Safe Field Dressing Practices and Processing of Deer: What All Hunters Should Know!

White Tail Deer




Hunting season is just around the corner and we, here at  Bass Pro Shops - Bossier City, thought everyone could use a refresher course on safe field dressing and processing of deer.




Listed below are what you should be doing after every kill:

Field Dressing:

  • All hunters should wear gloves.Diagram
  • Place deer on back hind legs spread.
  • A small incision is made around the genitals moving up towards the chest, be careful not to puncture the body cavity.
  • Slowly skin the deer back away from you mid-incision line 4 to 6 inches on either side to decrease the chance of getting hair inside cavity and on the meat.
  • After you have made you incision up to the sternum, you start down a the genitalia and carefully cut through the body cavity moving upward.
  • Either with a gut hook or one finger next to the knife lift up the skin giving you space between the knife blade and the intestines. After intestines and organs are removed, the deer should be taken back and thoroughly rinsed out.
  • A saw is beneficial in cutting the pelvis bone to allow better cleaning access to the rectal and bladder area.
  • Before processing, if the temperature is 45 degrees or less, it is beneficial to age the deer for a day or two leaving the skin on.  This is done by hanging the deer upside down in a cool environment. Let me stress the importance of irrigating the body cavity, as well as propping the body cavity open with a stick to allow airflow.

Handling Practices for Processing Big Game:

  • Hunters should educate themselves about proper handling of big game.
  • Big game run the risk of contracting food borne illness.
  • Big game transported from the field to your freezer may become contaminated with bacteria during the processing.
  • An awareness of critical control points can help ensure that the meats hunters bring home are safe for human consumption.

Proper hanging technique

Control Point I-Initial Field Dressing:

  • Field dress big game carcasses immediately after harvest to allow the meat to cool rapidly.
  • Hang animals in a tree after field dressing to allow circulating air to cool the carcass from all sides.
  • Place sticks between the rib cage to spread the chest cavity open and promote further cooling.


Control Point II - Moving Game from Field to Vehicle:

  • Ideally, transport the animal directly to a locker facility where the field-dressed carcass can be cooled in a controlled environment.
  • In warmer climates or in early seasons where temperatures are well above freezing during the hunting season, the carcass should be skinned on site.
  • In colder environments or in later seasons when daily temperatures drop below freezing, leave the hide on the carcass to protect meat on the way home it will also keep carcass clean.
  • Hunters should carry carcasses rather than drag big game animals from the hunting site to the vehicle. Dragging the animal increases the risk of meat contamination.
  • If dragging an animal cannot be avoided, the animal should be drug head first with the front legs tied to the neck or antlers to minimize contamination of exposed meat by dirt and debris.

Control Point III - Transporting Game from the Field to Home:

  • Never transport meat by placing a carcass inside the trunk of a car or strapped on the hood of a vehicle.
  • Hunters planning to have their meat processed at a locker should transport their carcass to the processor as soon as possible.
  • Hunters planning on processing their own meat at home should transport their carcass to a process location.
  • Carcasses aged at home should be hung in a shaded barn or garage that has a closed door to ensure that pets or wild animals do not have access to the meat.

Safe Process of Deer:

  • Wear rubber or latex gloves.
  • Minimize handling brain or spinal tissues.
  • If removing antlers, use a saw designated for that purpose only, and dispose of the blade.
  • Do not cut through the spinal column except to remove the head. Use a knife designated only for this purpose.
  • Bone out the meat from the deer and remove all fat and connective tissue (the web-like membranes attached to the meat). This will also remove lymph nodes.
  • Dispose of hide, brain and spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, bones, and head in a landfill or by other means available in your area.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize equipment and work areas with bleach water after process.

While in Bass Pro Shops see our knowledgeable associates located in the Hunting Department to answer your questions. They are always happy to assist you with all your hunting needs. Bass Pro Shops, your adventure starts here.


Denise B.

Events Coordinator



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