Field Dressing: What You Need to Know

As any hunter knows, field dressing an animal is a difficult process. Because many hunters focus on proper cutting techniques, other equally important aspects of field dressing can be forgotten. That’s where we come in. Here are a few tips to keep your animal in the best shape possible from the time of the kill to the time you get it home.

Control the Temperature

As with any raw meat, there is an increased chance of bacteria ruining your meat. Consider it. The animal is warm when you shoot it, which means it becomes a house for harmful bacteria from the time the heart stops beating. The best way to control the temperature of the animal — as well as bacterial growth — is to remove the entrails. This is the process of field dressing.

Keep Your Instruments Clean

Speaking of bacteria, you don’t want to contaminate your animal by using knives and other instruments that haven’t been cleaned since the last time you used them or have touched the ground. Take care to keep your instruments as clean as possible.

Keep the Animal Clean

Contamination is incredibly easy when field dressing an animal, as we discussed in the two first points. You are in the elements, so it is very easy to get dirt, mud, leaves or anything else in the animal or on the knife you are using. Be extra diligent to keep your animal as clean as possible during the field dressing process.

Bury the Entrails

Leaving the entrails of your cleaned animal is not only lazy. It’s also incredibly irresponsible. If you have ever come across a pile of entrails while hunting or hiking, you know how offensive it can be. Plus, leaving the entrails in the open can attract predators, endangering your fellow hunters. Do the right thing and bury the entrails at least 20 feet off any trails and a couple of feet deep, so all entrails are completely covered and the ground doesn’t give way when you step on it.

Skin the Animal

If you are hunting small game like rabbits or squirrels, you can skin the animal in the field. But if you are taking down larger game like deer, elk or bear, it might be preferable to keep the skin on. Here’s how to decide: if you are going to be transporting the animal a short distance and have assistance, simply field dress and transport mainly intact. If you have to traverse several miles without help, it is better to completely clean the animal (removing the entrails and skin then breaking down the animal) in the field. This way you can easily transport the cuts of meat in the skin without the added weight of the bones and entrails. Plan for one of these outcomes prior to your hunt, so you can be prepared.

Now that you know the most forgotten tips for field dressing an animal, what are you waiting for? Don your camo, pull on some comfortable Carhartt boots, grab your gun and hit the woods. We’ll see you out there.

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