How to Field-Process a Deer

Following a successful hunt, learn how to break down a deer in the field to ensure your freezer is filled with the highest-quality venison.

| September/October 2019

deer
Photo by Getty Images/Will Tudor

I was raised in a family that processed most of the meat we ate, so when I began hunting deer, it was second nature to process them myself. It’s satisfying to sit down to a meal of venison that I’ve harvested, processed, aged, and packaged, and often roasted, smoked, or grilled myself.

Many hunters share the same sentiment, and choose to field-dress and/or field-process their own animals as well. Field-dressing involves a hunter removing only the internal organs in the field and then bringing the carcass home to process, or taking it to a butcher. However, when you process the entire deer in the field, it gives you the option to bring home only the parts your family will use while the remaining parts are left to feed scavengers and nourish the soil where the deer lived and died. Plus, disease-carrying parasites, such as ticks, remain in the field, or are bagged and frozen with the hide prior to tanning. And it’s often easier to pack out a deer in two or three loads rather than to haul the entire carcass home.

Initial Considerations



Before field-processing a deer, read up on your local wildlife laws, and take care to obey them. If you plan to mount the head and antlers, get skinning instructions from a taxidermist. If you’re interested in tanning the hide yourself, see “How to Tan A Deer Hide” in our November/December 2017 issue.

While in the field, remember that it’s essential to cool the carcass quickly to reduce bacterial spoilage. This helps ensure that you get the best quality meat. Removing the organs allows body heat to escape, and skinning lets body heat dissipate even faster, so don’t put off processing any longer than absolutely necessary.






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