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I am a relatively newbie deer hunter, but definitely want to get better at field dressing and cleaning my deer. The state keeps increasing our limits on antlerless, so we have the capacity to take a lot of deer from our property.

In addition to being an inexperienced field dresser, my back and knees are also protesting more while cleaning a deer on the ground.

Are the deer gambrels helpful in field dressing, or are they primarily for people that wish to age the meat prior to butchering?

The doe my brother harvested today had a really high fat content. He commented that she would have been "really easy to skin". We usually pay the deer processor to skin the carcass.

Do you hunters generally skin your deer, pay the processor (since they are definitely more efficient at it than I am), or decide on skinning based on the size, sex, fat content, or some other variable?

Finally, what is the most important thing you changed on your deer cleaning, between your first few deer, and where you are now?

Thanks,
FishinRod (and increasingly DeerHuntinRod)

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I have killed a lot of deer but up till now my wife field dressed them. I have field dressed 4 does so far this year and my greatest learning was to split the sternum and pelvis with a hatchet after getting the guts out below the diaphragm. Go very slow splitting the skin, muscle, and membrane in the area below the diaphragm as well. I was not fast but got all 4 does done with no contamination of the meat. It gets easier each time but don't get in a rush. A wire tie (zip tie) helps seal off the colon near the back end if you find tying it off difficult. My back also hurts when doing this. If you can rig up a table that would likely help. That is my plan for next year. If I get my final doe during muzzleloader, I field dress it on the ground. As a newbie, I hope this helps. I have had my wife as a good coach.

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I haven't field-dressed a horizontal deer in a very long time. I hang them by the hind legs using a gambrel and come-a-long.
After hanging I chop the head off and skin up a bit past the shoulder blades, then skin from the hind end down. Sounds crazy,
but it's a lot easier to skin the neck and shoulders without the rest of the cape in the way. After the skin is off I slide the front
loader bucket under the animal and remove the innards, letting them flop into the bucket.

After the butchering is done I take boneless meat to the locker plant to have made into summer sausage and slim jims. Around
here it costs $150 to have a deer dressed and butchered, and the locker plants won't take them unless they've been gutted.
Once I've got my tools set up it takes me around 30 minutes to skin and gut a deer. I could probably do one in 15 minutes if I
wanted to work at it, but I rather take my time and enjoy a cold barley pop or three while I'm butchering. If you keep your knives
sharp, have a sawzall, a sturdy work table, etc. it really is pretty easy to butcher a deer yourself.

Back in the day it was gut em on the ground, then hang em from a tree limb in the yard to butcher. Now it's hydraulics and power
tools inside my workshop.

How's this for a fat doe?

[Linked Image from hosting.photobucket.com]

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Thanks, Augie.

That doe really put on some fat. I didn't realize you had added a Krispy Kreme food plot on your property! laugh

We don't have a house or shop at our property yet, so I still have to work on "field" dressing.

1.) How do you chop off the head while the deer is hanging? (Sawzall?)

2.) Do you remove the innards with the deer still hanging vertically by the hind legs, or do you use the FEL to change the working angle on the deer?

3.) We just leave the innards on the ground for the coyotes, but I hate coyotes. (It sounds like an idiotic practice when I type it out.) Should I make a little burn pit in a safe spot and get rid of the innards without attracting coyotes? Do deer hate wood smoke? (I don't want to drive off deer when I have people going out again to hunt the next day.) Do deer hate smoke with burning innards smell included?

4.) We usually don't skin, because ground skinning (even with a tarp) gets dirty meat when the wind starts blowing. They charge $10 or $15 to skin a field-dressed deer at our processor. It sounds like the skinning is much easier with a hanging deer?

5.) Do you actually butcher the meat cuts yourself? Do you keep the backstraps and loin cuts as steaks, and then take the rest of the boneless meat to the processor to make summer sausage and slim jims?

6.) My wife will cook any fish or game that I bring her. However, it must be presented to her as "meat". She wants no part of any blood or guts! Any advice on handy features for when I finally build my work shed? (For deer AND fish guts.) Floor sluice/drain, removeable mats, etc.?

Anyone else is free to also chime in on these questions! Augie certainly has better things to do than type at his keyboard all day.

Thanks!

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1.) How do you chop off the head while the deer is hanging? (Sawzall?)
I use the sawzall. Bow saw will work too. Use a knife to cut through the hide and muscle all the way to the bone, then use the saw.

2.) Do you remove the innards with the deer still hanging vertically by the hind legs, or do you use the FEL to change the working angle on the deer?
Yes, I hang the deer from a loft floor joist.

