It’s more important to immediately field dress certain animals over others. Javelina, wild hogs and other animals that eat just about anything fall into that category, because there’s an increased likelihood of bacteria growing on the carcass. Having the proper equipment and knowing a few best practices makes all the difference in taking home good table fare.
For example, the scent (musk) gland on javelina is used by the animal to mark its territory and recognize other herd members. It must be carefully removed with the hide to avoid tainting the meat with the smelly liquid that comes from it. And don’t contaminate the meat by touching it with tools that have come in contact with the gland. The same idea goes for paunch shots on deer — avoid puncturing the gut and releasing all those nasty liquids.
Every hunter loves the excitement of hitting a target after hours of sitting in a treestand. But that euphoria can quickly morph into anxiety if you have to drag the animal back to your truck for field dressing. You can put together a good kit with every necessary tool for field dressing in a backpack and make the entire hunting experience that much easier for you.
This is by far the most important tool for your field dressing kit. A dull knife leads to tearing and all the aforementioned messes. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a high-quality, long-lasting knife for field dressing, either.
The Buck 110 folding knife is small (less than five inches folded), sharp, durable and a long-time favorite of avid hunters. This model has been around since the early 1960s, with many hunters still using the first one they ever bought. Cabela’s carries the Buck 110 for $45.
Nightfall starts creeping up quickly, particularly in November when most hunters get in their first deer action. The USDA typically allows one hour after killing any meat animal for it to be processed to prevent E-coli, salmonella and other contamination. This is a good rule of thumbs for hunters in the field as well, whether it’s high noon or midnight.
Headlamps enable hands-free operation and complete control as to where the illumination is directed. Don’t be fooled by name brands and other “perks.” A good headlamp can be had for under $20. The fact it will most likely be thrown in a backpack with bloody knives and other equipment is more reason not to spend a lot on one.
Never carry a deer carcass over your shoulders. Other hunters could mistake it for a live deer and take a shot at you. Once the initial field dressing has been done, drag the carcass back to your truck. Drill holes in a plastic sled and tie ropes to it, and transport it that way. Otter makes sport sleds starting at $45.
Nitrile or latex gloves should be worn at all times while field dressing to prevent the spread of disease. Individually wrapped wet wipes also come in handy. There’s no need to hang the deer and bleed it out, as this will happen in the course of regular field dressing. A corrosion-resistant stainless steel hand saw is useful for those who quarter the deer for transport.
The colder it is outside, the longer you have before the meat of your harvested deer begins to spoil. But it’s best to be prepared for immediate field dressing in all situations.