Skinning and Cleaning a Deer

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

If you have the good fortune to take a deer this fall, you will experience one of the greatest thrills in hunting. You will earn yourself a cache of tasty, low fat, high-protein venison that will provide many delicious meals for you and your family. If your deer is a buck, you might also want to preserve the head for mounting.

After handshakes have been exchanged and the photographs have been taken, it's time to get down to the gritty business of skinning and cleaning your deer. This is the least glamorous part of the hunt, but doing it right will protect the integrity of your meat and help ensure the best possible flavor. It will also ensure that your taxidermist can provide the best possible mount.

Immediately after killing your deer, use your knife to cut the fleshy tissue between the elbow and tendon on one of the hind legs, then detach the transportation tag portion of your deer hunting permit and attach it to the leg. This will allow you to legally remove the deer from the field and transport it to the nearest check station. "Cleaning" refers to removing the internal organs from the deer's body cavity. You should do this immediately upon killing a deer. Venting the body cavity and removing the organs and blood allows the carcass to cool quickly. This slows the decomposition process, which begins the moment a deer's respiratory and circulatory functions cease. A deer's body is amazingly well insulated and can retain heat for a long time. The sooner you clean a deer, the better the meat will taste.

Removing the viscera significantly reduces the weight of the carcass, making it easier to drag, heft or carry.

Your first step in field dressing, if you've killed a buck, is to remove its genitals. Cut them free to where they emerge from the pelvis. Cut a circle around the anus and partly free both connecting tubes from the pelvis.

Next, insert your knife point under the hide only and make one long, single incision up the belly. If you're going to mount the head, stop this incision at the bottom of the rib cage to preserve a sufficient amount of the cape for mounting. If you don't plan to mount the head, continue the incision all the way to the hollow, fleshy junction of the neck and chest cavity.

Do not plunge the knife through the skin. Otherwise, you'll

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