Wild Game Field Care Is Important But It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard.
Unless you’re really unlucky or are chasing big old rutty bucks and bulls (muleys, elk and caribou to name the most likely suspects), at the moment of the shot that wild animal you are about to field dress tastes pretty good.
There are variations in tenderness, on the hoof, mostly depending on age, with older animals being not as tender as younger ones. And somewhat less noticeable variations in flavor depending on age: immature wild game animals being more bland than mature animals. A healthy, well-fed deer, moose, antelope or elk, with a nice layer of fat insulating the backstraps and rump is always a welcome sight to the field dresser. That’s a pretty darn sure sign of prime game meals through the winter.
So as we prepare to tag and field dress Marvin mule deer or Minnie Moose, the trick is for us is to not do anything to detract from what hard work and luck has granted us. And one way to do that is to split the pelvis.
The point to splitting the pelvis is to create a gap in the skeleton to draw the intestines and urethra through, rather than to cut them. And the risk of cutting? Is to get offal—both solid and liquid–on the rump roasts and steaks.
Now, there’s an easy way to do this and a harder way. John’s is the easy way.
I’ve included a short video. And a very minimalist drawing. Let’s start with the drawing and the video will make more sense. Deer, elk, antelope, whatever, have a pair of pelvic bones, right and left, fused together in the center of the animal—in line with the spine. The fuse line is 3-4 times more solid/thick bone as that on either side.
You could split right down the middle—through that 3 to 4-ply solid bone, or you can make it easier on yourself.
Easier is to set your Swiss Army saw to one side of that fuse line. Running just beside that fuse line is a single layer of bone, and there are holes along the length. It’s much easier to do.
Once you’ve cut through there, stand up, set a foot on each leg of the animal, and jerk the tail up.
Now watch the video. It will all make sense. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/aVExIdQidyI
And the more general link to all the game care videos. https://www.youtube.com/@eileenclarke5936
(And please excuse John for one cuss word, plus my lack of video editing knowledge. I did try to delete it. Three times.)
Here’s a short list of other things that help keep the carcass/winter’s meat clean:
1. Leave the hide on when possible. When ambient air temperature is cool enough for the carcass to cool in 3-4 hours, the skin is a sterile wrapper making it way easier to keep the meat clean while you get it out of the woods and back home.
2. Once you’ve got hold of the esophagus, poke a hole with your gutting knife between the rings; index and middle finger in the hole, draw the guts down the body and to the side, outside the body cavity as you go. Split the pelvis, as in the video and draw the intestines cleanly through the gap.
3. Once the animal is field dressed, lift the front quarters up to drain the blood through the split pelvis. Flip the animal over to finish the job. ASAP, rinse the inside of the body cavity. We carry a trio of 5 gallon water jugs for a good rinse in the field, then hose it out when we get home.
3a. A little swim? Check the water first. On one hand, it’s not a good idea to rinse potential venison steaks and roasts with water from a salmon stream where the fish have been spawning and dying for a while. Then again I killed a whitetail doe a mile or so from my truck one time, along a nice little trout stream I often fished. The water was cold and clean, and I drug her into the stream to get her rinsed off. Then, tied a rope around her chest and floated her downstream, keeping her to the deeper channels, until I was much closer to my vehicle.
Perhaps you’re hunting around a large lake that has a fish cleaning station. If it’s still warm enough, there just might be running water there. If you’re a long way from home, some motel/hotels in hunting country have game care stations. The ones I’ve seen in the Dakotas were more for upland birds and waterfowl, but you never know. If you’re big game hunting, they might even have a cooler for paying guests. But be prepared to wing it for larger game animals.
4. Tarps are always handy, but wait until after the carcass has cooled down before using one. The worst tasting antelope we ever took home had been wrapped in a blue tarp, tightly, and stuck in the back end of a Bronco—in the sun—for an hour or so by our ‘guide’ who’d promised to take it directly to the cooler. Not only did the animal not cool down, the tightness of the wrap and the sun beating on it…well…all that meat was ruined. It made a tasty chorizo, but….
5. At home, there’s the surface you butcher on. John and I have always brought our animals into the kitchen to butcher. It’s a lot handier to have running water and to be warm in late November. But a lot of folks butcher in the garage. Is it a hard surface, easy to clean? Is it stored in the garage from hunting season to hunting season? Cobwebs, dust, flies. You see where I’m going.
We used pieces of Formica for years, leftover pieces from kitchen re-models, until the knives had made enough cuts that the surface was very hard to clean. At about that time I bought a butchering table from Boos, but I still cover it with large washable cutting boards—plastic and wood—to protect the surface. Then toss those boards in the dishwasher when done.
It’s a simple image. Whatever you’ve hunted, hauled home, and butchered, is going to end up on your fork.
And don’t forget the t-loins (we jokingly call them ‘understraps’). They’re tiny on smaller animals like doe whitetails and shrink to almost nothing in a matter of 24-48 hours. It’s a good idea to extract them earlier than later.