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Skinning and Cleaning a Deer

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

likely pierce the intestine and spill its contents into body cavity, which could contaminate the meat.

Instead, apply only enough pressure, with short, repetitive strokes, to crease the skin, fat and abdominal muscle tissue. As the tissue separates, use your fingers to enlarge the opening. This exposes most of the organs of the lower abdomen. Sever the diaphragm to complete the opening.

At this point, if I don't plan to mount the deer, I use a camp axe and a small sledge hammer, which I carry in a small backpack, to separate the rib cage and pelvis. Wedge the lower edge of the axe into the sternum, then pound the back of the hatchet with the sledge hammer. The force of the blows will drive the edge of the hatchet through the ribs easily. Pull the ribs apart to enlarge the opening in the chest cavity, but be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp rib edges. You now have easy access to the lungs and heart.

You can use the same axe edge and sledge to break open the pelvis bone. Be extremely careful not to pierce the intestine or bladder because the contents of either will taint the meat and make an unpleasant mess. Wedge the hatchet into the opening you've created and rock it and twist it from side to side to open the pelvis, making it easy to remove the lower intestine and bladder.

If you don't plan to have the deer mounted, you can make an incision in the neck, just behind the jawbone, and open the neck all the way down to the opening in the chest cavity. Then, sever the windpipe as close to the jawbone as possible.At this point, if you're interested, inspect the entry wound and the exit wound, if one exists. Follow the path of the projectile you used to down the deer and notice any tissue damage, especially to the lungs and heart. If you used a rifle or shotgun, try to find the bullet or slug if it remains in the body. This sort of post-mortem examination is helpful in evaluating your marksmanship and the performance of your projectile. Notice how the projectile mushroomed and whether it is still intact. If the projectile disintegrated or deformed significantly, you might consider using a different bullet for future hunts.

Lower your hands into the chest cavity and remove the heart and lungs. Draping them

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