It's clean, lean, tender and all-natural. Plus, it's absolutely delicious and doesn't contain any growth hormones, steroids, antibiotics or preservatives as store-bought beef does.
I'm talking about whitetail deer meat or "venison," and every hunter should have their freezers stocked full of it by the end of season. In order to take full advantage of this natural resource and maximize the taste, however, you first need to make sure the animal is field-dressed quickly and properly.
Here are 7 easy steps you can follow that will make your next field dressing job fast, easy and hassle-free.
Step 1: Make Ethical Shots & Fast Recoveries
A well-placed shot will ensure a clean kill and speedy recovery, which is important for several reasons.
For starters, bullets and broadheads punching through guts, intestines or the stomach are not very good for the meat.
When shots are not well placed from the start, you're often forced to let the animal sit for several hours or even over night before tracking, which can cause major problems.
Step 2: Be Prepared & Have The Right Tools
Being organized, prepared and having the right tools for the job will save you a great deal of time and aggravation. I made my own field-dressing kit and it includes several pairs of latex gloves, one sharp knife, two large Ziploc freezer bags, a pack of wet-wipes and some heavy-duty paper towels folded in half.
A knife with a gut-hook really does the trick, because it can safely open up the deer's hide like a zipper without puncturing the innards or stomach. I also prefer a partially serrated blade for sawing through the breast bone to get the chest cavity opened for quicker cooling.
Step 3: Position The Deer Properly
Once you have all of your tools laid out and ready, 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 4: Make A Precision Cut
If it's a buck, start at the bottom and remove the testicles and reproductive organ. For a doe, you'll need to cut out the udder first. Next, utilize the hole left behind as your next entry point.
When using a knife with a gut-hook, simply insert the tip and steadily pull the handle up toward the deer's chest.
With a standard blade knife, carefully poke the tip into the skin and begin cutting upward until you reach the breastbone.
Keep the tip of your knife pointing up at an angle to avoid puncturing the stomach, guts or intestines.
Step 5: Disconnect The Trachea
Once you reach the breastbone, utilize the serrated section of your knife to saw through the center. Then reach your off hand up into the deer's throat area to find the trachea tube.
After locating it, use your dominant hand to cut and disconnect the trachea. Next, begin pulling the tube down toward the bottom of the deer.
Step 6: Remove All Organs & Entrails
As you're working the trachea tube downward, begin cutting all connecting tissue to the organs and entrails. This will enable you to pull everything out in one piece.
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.
Upon completion, 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 clearly exposed, you can now safely remove the bladder and lower portion of the large intestine.
Step 7: Flip, Drain & Maintain
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. During early-season hunts or warm-weather conditions, I like to go ahead and cut out the inner tenderloins and place them in one of my Ziploc freezer bags from my kit.
In addition, I always carry a quality cooler loaded with a couple of bags of ice in my truck, especially on early-season hunts. This allows me to safely store the inner tenderloins, and I can stuff one of the ice bags inside the deer's cavity once I'm back at the truck to help keep the meat cool during transport.