3.) We just leave the innards on the ground for the coyotes, but I hate coyotes. (It sounds like an idiotic practice when I type it out.) Should I make a little burn pit in a safe spot and get rid of the innards without attracting coyotes? Do deer hate wood smoke? (I don't want to drive off deer when I have people going out again to hunt the next day.) Do deer hate smoke with burning innards smell included?
I don't like putting gut piles out where the varmints can get them. We build a good fire in a 38"x16" tractor wheel rim and burn the offal and bones. Never noticed it bothering the local herd.

4.) We usually don't skin, because ground skinning (even with a tarp) gets dirty meat when the wind starts blowing. They charge $10 or $15 to skin a field-dressed deer at our processor. It sounds like the skinning is much easier with a hanging deer?
I would never skin a deer on the ground. Not sanitary, even by my Grizzly Adams standards.

5.) Do you actually butcher the meat cuts yourself? Do you keep the backstraps and loin cuts as steaks, and then take the rest of the boneless meat to the processor to make summer sausage and slim jims?
Yes, when I'm done there's a pile of meat and a pile of bones. I cut the backstraps to a length that will fit in a quart ziplock bag. Two or three pieces will fit
depending on the size of the animal they came from. I generally make those into pastrami. I take however much boneless meat that I want for sausage to the locker plant. The rest of it I grind. I've got a size 22 grinder that I drive with an electric motor. You can see the motor stand in the picture I posted. I've got a stuffing horn that attaches to the outlet of the grinder. Muscle goes in, burger comes out and is stuffed into poly sleeves that I close with a small hog ring.

6.) My wife will cook any fish or game that I bring her. However, it must be presented to her as "meat". She wants no part of any blood or guts! Any advice on handy features for when I finally build my work shed? (For deer AND fish guts.) Floor sluice/drain, removeable mats, etc.?
I use rubber stall mats on the floor of my shop, but if a piece of meat hits the floor it goes into the trash. When hunting season is over I drag the mats outside, clean the floor and mats with the power washer, then put the mats back in. When I butcher fish the guts go into a 5 gallon bucket, then get buried in the garden. Once I finish landscaping my pond dam I'm going to pour a foundation for my pump house. Phase two of that project is going to be building a shed onto the east side of the pump house. That will have one wall on the south side, with a countertop running the length of the wall. I picked up a double-basin stainless steel sink at a yard sale awhile back that I'll set into the counter top. I'll run a hose to the sink supply and pipe the drain water onto the ground outside and downhill from the fish cleaning station.

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Multiple "thumbs ups" for all of that valuable info, Augie!

I hate being at the bottom of a learning curve. A big thanks to Pond Boss and all of the contributors, that get people like me at least half way up the learning curve WITHOUT HAVING TO LEARN OUR LESSONS THE HARD WAY!

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RAH
did I read it right your wife field dresses your deer for you!!! NICE you arent to far from me do you think she will do mine too? LOL
My wife will grind and wrap but she aint guttin, cuttin or skinin.

fishinRod I suggest buy good quality knives and keep them sharp.

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RAH,

Thanks for the advice. (Somehow I missed it on the first pass.) Maybe I should buy one of those plastic-topped folding tables and just rinse it off when I rinse off the deer.

Also, very impressive on your choice for a wife!



buck dog,

I agree - wickedly sharp knives are best for all game cleaning.

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FishinRod:

I learned to field dress them on the ground. I will post a picture of the knife that I use to field dress them. I have found that a small knife to open the belly works will, a buddy uses a "gut hook" on his knife, but he sharpened it so it is much sharper than factory. I have field dressed a LOT of deer, I have lost count. 5 this year so far, a buddy did the one I shot opening morning for me when he did his 2 at my place. I did the 3 that I shot opening evening and 2 in Wi to show a new hunter how to do it. Last year I think I did 12 or so.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

You can tell which one is the old one..... They stopped making them, I had to go to ebay to get a new one and felt lucky to find it. It's a Kabar 1224.

Here's part of the arsenal for field dressing:
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Huh. I didn't notice the nose in the picture when I took it........

My buddy showed me a new way and he's correct. He told me to hang them by the hind legs, high enough to put a garbage can under it to catch the guts. It IS a lot easier that way. Head up is a lot harder.

When I learned years ago we didn't split the sternum or pelvis. Too easy to get dirt inside when dragging out. Just roll your sleeves up and dig in. I'd reach up with one hand to cut the windpipe at the bottom of the throat and get that out along with the heart/lungs. It IS a bit easier to get to if the sternum is split, I use a bypass lopper like you would trim tree branches with.

I use a tractor and FEL to hang the deer, but I will take a picture of another method for you. I bought it at Rural King last year for $100, and I have seen them on clearance for $50. Can't make it for that price. I'll take a picture tomorrow.

