What Does Field Dressing Your Harvest Mean and What Do I Do About It?

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A well-placed arrow might be the end of a hunt, but it’s also the start of preparing your harvest for the table. Whether you’ve taken a turkey or a big-game animal, your first task is field dressing.

Field dressing is the process of removing an animal’s organs to cool and prevent spoiling. It also lightens the load for carrying your quarry from the woods. Although it might seem like an undesirable chore, field dressing is simple and provides an interesting anatomy lesson.

What You Need


Bone Saw

Latex Gloves

Arm Length Gloves (optional)

The most important tool for field dressing is a sharp knife. Work with a short blade for best control over the cuts. To keep your hands clean while you work, wear latex gloves. You’ll need a bone saw to cut through the pelvis and rib cage to access key organs. With these simple tools, you can field dress anything from a turkey to a moose.

Getting to Work

While field dressing, your primary goal is to remove all the organs without puncturing them, especially the stomach and bladder. To achieve this, use your blade deliberately and take your time. It only takes a few precise cuts to easily remove the innards.

The guts are connected to the body in two areas: the windpipe and the anus. If you sever those connections, everything else will lift out.

Always cut the skin from the inside-out. This reduces loose hair from sticking to your meat and protects the organs from being punctured. If you plan on cooking the heart and liver, be sure to cut them out before you remove the other organs. This will keep them clean and sanitary for the table.

If you’ve never field dressed an animal, it can seem intimidating. Or the adrenalin after a successful hunt could cause you to forget your instruction. If you’re feeling insecure, print out directions before you hunt or watch a how-to video while in the field.

Want more instruction? Contact your local archery shop and ask them about Explore Bowhunting, an interactive bowhunting workshop.

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