Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content
Call Us Today! Experts now available 24/7.

After the Hunt: Safely Hauling, Dressing and Preparing Your Kill

 Posted on: August 25th, 2021

After the Hunt: Safely Hauling, Dressing and Preparing Your Kill

Once you’ve harvested a deer, it’s important to make sure you safely and promptly transport it out of the woods in a way that results in the least amount of damage and bacteria, particularly if you want to preserve the hide or consume the meat.

Here is an outline of what you should prepare for after the hunt, and why each factor is so important to a successful finish.

Field dressing

Field dressing is a time sensitive process that must be done as soon as possible to ensure rapid body heat loss and to prevent bacteria from growing on the surface of the carcass. This not only helps maintain the quality of the meat, it also makes the carcass lighter to remove from the hunting area. Read How to Safely Field Dress Your Game for information on what gear you should bring with you for field dressing, the steps it requires and how to recognize disease in your kill.

Hunter utilizing our Kill Shot Game Cart to transport his game
Hunter utilizing our Kill Shot Game Cart to transport his game

Transporting the carcass

Keeping your meat cool and clean during transport is your number one priority. This will prevent the introduction of bacteria, dirt and insects, and ensure a safer woods-to-table experience. Transporting the carcass is generally a two-step process – bringing it from the drop location to your vehicle, then hauling it to your local butcher, your home, or other location where the meat will be processed.

From the woods to your vehicle

A clean tarp and a sturdy rope can make it slightly more sanitary to drag or carry your kill, however we recommend really taking the weight out of the drag by utilizing a game cart. Not only will you keep your game off the ground where dirt and debris can contaminate it, it will also reduce the risk of personal injury because it requires much less effort.

From your vehicle to the butcher

Transporting game exposed to the elements, such as on the hood or roof of your car will not only invite environmental contaminants, it could also expose your meat to engine heat or exhaust fumes, which will definitely impact the quality.

If you don’t have a truckbed cooler or similar large icebox, consider using dropcloths or tarps in a trailer, enclosed truck bed or trunk along with bags of ice to preserve the carcass. For really long journeys, consider skinning and quartering the carcass before packing it on ice or dry ice.

Whether or not to skin

There are pros and cons to whether or not it makes sense to skin your deer, and when to skin it.

If you want to preserve the hide for taxidermy purposes, it’s best to remove it immediately so that no further damage can occur. Removing the skin will also help chill the carcass quickly as the skin will no longer be able to act as an insulator.

To remove the skin, use your knife as little as possible to avoid nicking the hide or the meat. Suspending the carcass from a tree, or on a deer hoist, can make it a lot easier to get leverage for pulling the hide. Once your first cut has been made, use your hands and fists to pull and work the hide off, or utilize a tool like the target="_blank">Super Hide Puller to get additional leverage on areas where your fingers might slip. Once removed, rub it liberally with fine salt and let it absorb for 24-48 hours.

BClose up view of man skinning deer with knife after hunting
Close up view of man skinning deer with knife after hunting

If you don’t want to save the hide, there are good reasons to leave it on the carcass as long as possible. The skin will protect the meat from dust and bacteria on the surface, and keep our leaves, insect, hair and other external contaminations. It will also prevent the meat from drying out before it can be processed, and will protect the deer against extreme cold if left outside while chilling. Leaving it outside in 32-38 degrees for 2-3 days, the skin will minimize shrinking, keep the carcass clean and avoid discoloration of the meat.

If you don’t want to skin the animal, but do want to remove the head, simply split the underside of the neck and sever the head at the atlas joint (first vertebrae of neck and spinal column). Remove the esophagus/gullet and windpipe as well as any other remaining organs, and bring it to your local taxidermist who will take it from there.

Beautifully cooked venison
Beautifully cooked venison

Cooking the meat

Although not rocket science, there is definitely science involved in making sure your game meat is cooked to the highest of food preparation standards. Because wild game can contain a lot of unwanted guests, it’s critical to cook any wild-caught game meat up to a safe internal temperature to destroy bacteria before consumption. The official US Government Food Safety website offers these minimum temperature recommendations:

  • Meat and poultry: at least 160 degrees F
  • Ground red meat: at least 160 degrees F
  • Ground white meat: at least 165 degrees F
  • Game bird breast meat: at least 165 degrees F

Once cooked, cool any meat down rapidly and store at refrigeration temperatures to reduce the risk of spore-forming bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum (Botulism) and the common food poisoning culprit Clostridium perfringens.

Check out some of our team’s favorite venison recipes!

Special considerations for bear and boar

Bear and boar meat may contain Trichinella spiralis parasites, and there are two ways to destroy them before the meat is consumed:

  • Freeze raw bear meat for at least three weeks prior to consumption
  • Cook the meat thoroughly up to proper internal temperature guidelines - at least 160 degrees F

Special considerations for rabbit and game birds

Rabbits can pass tularemia to humans through cuts and abrasions, so gloves should always be worn when handling the carcasses. Use clean water, wipes, or alcohol swabs to clean the knife frequently between cuts.

Pheasant and Rabbit
Game birds and Rabbits need special considerations

Game birds can also pass on diseases to humans, so the same considerations should be used as with rabbits.

With proper care and adherence to safety guidelines, the aftermath of a successful hunting is just as gratifying as the hunt itself, with the reward of delicious meat for months to follow.

Disclaimer: This educational article contains general information only; Discount Ramps cannot be held liable for damage, illness, injuries or accidents that occur after reading this article.