The Gutless Approach to Field Dressing Deer

Fred Eichler Field Dressing a Deer

The cleanest field dressing method

There are many ways to field dress a deer, but my favorite is what I call the gutless method. This approach is very clean and leaves the guts inside the body cavity.

With the animal on its back, the first cut starts at the genitals and runs up the stomach to the brisket, or bottom of the rib cage, through the skin only. If not keeping the cape for mounting, continue cutting under the hide, up to the base of the neck. Check out our selection of hunting knives for this process right here!

Next, grab a foot and insert the knife inside the knee joint. Lift and slide the blade down the inside of the leg, meeting the initial cut that was made up the mid-section. Repeat on the other legs.

Keeping the blade on the skin side (–not cutting hair), first –cut around the hide at each knee joint, severing the hide. Leave the lower legs attached for leverage while skinning and quartering the rest of the animal.

Next, grab a hind quarter and work skin your way along one side of the body, including both quarters, then the other. When done skinning, the entire hide will lay flat on the ground, providing a clean work area. It also allows the meat to begin cooling.

Now it’s time to remove all four quarters.

Start with the hind quarter, as that’s the biggest section of meat that needs to get cooling the fastest.

Cut down the inside of the leg, keeping the blade tight to the pelvic bone in order to retain all the meat. The only blood released in this method happens now, when the femoral artery is severed.

Keep cutting through the muscle until contacting the ball and socket joint. The socket tissue is cartilage, so can be cut through easily. Keep cutting the cartilage, then severe the ball from the socket joint. Continue cutting against the pelvis, to the backbone, and one hind quarter is removed. Repeat the on the other side.

Front shoulders are easy to remove because there are no bone-to-bone connections. Simply lift the leg and cut from the chest side, separating it from the ribs. As you reach the scapula be careful not to cut the backstrap, which runs all the way to the base of the neck.

With both front legs removed, it’s time to take out the backstrap.

Run the blade down each side of the spine, cutting the backstrap away from the backbone. Peel the silver skin away from the backstrap, toward the ribs. Once the silver skin reaches the ribs, that’s as far as it will go. At the hip joint, crosscut the end of the backstrap. Grab the end of the severed backstrap, lifting and cutting all the way to the neck. Make an “L” shaped slice with each move of the blade, going from the spine to the ribs, or vise-versa, until the entire backstrap is removed.

Next, take the neck meat off by cutting down the spine toward the throat, filleting one side at a time.

The tenderloins can be removed with the guts still in the cavity.

There’s a fused section of spine behind the last rib that’s thin and sharp. Slip the tip of your knife under the thin stomach muscle, right behind the last rib, and run it along that boney shelf. Reach your hand inside the incision, running it along the tenderloin. You can actually lift the tenderloin away from the spine without even cutting. On the tight connections, grab the knife, push the stomach away with the back of your hand, and cut the tenderloin free.

All that’s left is to fillet the rib meat off the bone. If you’re saving the ribs, bone and all, simply cut the stomach muscles, pull out the internal organs (keep heart and liver if desired), then cut away the ribs.

The gutless method is fast and easy, requiring only a knife, even on big game like elk and moose. The best part, it’s clean, lightens loads and gets meat cooling quickly.