How to Field Dress a Deer for the Best Venison

How your venison tastes is directly linked to how quickly you field dress your deer, so you'd better not procrastinate. Be sure to separate the liver and the heart and put each in individual zip-seal bags for later consumption. Here's the best way to get it done. —DAVID E. PETZAL

  1. [1] MAKE THE FIRST CUT Horse the deer over on its back. Its head should be uphill from its hind-quarters. Grab a handful of belly skin, make a nick in it with your knife, and slide the blade in, edge upward, not letting the point ride down into the body cavity. Slit the belly skin from crotch to sternum, taking extreme care not to puncture any of the innards.

  2. [2] REMOVE THE ORGANS When the body cavity is open, reach inside and haul everything out, cutting carefully to free stuff where necessary. If you like to eat the heart and liver, set them aside.

  3. [3] DRAIN THE BLOOD Reach up into the throat and cut out the windpipe. Cut around the anus, free the lower intestine, and remove it. Now, get behind the deer and lift it as though you were doing a Heimlich maneuver; let all the blood run free of the body cavity. If there's snow on the ground, shovel it into the cavity and let it soak up the blood.

  4. [4] KEEP IT COOL If you're ready to drag, tie the critter's forelegs alongside its head and start pulling. If you have to go for help, prop open the body cavity with a stick so that heat can escape. That's all there is to it.