Deer Hunting Tips

Tracking a Deer, Gutting, Skinning & Butchering

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Tracking, Field Dressing, Skinning, & Butchering - A Summary

After shooting a deer the keyword is "wait". You should wait at least 30 minutes unless you actually see the deer drop dead - even then wait 10 minutes. 30 minutes gives the deer enough time to be out of "spooking" distance. If you have a good shot, the deer will bed down and die in that time. Starting at the place you shot the deer, look for evidence of a good shot. If the deer is gut shot, you may notice clear liquid or stomach matter on the ground or arrow and very little blood. If you think the deer is gut shot, quietly back out and give the deer 6 or more hours to bed down. To find a gut shot deer there is often no blood whatsoever so you will simply have to sweep the woods - get some help! A wounded deer, if pushed, can quickly run 1/2 mile or more, and this even applies to a lung-shot deer leaving a good blood trail! Closely examine the blood trail - where the drops land will indicate direction. Don't give up - even a well-shot deer can go 300 yards. I had a lung-shot deer go 300 yards with a trail that disappeared at times. Use toilet paper to mark your trail if you can, and at night bring a bunch of small LED flashlights to mark your "last blood sign" (see video below).

Field dressing, also known as "gutting" the deer, is a messy job, so bring some good long rubber gloves. There are different methods, but all will agree that it is important that you not plunge the knife into the guts. Rather, pull the hide up on the belly and carefully cut with the tip of your knife. Also, before pulling the guts out, you will want to cut around the anus so it is free from the hide and it may be pulled out with the guts. On a buck, you will carefully detach the penis from the hide. On a doe, carefully cut around any milk sac by detaching from the hide. Pull out all the guts - you will have to probably cut the windpipe up in the neck to do this. Take care not to spill the urine sac! After all is done, tip the deer with belly down to drain the blood out.

Skinning a deer is always done by hanging the deer. Most hang from the rear legs attached to a gambrel, but one may also hang from the head (to allow better drainage). Either way, you start from the top down and free up the hide by slitting along the legs, taking all the hide off in one piece. The key is to pull the hide and use your knife to slit between hide and skin as you pull, getting as little hair as possible on the meat. Tip: a warm hide pulls off much easier and also allows the carcass to cool quicker. The video below gives a nice start-to-finish demo.

Butchering a deer may consist of cutting the deer into roasts, steaks, chops, and loin cuts, as shown in the extensive video here, or it can be simply deboning the meat and taking it to a reputable butcher to be made into hamburger and/or sausage. Personally, I slice off some steaks from the hind quarters, save the loin and some other lean meat for stew, and debone the rest for hamburger at the butcher. Whatever you do, keep it cold and keep it clean - if I get a deer in warmer weather with a bow, I will immediately skin the deer, remove front legs, chest, and hind quarters and put it all in the deep freeze for a day and then process the next day before the meat freezes up. If you have an extra refrigerator, place the quartered deer in the frig for 2 or 3 days to "age" it. If the temps in your garage are from 20-40 degrees, you can simply hang the deer to age there. If you only have a deep freeze, a single day will do, and you are far better off then risking spoilage in warm temperatures. Use disinfected knives and surfaces when you butcher.

Deer Hunting

How to Gut a Doe Video - Shows how a deer is gutted in the field. Shows special steps for gutting a doe. How to Gut a Buck Video - A buck is gutted in this video. This is a nicely done video worth watching. How to Gut a Buck - Photos - A very well written description with photos on gutting a buck! Note that cutting off the belly skin is optional.
A Field Guide For Gutting a Deer - A nice printable guide on gutting a whitetailed deer. How to Butcher a Deer - A well-done video on how to butcher a whitetail deer. This video is part of a two-part series. Aging a Deer by Hanging - An article that discusses how to age a deer (and why) before butchering.
How to Skin a Deer - Extensive video on skinning a deer - start to finish! Skinning a White Tailed Deer - This a pretty good video summarizing the steps for skinning a deer. What to do if You Gut Shoot a Deer - This article gives good advice on what to do in the event you shoot a deer in the guts. Also discusses how to recognize that you gut shot the deer.
Using 2 flashlights when night tracking - This video gives a simple trick that will help in tracking a deer blood trail after dark Great Tips for Following a Blood Trail - How to read the blood on the leaves to determine direction of the deer.

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