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After you have shot your game, approach it from the rear carefully, making sure it is dead. Validate your tag and attach it to the carcass immediately. Start field dressing it at once with a good, strong bladed knife. Be sure your knife is sharp, maintain a fine edge blade as you work. If you plan on mounting your trophy see Trophy preparation before you cut its throat.
Some hunters prefer to cut the deers throat.
The following procedure has withstood the test of time by experienced hunters. Many, however, like to vary one or more steps, so the hunter should feel free to innovate to suit the situation.
Be sure to check your local fish & wildlife dept. for instructions concerning evidence of sex and antlers and follow their instructions. Use rocks to support the deer in a legs up position. Note the illustrations. If you plan on mounting your trophy see Trophy preparation
Starting between the hind legs, cut all the way down to the pelvic bone. Then turn your knife blade up, and using your other hand to hold the meat and skin away from the entrails, cut up through the breastbone (brisket), and on up the neck as far as possible. A strong, large-handled knife is needed to best make the cut through the breastbone.
Cut the windpipe in two as far up the neck as possible. Lay your knife down. Grasp the windpipe with both hands and pull hard, downward. The insides should come out all the way down to the midsection.
Now remove the rocks from under the animal and roll the carcass on it's side. Cut the thin layer of meat that is holding the entrails to the ribs, all the way down to the backbone. Then turn the deer over and do the same on the other side.
Lift the animal up by the hind legs and lay a large rock under the rump. This will spread the back legs open. Place your knife against the middle of the pelvis to locate the seam where the bones grow together, and press down hard. If you have a good, stout knife, it may help to twist the blade from side to side to work the blade through the seam. As a last resort, you may have to hit the back of your knife blade to cut through the bone. You can also use a hatchet or saw for larger deer. Then you can finish cleaning out the animal.
If a tree is handy and you have a rope, hang the carcass up by the head or antlers for about 20 minutes. This will allow the loose blood to drain out of the body cavity. If no tree is available, turn it upside down in a clean place and let it drain.
Take your animal back to camp. Take note that dragging it may get it quite dirty. Keep it clean. (You may opt to quarter or halve it for easier transporting. If you do so, remember to have the tag attached to the largest portion of the carcass.)
Once in camp you can begin skinning. Hang it by the head or hind legs for skinning. The skin comes off most easily while the deer is still warm, so it should be skinned within two hours. To remove the skin, cut down the inside of each leg to the middle of the animal, being careful to cut the skin only. If you hang the deer by the head, cut the skin all the way around the neck, as close to the head as possible. Grasp the skin with both hands at the back of the head and pull down hard. Usually the skin will come off down to the front legs. Use your knife to work the skin off the legs and where the skin sticks tightly to the meat. Then pull down on the skin and it will come free.
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