone, internal soft muscle tissue, and possibly fecal material, many hunters use gloves for this chore. If it is okay with the property owner, you may leave the waste organs (intestines, spleen, etc.) for scavengers. Otherwise, pack up the organs in another plastic bag to bring with you.
If you’re going to process your deer yourself, you’ll want to give it a good rinsing. Start by hanging the deer from a tree by the neck. Use a garden hose to rinse out all remaining blood, bone splinters, dirt, and any other impurities. A few minutes with a garden hose will leave a deer remarkably clean.