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Killing and Dressing Venison

Killing And Dressing

To have a rewarding and enjoyable experience on your deer hunt, it is necessary to plan ahead before going into the woods. Wear appropriate clothing, 500 continuous square inches of hunter orange, and have a compass, map, and matches if in unfamiliar surroundings.

Field dressing and getting the deer home are important parts of the hunt and require some preparation. Gear should include a sharp hunting knife, 15 feet of 1/4-inch rope or nylon cord, clean cloth or paper towels, and a couple of plastic bags.

The Kill

As a sportsman, it is your responsibility to be sure of your target and shoot only when you have a good clear shot. A well-placed shot in the heart, lungs, or neck region won't mutilate the choice cuts and will help prevent losing a wounded animal.

After the shot, approach the animal quietly and cautiously. Do not attempt to follow a shot deer immediately. Wait 30 minutes or so for it to lie down, and you are most likely to find it. It is not necessary to slit the throat or bleed the deer.

Field Dressing

gut1.gif (2316 bytes)Roll the deer over on its back with the rump lower than the shoulders and spread the hind legs. Make a cut down the center of the belly from the breast bone to the base of the tail. Cut through the hide first and then carefully cut through the belly muscles while holding the intestines away with the free hand. Be careful not to cut the stomach or intestines.

Cut around the anus and draw it into the body cavity so it comes free with the intestines. Roll thedeer on its side, then loosen and remove the stomach and intestines, being careful not to puncture them. Save the liver if desired.
Cut around the diaphragm, which separates the chest and stomach cavity. Reach into the chest cavity and sever the gullet and windpipe just in front of the lungs. Pull the heart and lungs from the chest cavity; drain out excess blood and wipe clean with cloth or towel.

Wash out if water is available, particularly if intestines or stomach have been shot or punctured.

Some hunters prefer to cut the pelvic bone and breast bone when opening the animal. You can dothis with a knife if you are experienced or you can use an axe or pruning shears to separate them. There is less danger of cutting the anus or the bladder if the pelvic bone is separated, and it is easier to remove the liver and heart if the breast bone is separated.


Back at camp, hang your deer either by the antlers or by inserting a gambrel stick at the hocks. Pick a cool hanging place because heat causes rapid spoilage. Prop the body cavity open with a clean stick to insure air circulation.


When skinning your deer, hang it by the back feet. Ring the legs at the knee and slit down rear of the legs. Peel the skin off the carcass wrong side out. Use a knife as little as possible. Pull the skin with one hand using the other to separate the skin and carcass. If the deer is to be mounted, do not make any cuts on the skin past the front legs. Continue peeling down to the base of the skull where the head should be cut off. After cutting, roll up the skin and put in a garbage bag and tie up around the antlers and freeze as soon as possible. If you do not have freezer space, take the head and hide to your taxidermist immediately.

If necessary, hides can be salted. This should be done only if the hide cannot be frozen or taken to a taxidermist soon after skinning. Salting slows the activity of the bacteria that can ruin the hide, but with the head intact and flesh still on the hide, it is best to freeze.

Cutting And Cooking

After you have dressed your deer, you may decide to sharpen your knives and complete the job rather than go the professional route for cutting it up. You will find these cutting instructions helpful.

Quartering And Cutting

While the deer is still hanging, remove the neck. Saw the carcass down the center of the backbone, dividing it into two halves.

Place the sides of venison inside down on a table and quarter by cutting between the last two ribs to insure easy handling. If additional cutting is to be done, remove the legs by cutting close to and in front of the hipbone and between the 4th and 5th ribs.

Rear Cuts

First, place leg outside down on the table and remove flank. Cut rump from the round by following a line just below the pelvic bone. Slice the round into five or six 3/4-inch round steaks. The lower round or heel is suitable for a pot roast. Bone out shank, grind meat, and use for deer sausage and deerburgers.

Loin And Ribs

Remove breast by cutting several inches from tenderloin muscle on the loin end and about 3 inches from the backbone on the rib end. The loin and ribs can be cut into 3/4-inch chops or used as a roast.

Shoulder Cuts

The shoulder joint is prominent and the chuck and arm roast can be separated there. If the joint can't be found, use a saw to cut along the rib ends. Saw off the shank and bone out along with the breast and arm roast and use for ground meat. The chuck makes a good pot roast.

Preserving, Preparing, And Cooking

Freezing is probably the most popular method of preserving venison whether you cut it and package it yourself or have it done professionally. Venison also lends itself well to curing, drying, and smoking.

When preparing venison, remove all the fat before cooking. If left on the meat, the fat sticks to the roof of your mouth while eating and is unpleasant.

Deerburger can be prepared by grinding fresh beef fat with the venison in the proportion of 2 pounds of fat to 10 pounds of venison. Add 1 ounce of sausage seasoning to each 3 pounds of sausage. When mixing your own ingredients, use 5 tablespoons salt, 3 tablespoons black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of sage for each 10 pounds of meat.

Cook venison by the same methods you use for beef of similar grade. After the fat has been removed, add suet, pork fat, or bacon to roast to keep meat from becoming dry. If barbecuing, pin strips of bacon on with toothpicks and baste with barbecue sauce.

When cooking steaks or chops, marinate first in French dressing to make meat tender. Cover steak with the dressing and let stand overnight. Drain and pan broil.

Basic Marinade

This is a basic marinade to aid the removal of gamey or wild taste. It may be used for venison, rabbit, squirrel, coon or duck. Increase portions according to size of game so that meat is covered with marinade or turned so all sides are affected. Most effective if allowed to marinate overnight. Before cooking, drain off, wipe with cloth or towel. DO NOT WASH. Then prepare as desired.

1 cup salad oil
1 cup vinegar
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, chopped
Additional ingredients (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 to 3 bay leaves

Venison Chili

1/2 pound ground pork sausage
2 pounds venison, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp salt
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans
1 qt. water
1/8 tsp red pepper, if desired
1 tsp paprika

In large saucepan, set on simmer; brown pork sausage and venison. Remove sausage and venison from saucepan. Saut´┐Ż onions and bell pepper. Add sausage and venison; then add remaining ingredients and enough water to cover the meat. Simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Add remaining water as needed. Good served over rice. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Venison Roast

Venison Roast (rump or loin)

Follow directions for basic marinade to remove gamey flavor. When ready to cook, wipe off with cloth or paper towel. Use sharp knife to punch holes deep into roast. Insert pieces of salt meat, onion, celery and garlic into each hole. Lay bacon strips across roast. Place on roasting rack and cook in preheated oven at 325 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes per pound.

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Distributed by Dr. Martin W. Brunson
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries