While somewhat messy, field dressing a deer isn’t a complicated process. Things get more difficult, though, if you don’t have the correct equipment to do the job. The field dressing process basically involves opening up the body cavity and removing all of the stuff inside, including heart, lungs, liver, stomach, intestines and other “innards.” If you want to field dress your deer with no fuss and little mess, here are three things you’ll need to make it happen.
A gambrel is one of the most useful things for not only field dressing deer, but also for skinning them in preparation for butchering. A gambrel is a metal device with a rope or cable attached that can hoist a dead deer’s hind legs and body off the ground. Toss your rope up over a tree limb and pull down, and with some effort you’ll be able to hoist your deer off the ground. Even better are mechanical systems that easily lift a deer with much less effort. For times when there’s no tree limb available, some companies make tripod or hitch receiver game hoists that accomplish the same thing.
Gutting a deer can be very messy. Along with all the organs and blood, you’ll be operating in tight confines that don’t always give you a good view. Add to that the fact that you’ll sometimes be doing it by flashlight. Field dressing gloves can keep your hands clean and dry when performing this sometimes unpleasant task. You’ll be especially glad you have them when the bullet or arrow has hit the stomach or intestines. Note that field dressing gloves are more than just a convenience. Because of the presence of Chronic Wasting Diseases (CWD) in deer herds in many states, public health and wildlife officials recommend that hunters always wear rubber or latex gloves when field dressing deer or elk.
A good gutting knife needs to have a 3½- to 5-inch, sturdy blade, and it doesn’t hurt if it has at least some kind of point on it. A gut hook is also handy to cleanly open up the body cavity without cutting into the organs and creating more of a mess than necessary. Lots of hunters also use their gutting knife for skinning chores, although many companies make specialized knives with blades curved just right for skinning deer. Make sure the knife you use for gutting doesn’t have any flex to the blade or it will make the job much more difficult. Some companies offer knives with replaceable blades, ensuring you have a sharp blade for each field dressing job.