Trophy Deer Care

Many years ago I happened to see the late Euell Gibbons on The Tonight Show. He remarked, “Modern man is estranged from nature.” While I don’t entirely agree, I understand his point. Our culture is becoming more urban. “Making meat”—and, by extension, “making skins”—is completely mysterious to many. Even the simple task of honing a knife-edge has become a lost art. Most of our grandfathers carried a razor-sharp pocketknife; today, the majority of us may as well be carrying a butter knife.

Whether you’re a novice looking for a place to start, or an advanced hunter looking to improve your harvest-care skills, following these instructions will produce the best results for both wall and table.

Transporting and cooling

Let’s start with field dressing. Field dressing instructions abound, so I will cover what I believe are the critical areas.

One major mistake I’ve seen is not splitting the pelvic bone. Yes, the lower intestine and fecal material can be removed without opening the pelvic region. However, it is imperative that the major muscles (i.e. hams, shoulders) be allowed to rapidly cool. This can only be accomplished if the legs are able to splay open while transporting the animal. It is best if an animal not lie in a vehicle on its side with legs closed. Instead, the deer should lie on its back with legs open. This allows for better cooling and surface drying of fluids and deprives bacteria the two primary conditions they need to thrive: warmth and moisture.

Often a deer is brought to me to cape. Upon opening the legs to attach the skinning gambrel, my nose reminds me why the pelvic bone should be split and the legs kept open.

Washing the inside of deer

We live in a fastidious society, and are especially careful with food handling practices. But hosing (or washing) the inside of a deer really should be avoided. By definition a body cavity is just that—a cavity—space and air. So what is being washed? There are two very small muscles (commonly referred to as the “catfish”), but other than that there is nothing edible inside the cavity. If stomach or intestine material has accidently spilled into the cavity, simply take some damp rags and wipe it clean.

Introducing water into a warm carcass, especially with the skin still in place, will invite bacteria to throw a party. I would encourage anyone who doubts me