Make Sure The Deer is Dead

A deer down is not necessarily a deer dead. A wounded deer can hurt you, so reload and watch the deer from a short distance. If you do not detect movement for a few minutes, approach cautiously from behind the deer’s head. Set your firearm or bow aside only after you are certain the deer is dead. If the eye does not blink when touched with a stick, it’s yours. Now is the time to fix your deer transportation tag securely around the hind leg.

Field Dress Immediately

Field dress the deer immediately to ensure a rapid loss of body heat. Hang the animal head-up or lay it on a slope with the rump lower than shoulders.
Strong juices from the paunch will taint the meat and should be removed if the animal was gut shot or if you accidentally cut the paunch while field dressing the deer. A rag or bunches of leaves may be used to wipe out the juices, or they may be washed out with water. Some articles state the carcass should not be washed with water because of the potential to promote bacterial growth. However, thorough cleaning when the paunch has been punctured makes washing and then patting the cavity dry an appropriate procedure.

Wrap the Carcass Before You Drag it

A piece of cloth wrapped around the carcass will keep out flies and dirt as you drag it out of the woods or transport it.

Don’t Carry the Carcass on Your Shoulders!

The carcass should be dragged or carted out of the woods and not carried on your shoulders. A deer on the shoulders could invite a shot by another hunter. The antlers of a buck make a good handle for dragging. Some hunters tie the front feet behind the head of the carcass to keep them from catching on brush. A strong stick between the hind hocks will provide a good handle for dragging does or fawns. There also are many commercially produced deer carts, which are used by an increasing number of hunters.

Keep the Carcass Cool

The deer should be kept as clean and as cool as possible during transport. A plastic bag full of ice placed inside the carcass will keep it cool if you have a long trip home.

Field Dressing Tips

image of field dressing a deer carcass
1. 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.
image of field dressing a deer carcass
2. 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.
image of field dressing a deer carcass
3. If you wish to have your deer head mounted, stop the incision at the bottom of the rib cage. Otherwise, continue the opening all the way to the fleshy, hollow junction of the neck and chest.
image of field dressing a deer carcass
4. Using a saw, large knife or small axe and sledgehammer, open the chest cavity by separating the rib cage. This will allow easier removal of the heart and lungs.
image of field dressing a deer carcass
5. Severing the windpipe will make it easier to remove the stomach and lungs.
image of field dressing a deer carcass
6. Carefully sever the connective tissue holding the interior organs to the diaphragm, and pull the entire mass of organs back toward the pelvic opening.
image of field dressing a deer carcass
7. Using a saw, large knife or small axe and sledgehammer, open the pelvis to ease removing the organs. Lay the bulk of the organs outside the carcass. Guide the lower intestine through the pelvic opening, then sever the anus and sphincter muscle from the carcass.
8. Prop body cavity open with sticks and cool quickly by hanging with head up in a shady, airy place. Let it hang this way for about an hour before moving it to camp or car.