Best Way to Gut a Deer: 11 Steps for Success

Best Way to Gut a Deer

Going hunting can be an exciting time; you probably enjoy the thrill of the chase, the stalking, and the feeling of success when you hear the body thump to the ground. However, once the animal is killed, it’s time to get serious.

If you’re wondering about the best way to gut a deer, then you’ve gone to the right place. Here, we talk about what you need to keep in mind not only when gutting the deer but also beforehand.


What to Keep in Mind Before Gutting a Deer

Whether you’re hunting for meat or sport, it’s always a good idea to learn the best way you can gut a deer. Then again, before you even start doing that, there are things that you have to do first, such as:

1. Make Sure It’s Dead

Just because the deer is down does not mean it’s dead. Wounded deer can be dangerous, so make sure that you reload your weapon and watch it carefully to make sure that it’s dead.

In doing this, you should be close enough to see the animal without being too close to get attacked. Wait a few minutes and watch for movement. If none is detected, cautiously approach the animal from behind its head.

Do not set the bow or firearm down until you are certain that the animal is not breathing. A good way to tell if the animal has expired is to poke it with a stick gently. If the eyes do not blink, the animal is yours.

2. Field Dress It Immediately

You should field dress your deer immediately after it is killed to make sure the body heat dissipates quickly. To do this, consider hanging the animal with the head up. Alternatively, you can lay it on a slope, making sure that the hindquarters are lower than its shoulders.

The reason you need to gut it immediately is that strong juices from the stomach can taint the meat. This is incredibly important if you shot the animal in the gut or cut the paunch on accident while field dressing it.

3. Wrap It Before You Drag It

While it is always best to gut the deer immediately and while still in the field, you may not have the required tools with you. After all, hunting can force you far away from your campsite. If this happens, make sure you wrap the dead animal in a cloth so that flies and dirt don’t get into it while you’re dragging or transporting it.

4. Do Not Carry It on Your Shoulders

Movies and television shows depict proud hunters slinging a deer over their shoulders and walking away. However, this isn’t the safest thing to do. For one, another hunter might see the animal, think it’s alive, and shoot it, which puts you in danger.

To drag a buck along the ground, take it by the antlers and then pull it. You may also tie the front feet of the animal behind the head. If necessary, take short breaks so that you don’t become ill or pass out from the exertion. When dragging a doe or fawn, tie both sets of legs together and place a strong stick between them. This might be a two-person job, but you probably didn’t go out hunting alone.

If neither of those two tips sounds good or if you have a bad back, you can also purchase a deer cart. Just put the dead animal in there and push it through the woods until you reach your destination.

Best Way to Gut a Deer: A Step-by-Step Guide

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It’s important to perform these steps in order. In that way, you don’t miss anything and have a clean deer that can be processed when you get back to town.

Step 1: Assemble the Gear and Prepare Yourself Mentally

While you don’t need much more than a sharp knife, we do recommend that you wear latex gloves. It just makes it a little more hygienic. As such, you will need a strong stomach because there will be blood. It’s also possible to use a gut-hook tool, and it might also be easier for you. Also, make sure to take off any jewelry.

Step 2: Cut a Ring Around Its Anus

Place the deer on its back or side, kneel down behind it, and cut a ring around its anus. Make sure the cut goes in a few inches and punctures the skin and hide. Then, go back around the same cut, going deeper into its pelvic canal to slice through the attached membranes and free the colon.

It is very important that you do not cut into the colon. The contents might taint the meat, which would then make it taste bad and unsafe to eat.

Step 3: Reposition the Deer

It’s ideal to find a slope where you can lay the deer belly up so that its head is elevated. If you’re hunting with someone, ask your friend to spread its hind legs and keep them in place. When you’re hunting alone, secure the carcass by wedging wood or rocks under the ribcage and tying the legs to spaced-apart trees.

Step 4: Make the First Cut

Looking at the deer, you will see a “V” shape between the rear legs. Grab the skin in that area. If you’re familiar with the animal’s anatomy, this spot is just above the testicles on a buck or below the milk sac on a doe.

Make sure that you cut a shallow one-inch slit through the “V” skin. On the other hand, if you’re working on a male, make sure to cut off and remove the genitalia altogether.

Step 5: Cut the Midline

That first incision you made is the starting point. Now, use a gut hook to cut from the pelvic bone all the way to the breastbone. You don’t have to use this tool, but it makes the job much easier.

If you don’t have a gut-hook, you will need to hold open the hole you make with the index and middle finger of your free hand. Separate the hide and organs, guiding your knife carefully up to the breastbone. Make sure the blade is facing upward so that you don’t puncture any organs.

Now, here is where you need to make a decision. If you wish to have the deer mounted to hang in your home, don’t cut any farther.

