This website is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

How to Field Dress a Deer

Last Updated: 16.06.24


If your passion is hunting and you’ve just caught a deer, you will have to field dress it right after the animal is dead. After you put your gun or bow down – you can get more info here about the best choice for bow stands – it’s time to start field dressing it immediately. In this post, we are going to walk you through the essentials of this process.

What Should You Do Before Field Dressing the Deer?

Once the deer is down, you might be so happy and enthusiastic about your catch that you ignore some basic safety measures. Many people approach the hunted animal immediately without making sure it is actually dead. This can cause serious injuries as the animal will naturally try, with its last strengths, to defend itself once you touch it.

To avoid this, you shouldn’t rush to grab the deer once it is down but rather approach it slowly. Then, once you are close to it, wait for a few more minutes to make sure it doesn’t move anymore. All this time, you should observe it carefully to understand whether it is still alive.

The last step to ascertain that the deer is dead is touching it. You shouldn’t be doing this with your hand. Grab a stick and poke it. If the deer shows no reaction, you’re ready to start field dressing it.

Before you start the process of field dressing, you should take off any accessories such as rings, bracelets or watches. Even if you wear rubber gloves which are highly recommended, you still risk staining them with blood or dirt.


Why Should You Field Dress the Deer?

This is a logical question especially for someone who’s a novice at hunting deer. The reason why you should field dress the deer is that this will preserve the meat’s quality. You should do this immediately after the animal is dead and not after you carried it home.

The entrails of the animal and blood are removed during the dressing process. Consequently, the risk of developing dangerous bacteria is reduced.

The longer you wait, and the animal’s organs remain inside the body, the more chances there are that its meat gets spoiled. Furthermore, if one of the digestive organs was damaged while the animal was hunted, it can easily affect the meat’s quality.

The juices from the deer’s paunch should, therefore, be eliminated because they can spoil the meat. You can do this by using a rag or water to wash them away. If you use water, pat that part of the deer’s body afterward until it is dry.

The animal should be field dressed right after it is killed because this way you also reduce its body heat which plays an important part in ensuring good quality meat.

How to Field Dress the Deer

There are several precise steps you should take in order to field dress a deer easily and correctly. You might not remember all of them when you’ll actually have the animal in front of you, so make a short list of all the basic steps or feel free to revert to this article.

The necessary tool you need in order to perform this operation is a very good knife. This means a sharp one that will allow you to cut through the tissue easily. Remember that you have to dress the deer quickly, so there is no time to waste on struggling with old and inefficient knives.

Additionally, you can also bring a gut-hook to help you complete the whole process faster. To field dress a deer means to remove its internal organs. During this process, the blood will drain from the body and you will only keep the carcass. This is the part of the deer you actually need.

You start the process by positioning the deer correctly in order to direct the blood flow in one direction. You need to find a slightly inclined area and place the deer there on its back and with the head elevated. If there are no slopes, you can clean the blood as it flows and you can also tie the deer’s legs to trees, for ease of access.

You first make an incision around the anus and release the final portion of the colon. Make sure you do not puncture it because its content can contaminate and spoil the meat.

Then, you start cutting the deer from its rear legs. You make your first incision in the area that forms a V between the animal’s legs and, from there, you make a long and straight incision up its belly. The incision should not be deep, it should only cut through the skin.

Then, you have to start cutting the skin without reaching the organs. If the animal’s entrails are penetrated during the process, they can eliminate substances that affect the meat.

You can use a sharp knife or a gut kook to make a long cut across the deer’s body, from the pelvic area up to the sternum. Keep your knife’s blade facing up so that you don’t risk cutting the organs. Also, try to maintain the cut as straight as possible, on the deer’s midline.

The next step is cutting the diaphragm as it has to be removed in order to reach the chest cavity organs. After you cut the diaphragm from the cavity, you must pull it away from the spine and eliminate it.

Next, you should detach the windpipe which lies above the heart and lungs. After you separate it from the organs, you will gain access to the entrails. Once you reach the heart and the deer’s liver you remove them and carefully put them in a plastic bag or container as these organs will be kept separately.

Afterward, you reach the step in which you actually remove the entrails: intestine, bladder, stomach, lungs. By strongly pulling the windpipe once, you can remove all these organs at once. Sometimes, these internal organs might be harder to get out as they are connected to the carcass. If this is the case, slowly cut any tissue that keeps them bound to the carcass.

The colon which was separated at the beginning of the operation should also be pulled out easily with the other entrails.

In some states, it is ok to simply let the entrails at the field dressing site as other animals will feed on them. Check, however, the local regulation before you do this. Finally, let the blood drain by turning the animal with its open cavity toward the ground.

What Should You Do After Field Dressing the Deer?

After you’ve finished field dressing the animal, it is time to transport it. This might require some effort, but there are methods that can ease your work.

It is important to remember that the body should be dragged and not carried on the shoulder. This way, you avoid back problems but also the danger of getting shot by another hunter who sees the deer and mistakes it for a live one.

Before you start carrying the carcass, you should protect it by wrapping a cloth around it. You don’t want this precious meat to get dragged through leaves, mud and get contaminated by different particles. Also, by covering it, you will not invite those annoying flies to savor your future meal.

What you do with the carcass after you reach your car depends on how long a distance you have to drive. If you are only within a few miles away from home, you can simply put it in your car as it is, laid on a clean plastic bag. It is important to keep the meat as clean as possible at all stages.

If you have a long distance ahead, you need to make sure the meat is kept cold. To do so, you will need more plastic bags and plenty of ice. You will have to wrap the deer in this cover and then put a plastic bag with ice inside the carcass.

Finally, don’t forget that deer hunting is regulated by precise laws. You have to be compliant with these when choosing the area in which you are about to hunt, and you must necessarily have your hunting permit with you at all times.

When you reach home, you should hang the deer by its antlers so that the rest of the blood is drained.

Deer hunting is a passion for some, while others do it merely because they can sell the meat and earn money. No matter what your case is, you should always field dress the deer immediately right after it dies in order to ensure that the meat preserves its qualities. Follow the steps described above to do this and also be careful while transporting the carcass so that you avoid any damage. 



Leave a comment