Here's a link. It is tall enough to get the deer into my PU truck I will measure the distance from the ground to the top tomorrow.
Deer hoist for a truck or car

Deer here aren't bothered by smoke at all. and as for the guts, I haven't seen deer bothered by them either. I'll put them out and either set traps around them for coyotes/coon or keep an eye on the pile and have a .223 handy.

You can use a wire saw to cut the pelvis although we never had a problem getting the last bit out from inside the pelvis. Look for "Hunter's Specialties Butt Out" onlne. Cut around the butthole, insert and twist/pull. Or "NAP Zip Saw" if you wan to cut the pelvis bone.

I take mine in to be butchered. They won't take them if they are skinned. Cost is $100.

I try to hook up the hose and wash them out to get all the blood off the inside (if there is any - if shot in the head there isn't). wink I've had people tell me that it introduces bacteria to the meat. my processor said that I should keep washing them out. Any meat that they can't get the blood off of they trim the blood and throw it away.

I have an old water ski rope handle in my backpack. It has about 5' of rope on it and a loop at the end. Easy to put around a does neck and drag her out that way, but I'm getting spoiled. Most of the places that I hunt there is either a tractor with a FEL or a 4-wheeler to get them out.

If anybody here is worried about getting their forearms dirty/bloody. I bought some plastic "tubes" that have elastic on both ends and are used to cover your arms/shirt/jacket from getting bloody. Put exam gloves on and you stay clean. I think there's 10 or 20 pair in a bag, I *think* I can get a bag in a small flat rate USPS box. Give me a buck for them and pay for shipping and I'll send you a bag full. I thought I was buying 6 bags at an auction, what I didn't see was the box behind what was pictured. I have more than I will ever use.


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I use "breeder gloves" and put neoprene gloves over those. My wife gutted the buck and butchered the buck and one doe. I gave the other 3 does away after field dressing them. I only hunt on my place, so can only take one more doe with the muzzleloader. I think that I pushed things with my wife field dressing and butchering 6 deer last year. I had a pretty good run for almost 30 years with my wife handling the field dressing and butchering, but she finally had enough of that and put a pre-butchered steer in the big chest freezer. Was only going to take a buck this year, but I love to deer hunt and taking does keeps the population healthy and helps promote trophy bucks (or so they say). I did take an old buck this year and left a younger one that was a quite nice with the hopes that he makes it until next year. I also left a nice 9-point, but he disappeared after opening day of gun. Knew that any of the hunters on the neighboring properties would not let him walk and that he was active during the day. That's just how things go sometimes. I was lucky that all 5 of my deer this year dropped on or very near trails so there was no dragging at all. Dragging the deer is hard on my wife:) If I stop posting for a long time, check the freezer...

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I’m new to this deer stuff also. We’ve had our place for 8 years, that’s when I tapered off on bird hunting and tried deer hunting.
We’ve evolved to using the fel on the tractor to bring in the deer, and then hang them from the back legs. My back gives me fits, so I raise and lower the bucket to always work at about chest level. We just catch all blood and guts in a big wash tub, and dump them near where the coyotes hang out.
We don’t skin em. Both of the processors near me guarantee you’ll get “your” deer back for steaks and burger. One cuts the burger with beef fat, the other with pork. I get the back straps cut in 6” lengths. The rest is summer sausage, meat sticks, jerky, and sweet pepper bologna. The bologna is amazing and grows in percentage every year. It’s still on the $$$ side, but a lot less than buying it retail. The burger is good enough to get substituted for any burger use.
One of my favorite pics..
[Linked Image from hosting.photobucket.com]


7 yr old pond, 1 ac, 15' deep.
RES, YP, GS, FHM (no longer), HBG (way too many), SMB, and HSB (didn’t make it. 0 seen in 5 yrs) Restocked HSB (2020) I think we have survivors!
I think that's about all I should put in my little pond.
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Originally Posted by FishinRod
Maybe I should buy one of those plastic-topped folding tables and just rinse it off when I rinse off the deer.

I have a 5'x2' Rubbermaid folding table. It's nice, but the legs are too short so I set it on wood blocks to raise it up to a comfortable level.
I used to have a 8'x3' commercial grade stainless steel work table, but it was borrowed sometime in the past and I haven't seen it since.

A 1000' roll of 24" wide butcher paper will last you a lifetime of covering tables at butchering time. I bought one ~25 years ago. Used it
every year during deer season, and it wrapped several hundred country hams for my 4H kids. It finally ran out last year so I bought another
roll. I'm not running the 4H ham curing project any more, so this one will outlive me.

Also handy to have are the big poly cutting boards. I've got a couple of those. I think they're 18"x24". Very quick and easy to clean up a
bloody mess on those compared to stripping and cleaning the whole table. They're also very handy for butchering fish on the tailgate of
a pickup truck, or carving your 20lb prime rib of beef for Christmas dinner.

