Tips for handling your big game animal

Blaine Bebeau
Heart River Sausage and Meat Services

Hunting season has come again and it is time to get out in pursuit of the many game animals the area has to offer.

Once you harvest your animal, what is the procedure to take care of it, to get the most and best possible meat from it? There is no one correct way to dress and skin, but there are certainly incorrect ways.

With my schooling in the meat industry, my experience in mobile butchering and the many years of hunting, I have learned some important do’s and don’ts both from trial and error and from other hunters.

I have my own way of taking care of our game, which won’t be possible for all hunters or for all situations. But I can give a general outline of steps to take, to ensure the best possible products from your animal.

I personally, if at all possible, take my animals home to first skin and then dress them for a much cleaner carcass. When you have shot and found your animal, make sure it is dead and does not have any reflexes left. This I learned the hard way, as a dead animal with its last reflex kicked and broke my leg.

According to the regulations, the first thing you need to do is tag your animal. Holding the hind leg and using a sharp-pointed knife, insert the point under the skin, well below the tendon area and cut up past the tendon area, then skin this area all around the leg, being careful to not cut the tendon, then put your tag on.

This will make it easier when you skin the animal. Never cut the skin anywhere from the outside in, always cut from the inside so that you aren’t cutting hair.

Now to the field dressing. If you won’t be doing a head mount of your trophy, starting just below the bottom jaw, at the neck insert your knife under the hide and cut down the neck and the brisket. If a head mount is wanted, start at the bottom of the brisket.

Being careful, split the hide from inside out, all the way down the belly between the hind legs to the rectum. If you have a gut hook on your knife, use it, or if not making a small cut at the brisket, into the abdomen.

Then, holding your knife point up, put your fist inside and cut down the belly to the pelvis. Your fist will keep the organs away from the knife.

Now, from the outside, cut around the rectum, pull it out a little and tie it off. If you have split the neck hide, cut along the neck exposing the esophagus, cut it off the head and loosen it from the neck.

Now cut the diaphragm inside the ribs, reach into the chest cavity and pull the esophagus back into the chest. Continue pulling, cutting where needed until all is out of the chest.

Now grab the intestine, just in front of the pelvis, or if possible, split the pelvic bone and pull and cut where needed, the bladder and rectum out and continue with all internal organs. Drain the cavity of blood and the field dressing is complete.

When skinning, if at all possible, hang it. But first, skin the part of the hind legs as when you tagged it. Cutting from the inside, split the hide up inside of the hind legs and from below, the elbow up to the split on the brisket on the front legs. Make sure to leave some evidence of sex and on the deer, the tail.

Pull and cut the hide off from the hind down to the head, cut off the head, except on a calf moose, as it must remain attached until it is cut up.

Some things to keep in mind are, when hunting early season, when it is warm, never leave an animal overnight without dressing and propping it open, to cool it as quickly as possible. Every year, I get moose and elk that have spoiled from not being taken care of and allowed to cool. With bull moose and elk in rut, split the back of the neck open all the way to the bone, to let the heat out.

Try to keep hair off the meat and clean it off, if it gets on. (Smell or taste your hand after skinning, or the hair; that smell and taste will be on your meat, tainting it.)

When transporting your skinned animal, be it out of the field or bush to get it processed, wrap it. The best is cloth, old sheets or blankets, game bags or clean tarps (not used blue ones, as they leave flecks on meat). If there is hair, leaves or dirt, or if you punctured the stomach or intestines either with bullet or knife, wash the carcass with potable water (not dugout or carwash).

Take care of your well-deserved game animal, with the high cost of meat in the markets, your animal is worth a lot of money. Good hunting, shoot with care and be accurate. Take care and I hope to see you and your trophy this fall.

Remember, start clean, keep it clean and finish clean for great tasting meat that your spouse and children will want to eat.

Share this post