Field dressing/ gutting

As mentioned earlier, there are numerous resources available to teach novices how to gut a deer.  

The instructor who demonstrates field dressing should go slowly, and stop at the end of each step to let the participants who may not have the best view see what the step entails and ask questions. Having a printed handout that identifies the steps that the participants can follow and take notes on is recommended.

Proper care in the field is critical to ensuring that the meat is high quality and palatable. The keys to getting the most out of venison are keeping the meat cool, dry and dirt free. 

In most situations, the offal pile is left in the field. However, some landowners may ask hunters to take it with them when the leave. Having a heavy-duty garbage bag, or 5 gallon plastic bucket to remove the gut pile will help make this task easier.

In some areas (Arizona), hunters are asked to bury, or remove gut piles to prevent birds of prey from ingesting lead fragments that may remain in them. This topic may be of interest to participants because of their general interest in environmental stewardship issues.   

Removing the entrails from an animal recently killed is one of the first, and often the most important, task to preform to ensure that the animal will become high quality food.

This process often intimidates novice hunters. In fact, one of the key questions that novice hunters ask is “What do I do if I get a deer?”

Fortunately, there are numerous resources to help novices preform this task quickly and easily.

We recommend two potential timeframes to cover this topic:

1) if possible, obtain a recently killed deer (or goat) and field dress it as a group observed activity as part of a scheduled class

2) coordinate a group field dressing activity during the hunt, where whoever gets a deer brings it back to a central location without field dressing so everyone can watch as it is field dressed. If it's cool enough during your hunt, the second option is preferred.

During warm weather the second option may not be advisable. Removing the entrails and cooling the carcass as soon as possible to ensure high quality food should be the priority. However, during cooler weather this can accommodated without concern about damaging the quality of the meat.

Field dressing a deer during the hunt will take some coordination and communication to make sure everyone returns to the choosen location at the appointed time.

Handy, but optional, equipment for this exercise are disposable gloves and a few packets of disposable wipes.     

Remember, that the participants have not likely killed anything, nor have they seen any organs from the inside of an animal. Some may be very curious about these organs, and may be interested in retaining them to eat. Heart, liver and kidneys are the most common organs consumed.  

Potential additional topics to cover while field dressing include: the path of the bullet (or arrow) and the resulting tissue damage; looking for the bullet if it did not exit the animal and discussing bullet performance; ageing the animal by tooth wear; checking for fetuses; and checking the contents of the stomach to determine recently consumed food. 

In addition, this is a good time to discuss tips on respectfully taking, and posting, photographs of harvested animals. This topic also lends itself to an evening, group-discussion after the hunt.