Check out Allied Kenco in Houston, TX for butcher shop supplies. If they don't have it you probably don't need it.

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RE: those poly cutting boards. If you know of a place that makes custom countertops, and they use the pole for some, ask them to save you the sink cut-outs. Same material same easy clean-up.


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Thanks guys, what a treasure trove of good advice!

I put my nephew in the "best" spot this morning. He didn't see a single deer. I dislike being a "bad" uncle! (Our high was 74F today, more than 25 degrees above our expected high for the date. I think the warm weather has messed up their winter pattern.)

I shot a medium doe as we were getting close to quitting time. I then noticed "she" had tarsal glands when I get ready to field dress. My brother rubbed the deer's head, and found two large antler bases. They weren't broken antlers, but they were way bigger than typical buttons. (They were bigger than a quarter, but smaller than a half-dollar.) When I cleaned the deer, his testicles were still inside him.

I thought this was a 1-1/2 or 2-1/2 year old doe based on the size when I shot. The weight of the buck on the ground about matched that size range.

Was this a very large 6 month old button buck, or was he an older buck that had some testosterone or developmental problems? He walked in and moved normally with the two does he was travelling with, and looked healthy in all other respects while cleaning.

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Originally Posted by esshup
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Pro tip: If you ever find yourself in prison, then I think esshup is who you want as your "shiv guy"!

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Originally Posted by SetterGuy
One of my favorite pics..
[Linked Image from hosting.photobucket.com]

SetterGuy, good thing you are new to this deer stuff.

If you get more "experienced" and bag some bigger bucks, then your wife is going to get mad at you for spending money. As Roy Scheider said in Jaws, "You're gonna need a bigger boat tractor!"

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Good shooting! When you say the testicles were inside him, you mean they hadn't dropped into the "purse" yet?

The top knife in the 2 knife picture is the bottom knife in the knives that are on the tailgate of the truck.


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"When you say the testicles were inside him, you mean they hadn't dropped into the "purse" yet?"

Yes.

I have only cleaned one true "button buck" that was clearly only 6 months old. My brother shot him on the last day of antlerless season one year - but I don't recall if the testicles were in the purse.

I just tried to research this on the net, and came up with an interesting article about "cryptorchidism". That is when a male deer has atypical traits due to low testosterone levels. This could be either developmental, or could be caused by injury.


https://www.bowhunting.com/blog/2017/12/04/what-is-a-cryptorchid-buck/


The article asserts this is the most common origin of "cactus bucks".

We did find a deer carcass about four years ago, that had 27 points on the antlers.

The antlers were not that big and the head did not look like the correct size for a "monster buck". (The coyotes had already started on the carcass before we found it.) I wonder if we have some buck genetics on our property for this condition?

We found that carcass a few days after the end of bow season. I assume it was wounded by bow hunters and escaped to the heavy cover by our creek where we found it.

The other option is poachers that didn't get a clean kill.

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I heard on the news this morning that a 16 point doe was shot this deer season NE of here in Monroe county MO.
As for the deer guts, the remaining deer don't seem to mind them at all, but they are a ton of fun to shoot coyotes off of if they are in an area where that is possible, in my book they are worth placing in an area where yotes can be reached with a rifle,, the best bait available.

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As a FYI, that deer hoist that linked to at Rural King has the top of the hoist when it's extended to its highest height that is approximately 8 feet above the hitch on the car/truck. It fits with the tailgate down on my Ram 2500. So, a person can put the deer in their vehicle easily. There is a Torrington bearing on the upright that allows you to pivot the top section 360°


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My Ram 2500 does not fit down my trails very well. Would be nice to have a hoist system to lift a large deer onto the cargo carrier on the Jeep. Actually used the front end loader on the tractor for 4 of my 5 deer this year, but the power steering cylinder on the tractor came loose at a castle nut snapping the cotter pin and stripping out the threads. The treads on the knuckle have been re-died/tapped, but I need a new nut. Not even sure the knuckle will not need replacing. Lifting a doe onto the cargo carrier with 2 people is not bad, but a big buck that is still floppy can be a challenge.

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Before I had a loader tractor I used a come-a-long and a 2x10 to ramp big deer into the back of a pickup.

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Originally Posted by Augie
Before I had a loader tractor I used a come-a-long and a 2x10 to ramp big deer into the back of a pickup.

My uncle usually goes out to my property to get a deer after all of his grandnephews have bagged their deer. Consequently, he is frequently out there alone.

He is not a large guy, and he is getting up there in years. He can still field dress by himself, but two years ago I had to drive out (45") just to help him load a medium-sized doe into his truck.

I have some cheap aluminum ATV-rated truck ramps and a come along. I definitely need to take your advice and set that gear out for him by his favorite deer stand!

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