Monday, August 13, 2018

Do you Field Dress your Kill?

A debate has recently emerged - again, from a hunting forum I follow concerning those who field dress their deer, vs those who prefer to pay someone else to do it for them. It is a debate that has raged for at least the past forty years I have hunted whitetail deer in South Carolina, and it continues to this day.

In certain parts of the country, it is common, and even expected to field dress your kill immediately, or as soon as possible. Hunters from the midwest, can be found slicing open the middle of their deer and removing the entrails before loading it into a truck, UTV or other mode of transport from the field. Hunters in the west, due to the remoteness of the hunts, tend to not only field dress, but also skin and butcher the entire animal for removal. Usually having to pack out the animal on their back, or the back of livestock.

In the southern states, it seems to be an anomaly to field dress your kill. The practice is even fraught with old wives tales about the practice. Case in point, about fifteen years ago, I was hunting some new ground with a buddy of mine. I was fortunate enough to kill a decent eight point buck. Upon recovery of the buck, I field dressed it and got it ready for removal. While I was walking to get my truck, my buddy showed up and offered his assistance. - What follows is as close to reality as I can remember it is not embellished at all. When he saw my buck with the entrails removed, he went ballistic - I mean ballistic -flailing his arms, screaming and cussing like I had never seen before. "What in the he%$ did you do?" He screamed. Me, looking puzzled at the question said, "I gutted the deer." "Why in gods green earth did you do that?" he said. "Uh to remove the guts." I answered.
"You have ruined this spot for the next two years, and probably killed every turkey on the place."
"What in the world are you talking about?" I asked
"No deer will come near this place for at least two years." He said. "And if any turkey finds that gut pile, they will get 'limp neck'" and die.
"What?" I asked. "What is limp neck?"
"If a turkey finds that gut pile, and eats any maggots that are in that, the maggots will get in his craw, and paralyze his neck and he wont be able to hold his neck up."
Trying not to laugh at his obvious conviction in this. I knew I would not get anywhere with this logic. So I offered to get a garbage bag and remove the guts before he had a stroke. Which I did. He hasn't spoken to me since.

Contrary to his belief, since that occasion I have field dressed dozens and dozens of deer, and never found a single turkey walking around unable to hold his head up. Not only this, but I have killed a deer in the morning, field dressed the deer, and killed again from the same stand that afternoon. Field dressing has zero effect on the deer in the area. For those of you who believe it does, here is my question. When a deer dies to a predator, or of natural causes, his carcass decomposes and feeds the animals. Does this cause deer to evade that location for two years? Does every turkey in the area get 'limp neck' if they happen upon a naturally dead deer?

Another example involves a buddy of mine who went to Colorado on an elk hunt. While there he killed a bull. He immediately called me and said, "Pete, I killed a bull elk! -how do I clean it?"
While he was there, I talked him through cleaning his bull elk from here in South Carolina. Had he field dressed his deer here, he would have learned how to properly field dress his elk. The process is the same regardless of the animal. Field dressing whitetail deer is the same as field dressing a moose. I have done both, one is much bigger and takes longer, but the process is the same.

Field dressing, skinning and general care of your animal is the responsibility of the hunter. Some hunters prefer to do it themselves, others opt to pay someone else to do their work for them. It comes down to a personal preference and misguided beliefs.

In the forty three years I have hunted, I have cleaned 100% of the animals I have killed. I believe it is part of the experience. Hunting, cleaning and processing my game is my responsibility. Granted, until recently I paid a processor to cut up my deer because I didn't know how and didn't have the equipment, but I always gutted and skinned my game. Now I do it all myself. I believe everyone should.

There are those who will disagree, I have seen those comments and have had those conversations. The fellow who lives in a subdivision says, "I don't have a place to clean my deer." Most subdivision homes have garages, use your garage. The guy living in an apartment says, "I don't have anywhere to clean my deer." The woods have trees, a little bit of pre-planning and you can hang your deer from a limb in the woods and clean it. I have done that dozens of times.  Gut it where it lays, and skin it from a limb. There are also winches and gambrels made to fit inside the receiver hitch on your truck to make cleaning easier.

In reality, it comes down to a simple - "I just don't want to do it." as some say, "why go through the hassle when I can pay the processor to do it for $20 more dollars?" My answer is - because it is your responsibility as a hunter to care for your animal after you have killed it.

I strongly believe it is your responsibility to care for your animal. You took the animals life, for food, sport, or whatever reason you chose. To drop it off for someone else to gut and clean, seems to me, to remove yourself from the fact that you killed it. When you gut and skin your kill, you gain a better understanding of the process of hunting and feeding your family. Moreover, you now control what your family will eat.

Regardless of what any game processor tells you, you never get your deer back. When these places make deer burger, they throw deer into the hopper and grind away, you are getting yours, Bill's and Susan's deer all mixed together. For me, I want to know that I am getting my deer. So I control every aspect of it.

When I kill the deer, I field dress it - usually- take it to my home or cabin and hang it to skin and butcher. Then I let it hang and age for 7-10 days depending on the weather. (If it is early season, I age it in a cooler) Then I butcher and process the meat myself.

A few years ago, I made a video on how to field dress your deer. There is one flub in the video where the camera fell, but it picks up and shows the process. With practice, you can field dress your deer in under five minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4TRk5-8pvk&t=19s 

Take the time to learn how to do this, it will save you a lot of headache and give you a greater appreciation of the whole process of the hunt.









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