However, if you plan to process the meat, you should straddle the deer, making sure that you are standing over its chest cavity. Then, with your blade facing away and toward the head, cut through the ribcage or sternum until you reach the neck. Be warned that this takes stead, strong leverage, though it isn’t incredibly hard. Make sure that you do not cut into the deer’s neck area.

Step 6: Cut Its Diaphragm

Once you have cut up to the neck, you’ll notice a thin membrane that separates the abdomen and chest. This is called the diaphragm. You must cut it away so that you can reach the organs inside.

To do this, you must cut the piece away from the walls of the cavity on all sides. Then, you have to slice back to the spine so that you can separate it and remove it from the carcass.

Step 7: Cut Its Windpipe

While holding the knife in one hand, use the other to grab the windpipe, which is above the heart and lungs. You will need to hold onto it very tightly and then pull it slightly toward you so that it’s taut.

With your hand holding the knife, locate the windpipe, and sever it above your grasp. This frees the entrails. If you’d like to keep the liver and heart, you should also cut them free, and put them in a plastic zip-style bag.

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Step 8: Remove the Deer’s Entrails

By now, the anus and diaphragm have been cut, the body has been opened, and the windpipe is severed. Now, you must remove all of the insides, including the intestines, liver, heart, lungs, bladder, and stomach.

To do that, give the windpipe a strong, long pull. In most cases, it will come out without trouble. If it doesn’t, you may need to cut the tissues and membranes that connect the organs to the carcass. Also, the colon will slide through and come out with the rest of the deer’s innards. Remember, you cut around the colon to loosen it back in Step 2.

It’s usually safe to leave the pile of innards wherever you choose to gut the animal. However, some states have rules and etiquettes in place about this, of which you should be aware. As such, you may not want to field dress near your campsite and leave the innards nearby because predatory animals might come near.

Step 9: Allow the Blood to Drain

When everything is removed from the carcass, it’s time to turn over the body and spread its legs. That way, the cavity is against the ground while open. Any pooled blood can now drain.

It is important to make sure that you don’t get any debris inside the cavity. Dirt, leaves, sticks, and insects shouldn’t touch the meat. Consider lying the deer on a plastic sheet or drop cloth to avoid contamination.

Step 10: Skin It

If you plan to mount the animal, you should skip this step. However, deer fur and skin provide insulation, which helps the carcass retain heat. Obviously, you don’t want that. You’ll find that the skin also comes off easier when the animal is still warm.

To do this, make sure you have the right tools. You’ll have to bring a deep-bellied skinning knife, hunting knife, small boning knife, and a small block and tackle. A folding gambrel stick is also helpful in hanging the animal into a tree, making it easier to do the work.

It’s important to raise the animal by its hind legs, and a portable gambrel works well here. As such, it will spread the legs farther apart, which is ideal for skinning.

To start, cut around the top of the back legs and down the inside of the animal (white area). Then, break through to the tail’s base, and roll the skin backward while pulling downward. Continue until you reach the front legs, making more small cuts as needed.

Step 11: Clean and Store

Now that you’ve field-dressed the animal, it is time to take it back to camp or bring it home. Once there, hang the animal from the antlers or neck so that the blood can drain even more. Check the air temperature to ensure that the meat doesn’t spoil; hang it in the shade if possible.

Some people don’t think that you should wash the innards because it could lead to bacterial growth from the water. However, not cleaning the meat can also cause this. Therefore, it is best to wash the animal’s insides thoroughly with soap and water.

Any soap will work. Dip a clean cloth in the soapy water and wipe down the entire inside. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe the innards dry to prevent contamination. It’s also important to store the animal at a temperature below 40 degrees. This prevents bacterial growth. Use ice to keep the carcass cooled until you can get home. Then, put it in the freezer.

Optional Step: Cut down the Carcass

Your meat will obviously cool quickly if it’s in small chunks. For those who can stomach it, you can cut your deer into transportable pieces. However, you should follow all state rules to ensure that it is legal to take the carcass apart at the campsite or while in the field.

Primarily, you are going to cut the carcass into six pieces, including the two front legs, two back legs, and two back loins. The loins are the rope-style pieces that run along the backbone of the deer.

You’ll need a small filet or boning knife while working the fingers between the spine and loin. Next, cut off its front legs. You’ll slice along the shoulder or chest seam, slicing through tendons and ligaments. The next step is to remove the back legs, which uses a similar process, working along the backbone seam.


If you ask us, the best way to gut a deer is to field dress it. This means that, once you’ve killed the animal, you take it back to your campsite, remove the insides, and clean it. While the process is lengthy, we hope that this helpful guide will make it easier to do everything correctly for sanitation and permit needs.