Most states and provinces have regulations against waste of game. You must know these rules. Once you have legally taken a game animal, be sure to follow legal requirements for possession of game. You may have to tag it and/or bring it to a checking station.
Any game makes better tablefare if it is immediately field dressed after being taken. This means the removal of the entrails (intestines and internal organs) only. How far you can dress game in the field is spelled out in your regulations booklet.
In particular, you must know the rules on birds. In some areas, only the entrails may be removed. Other regulations permit further dressing if one wing is not plucked and/or the head is left untouched. This way, wildlife officers can identify the species and sex. Be sure you know what is legal
The three major things that cause game spoilage are dirt, heat, and moisture. Quick field dressing of game is important. Meat should be kept cool, dry, and clean. The more careful you are, the better the meat will taste.
Air temperature also affects the quality of game. If the weather is warm, game must be cooled. Keep it in the shade but exposed as much as possible to moving air to help it cool quickly. If game cannot be hung, lay it over brush or tree branches to let air cool it. For larger animals, prop the body cavity open. If you must drag a heavy animal, stitching its belly back together with loops of cord helps to keep the flesh clean.
Protect game from flies and dirt by placing it in a cheesecloth bag or breathable game bag as soon as possible after removing the hide. Sprinkling it with black pepper will help to keep off insects (This is extremely effective while quartering a large kill such as Elk). This is unnecessary if a game bag is used.
Do not transport game in such a way that dirt and dust can get inside it. Never carry a large animal home displayed on a vehicle. Such a display of your kill can be offensive to others. Also, engine heat will spoil the meat.
Basic Dressing Gear
All hunters should carry a good case or pocket knife, plus a whetstone or similar tool to sharpen the blade. For big game, hunters should carry a light belt axe or folding saw, 10 to 15 feet of sturdy rope, and cloth game bags.
Cloth bags should be carried - a small bag for the heart and liver, and a large one for bringing out entrails (where required).
The responsible hunter plans in advance how he will care for downed game. Preparation is an important part of game care.
The key to preventing meat spoilage is fast and careful handling of game in the field. Follow any necessary tagging procedures.
Upland birds and waterfowl may be field dressed quickly and easily with one knife cut. Insert the blade in the belly skin at the anus and then cut up to the breastbone.Take care to cut only the skin, not the entrails. Reach in and remove the entrails. Wipe the inside of the bird dry with grasses or a rag. A stick to prop the body open helps cool the bird.
Small game such as rabbits or squirrels may be field dressed by slitting their underside from anus to breast. Be careful not to cut the entrails. Take out the innards and wipe out the cavity. The animal can now be skinned.
Large game animals are best field dressed while hanging. If that's not possible, the head should be higher than hindquarters for easier removal of entrails.
Before you begin, roll your sleeves past your elbows. It will be necessary to reach well inside a deer, elk, or bear to do a good job.
Avoid contact with scent glands which may taint your game meat
Carefully make an entry cut near the animal's anus. Insert two fingers into the slit and hold the belly skin and muscle up. Cut slowly and carefully between your fingers toward the breast, avoiding intestine contents and the bladder. Fluid from these organs can cause strong flavor and meat spoilage. Cut the windpipe and esophagus at the upper neck and tie them off. Slice through the meat between the hind legs and cut the pelvic bone. Cut around the anus and tie it off to keep droppings from spilling into the cavity. Sex organs may have to be left on for identification purposes.
Reach up into the chest cavity and grip the esophagus and windpipe. Work loose the internal organs and slide them out of the animal. The important point is to be sure that all attached organs have been cut to allow easier removal.
Now roll the animal on its side to drain blood by gently lifting the head and shoulders. Separate the heart and liver. After cooling, place them in a clean cloth bag. Many hunters consider these organs to be excellent tablefare.
If paunch fluid or urine has spilled on the meat, wash the body cavity with water or snow. Wipe the body cavity as dry as possible after trimming off damaged or bloody areas. Entrails, or discarded parts, can be disposed of as directed by local area regulations.
When cleaning game, be careful not to cut yourself on bone splinters or with your own knife. Be very careful when field dressing large animals that might have arrow broadheads in them.
Entrails disposal varies from area to area. What is the law where you hunt? There are good health and sanitation reasons for properly taking care of entrails. Most important is that no organic or visual pollution is left behind you.
Safe, responsible hunters will not try to carry deer over their shoulders to camp because there is a chance that other hunters could mistake them for game. It's best to get a friend's help in dragging your deer to camp or to a vehicle. If you carry the deer on a pole between you, bind it tightly to the pole. A swinging deer is very hard to carry. Always have visible markings over a carcass when moving it. Be sure to cover its antlers or upper body with hunter orange material.
On your way home with game, follow your area regulations about tags and checking stations. Protect game so that it will not spoil.
It is irresponsible to display your game kill to the world on top of your vehicle, or to mount its head on your bumper. This kind of behavior offends many people. Hunters need public support from people who don't hunt but do respect wildlife. Pack game home covered, wrapped, or in a closed vehicle whenever it is legal. If you want to show your harvest to your friends, do it with pictures.
If you plan to have birds or game mounted, do not further dress the game until talking to the taxidermist. He will tell you how to keep the carcass until it can be mounted. Sometimes, the taxidermist will prefer to dress the game himself and return the meat to you.
Until next week, Good Luck, Happy Hunting, and God Bless. . . . . . . . .Stu Keck
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