In the previous post I talked about the hunt up to the point where I had drug the deer to the porch of my friend’s house. I will talk about the gutting, skinning and quartering in this post. This was a perfect day for cleaning a deer at 25 to 30 degrees. Next we had to drag it away from the house to a tree in which to hang it in. The tree they had traditionally used had lost its limb. So we had to look at other trees. The first one we tried had small limbs that sagged and bent too much. We then decided to gut it on the ground as we would if field dressing it.
I finished up the gutting with a skinning knife that Steve Rogers had made for Gary Tuck from a planer blade. He also had put an elk horn handle on it. You will see it in photos later on in the butchering article. I began at the neck and cut towards the center of the breast bones until I hit the breast bone. I cut the esophagus. Next I tried to cut the breast bone with my Tanto knife. This didn’t work. Gary started to go get his Wyoming Bone saw then said, “I have something better than that!” He brought the limb loppers and we easily cut the breast bone down the middle.
I then began cutting the skin down the stomach to the udder and to the vulva and anus. I cut around the anus best I could, and didn’t tie it off like a book told me to do because I forgot; though I don’t think, in this case, it ended up being a problem. If it’s a buck, you can remove the testicles but leave the scrotum sack for the game and fish for identification. I went back to the chest cavity and began to cut the diaphragm and pull out the esophagus, lungs, heart and then guts. Everything came out pretty easy except at the anus end where I had to work a bit more. Next we leaned it on its side to drain the blood downgrade.
Since that tree didn’t work for hanging we went looking for another one a bit farther from the house and found a dandy. It had some undergrowth that I had to clear first with my machete. I had to clear some small cedars seedlings and some saw briers. I cut off one lower limb of about 1″ in diameter out of the way, but left about a foot of it sticking out to tie our rope to. I cut off another small branch that was in the way using the saw on the back of the machete. This time I went to my van and found a poly rope. A poly rope is slicker and I felt it might help us to pull the deer up to the limb better.
Gary told me to tie off to the deer head and neck with a single noose made of a single slip knot. We both worked together to hoist the deer up to the limb and Gary tied it off to the stub we left sticking out. Gutting and hanging took 30 minutes and now we start the skinning process.
I began trying to use the Tanto knife again and quickly tell that it isn’t going well. Gary then handed me his skinning knife and man did it make all the difference. Gary said it would take about an hour to skin it. I begin by pulling and skinning around the neck. I make cuts up the legs on the inside and around each leg near the feet. I go back to the neck and pull and skin, pull and skin downward. When skinning you make a cut/slice/scrape motion. I next go to working on the legs pulling and skinning. It’s difficult to skin without cutting through the hide sometimes. If you get a hole in the hide, the hole is not repairable. Too many holes and you ruin the hide or large sections of it.
Gary told me to use a rock and wrap the skin in it to make a handle. You can even tie a rope around this handle to make it easier to grip. I’ve even heard of some tying the rope to the bumper of a vehicle or four wheeler and pulling on the skin. It took me 2 hours to skin the thing completely. Gary again grabbed the loppers to cut off the feet. You can see in the photos how we point out where the bullet entered and where it hit on the opposite side. You will notice all the blood and bruising on the opposite side where it hit.
Now it’s time to quarter. We put a tarp in the wheelbarrow and I grabbed the Tanto knife. This knife worked fine for quartering. First we cut off the hams, this is the back legs, cutting near the pelvis joints. They came apart quite easily. Now we cut off the front legs and the same, they came off easily. The ribs however were not easy to saw or cut and again we grabbed the limb loppers. Gary had me to cut 4″ from the back bone. We cut the ribs off in about 4 pieces. With the ribs came some belly meat. Next we moved the wheelbarrow under the backbone and cut the head off with the loppers. This left the back bone which has the tender loin and neck roast. I ended up cutting the back bone in half to make pieces easier to move. The head, feet and hide will be frozen and kept for tanning and making hide glue from the hoofs.
We talked about composting the entrails. I didn’t bother to save the heart or liver or anything else. Gary said he didn’t want me to compost them but to take them up on top of the hill and dump them for they coyotes. He said the Chihuahua would only dig it up, roll in it, then bring a stinky piece of it up on the porch for all of us to enjoy. And I agreed that wouldn’t be a good thing. It took me 2.5 hours to dress, skin and quarter it. I’m sure next time it will go twice as fast.
I have been asked why we hung this deer by the head instead of by the back feet. I say, “Because my friend Gary was instructing me.” I asked him and he said it is because its easier to gut, if you hang it by the back feet the rib cage holds all the innards like a tub. And he said he prefers to skin them from the neck down. He said if you look at all the old photos of deer camps of the past the deer were hung from the neck. But its a matter of personal preference with skinning.