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Proper field dressing targeted

Video helps hunters become more efficient

By Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Nov. 14, 2009


As hunters, we are accustomed to spending time preparing for the moment a deer walks into a shooting lane.

You know, scouting, stand placement, target practice.

We don't prepare nearly as much for what happens once a deer is down.

Some of us think we know it all. Others - more than you might think - would rather avoid the topic and chore altogether.

But field dressing is an essential part of a successful deer hunt. And if it's done quickly and well, it goes a long way to assuring the highest quality venison on our tables.

"There's nothing complicated about it," said Robert Griffith, a deer processor, taxidermist and video producer from Burnet, Texas. "But most people I know can stand to improve their technique."

Griffith, 48, has worked as a meat processor for 31 years. He annually processes hundreds of deer and scores of other animals for taxidermy and the table.

After having more than a few "Here, let me do that" moments after fellow hunters made a mess of field dressing, Griffith decided to produce a video of this necessary if unsavory part of the hunt.

The title: "How to Field Dress a Deer in About a Minute." The goal: Make hunters more efficient and confident in the post-harvest ritual.

But 1 minute?

"It's not a race," said Griffith. "But when you've done more than a few, and if you follow this method, it can be done very quickly."

Griffith uses only one tool - a very sharp, thin-bladed paring knife with a 3 ¾-inch blade.

"Sharp is key," said Griffith. "The small, thin blade makes it very easy to control."

And it's plenty big. Griffith said he sees way too many hunters using long, heavy knives that are harder to control and damage too much meat. Or worse, they cut the handler.

Griffith's basic method is familiar to many hunters. The entire process takes place with the deer on its side or back.

The first cut is around the anus to allow removal of the lower intestine. Careful to avoid severing the organ, he cuts about 3 inches deep in a circle around the anus until he can tell the lower intestine is loose.

Unlike some methods, he does not tie the intestine off.

"That takes time and it's not necessary," said Griffith.

He then carefully cuts into the abdominal cavity with the tip of his knife. After he has penetrated the muscle wall, he turns the sharp side of his blade out and holds it between two fingers. He then cuts a 12- to 14- inch incision along the center line of the abdomen.

Cutting with the blade facing "out" prevents slicing into the intestines and pushes any hair away from, not into the body cavity.

The incision runs from "the sternum back to about the flank area on the hindquarters," said Griffith.

The next steps are familiar to many hunters. Griffith cuts through the diaphragm, then reaches forward as far as possible inside the deer and severs the trachea and esophagus.

He then cuts any connective tissue between the large internal organs and the inner wall of the body cavity.

Griffith turns his attention back to the lower intestine. Grasping the lower intestine from inside the body cavity, he checks to make sure it is loose and easy to pull.

"If you made your first cuts deep enough, it will be easy to pull in," said Griffith, noting he takes care to keep feces from coming out of the intestine.

Once he's assured both ends of the digestive track are loose, he rolls the deer on its side or pulls the innards out with his hands.

In seconds the pile will be on the ground.

Even if it takes a few minutes, Griffith said the method is superior to any other he's seen or tried.

"No need to cut through the pelvic bone or break the sternum," said Griffith. "One little, sharp knife and a couple minutes and you're done."

Griffith does not remove the sex organs or scent glands. He feels any such additional cuts are unnecessary and just increase exposure to dirt and bacteria.

"If it didn't hurt the meat when the blood was flowing, it's sure not going to hurt the meat when the blood quits flowing," said Griffith.

The final, important step: Once the deer is gutted, get it into cold storage as quickly as possible.

"How to Field Dress a Deer in About a Minute" by Robert Griffith is available at www.cimarronoutdoors.com or by phone at (512) 302-9009.

http://www.jsonline.com/sports/outdoors/70044422.html
 

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Good info there Skunk-
I too have gone to smaller knives for gutting and make the bung cut the same way, but it takes me more like 10 minutes. I like to split the rib cage too, helps them cool faster, unless i am saving the cape. Reaching into the cavity with both hands with a knife in one hand to cut the windpipe is a pretty good way to cut yourself bad.
 
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