how to gut a deerI Forgot How to Gut a Deer

Maybe it’s happened to you and maybe it hasn’t.  It was my wife’s second year deer hunting with a weapon in hand (first year she felt comfortable shooting though) and late in to a morning hunt, she was able to drop one straight in it’s tracks. As I stood there looking at my wife’s first deer ever, it took me a minute to calm down from the adrenaline rush of being able to share the moment with her. Once the rush was past, I started to realize something. I’m ashamed to say and I couldn’t believe that after 10 years of hunting and gutting at least 8 deer in that time, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to gut a deer! Back then, there weren’t many (if any) online resources for figuring that out. Even if there were, I was stubborn and refused to move in to the smart phone era. Luckily for me, my brother was also on hand to help out and took control of the situation.

Though that story is from over 10 years ago, I still find myself somehow missing a step here or there every once in a while when I’m gutting a deer. Because of that, I’ve made myself a little checklist that now sits in my bag for me to review quickly before getting full of blood.

How to Gut a Deer Checklist

It was out of necessity that I created my checklist. As the bow hunting season comes to a close here in Illinois in less than a week, it is my hope that you can keep this in mind for next season. Though it’s not necessary, a partner to lend a holding hand will be beneficial to making the process go little smoother and quicker.

  1. Position the deer so that it is lying on it’s back with it’s legs spread.
  2. Next, I cut off the tarsal glands (the blackish/brownish spot on the “knee” of the rear legs). This step is said to be optional by many. Even still, I always do it. During the breeding season, both bucks and does urinate on the tarsal glands. Though it may not make a difference, I feel better knowing that it’s not there.
  3. From there, I like to start cutting in to the deer just above the genitals for a buck or somewhere in between udders on a doe. Get a grip on the hide and make a slice in to the skin.
  4. Once inside, slide your knife up and down slicing the skin open to expose the guts inside while being careful not to puncture any of the innards. Stop once you’ve hit the sternum up top and the anus in the back. Make sure to slice through the meat and straight down to the pelvic bone when in between the rear legs.  **Depending on where you shot the deer, you may or may not have gotten in to the blood yet. If not, get ready because it’s about to start. This is another point in the gutting process the people tend to do different things. Some will cut all the way up through the sternum with a saw in order to make it as easy as possible to get up to the windpipe. Others simply stop at the sternum and reach up and cut the wind pipe by feel. Either way you choose really makes no difference. **
  5. At this point, the rest of the job is actually pretty simple. First, cut the thin membrane that separates the chest cavity from the stomach area.
  6. Now, find the windpipe and cut it as high as you can reach.
  7. Now it’s time for some muscle. I like to insert my middle finger down the windpipe to get a better grip. You want to start ripping the entire set of guts right out of the deer along the spine. As you remove everything you are going to need to make some slices here and there to anything that may still be attached or hard to rip right out.
  8. Once you get to the rear end of the deer and the majority of the guts are not outside of the animal, it’s time to decide what to do with the anus and anal cavity. There are again two options here. The first option is, if you have a saw, to cut through the pelvis bone and around the anus in order to drag out the anal cavity as a whole with the rest of the guts. The second option is to use a “Butt Out”. To use the Butt Out, you cut the intestines on the inside so that you can go ahead and remove the majority of the guts. From there, you insert the tool in to the  rectum of the deer and then pull it back out. Once out, you can cut the hide to finish removing the poop shoot.

How to Gut a Deer Conclusion

At this point the “gutting” is done. All that’s left to do is turn the deer over to dump out the majority of blood before taking the deer to where it’s going to be hung up for butcher or tossed in to the back of the truck to be taken to a processor. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty simple. Like I said, I’m astonished that I had that momentary lapse in memory when I forgot how to gut a deer when my wife shot her first deer. With this quick checklist, I never again have to worry about forgetting a step while in the middle of the process. Happy Hunting!

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