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Old 11-27-2006, 09:23 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 18,551
How long do you have to field dress a deer?

I'm sure the sooner the better, but what is the longest you can go w/o causing a off flavor to the meat? And how does outside tempature effect this, if at all?

If you waited a bit too long is the whole thing ruined, or just parts?
Old 11-27-2006, 10:14 AM
lieu lieu is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 26,079
If it's 70 degrees farenheit, you'd best get it field dressed by an hour. Adjust up or down according to your conditions.

Just as important as are two other factors; a clean shot and proper cleaning procedure.

You want your shot to take it down quick with a minimum of stress, both for humanitarian reasons and because adrenaline taints the meat. The bullet shouldn't hit any intestines either as that'll definately, immediately have a negative impact on meat quality.

Same with the cleaning. Don't let any urine, etc come in contact with the meat. Cut the windpipe as far back up the throat as you can reach.

If it's cool out, you can let the carcass hang for a day or two to cure. Apply ice if necessary. If it's warm, get it to the processor and, if you ask me, hanging one in a cooler will dry the meat out.
Old 11-27-2006, 10:22 AM
Cowgirl Jules Cowgirl Jules is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Smack in the middle of CA
Posts: 1,699
My first reaction was within an hour, so I googled to back that up, and didn't find much in the way of timing guidelines. has a little bit, although they wouldn't be my go-to guide for hunting. But my guides are crusty old men, usually, and therefore not on the internet.

Yes, weather matters. In warm weather, you not only want to field dress it as soon as possible, but it's best to get the skin off and quarter the meat and hang it in the shade to get it as cool as possible quickly. In cold weather, you could leave the skin on, but dress it and open the body cavity to let it cool from both the inside and the outside. With my last bear, we dressed him immediately, but left the skin on. It's a big animal, so normally you'd want to get the skin off as soon as possible to provide the largest surface area and least amount of insulating fat and hide to cool it, but we were about to drag it for four hours through a 36 degree creek, so we were really OK.

Things start to decay really quickly once the animal's down, and it all starts with the internal organs. Once those are bad, nobody's going to want to touch the meat. Everyone says that the meat's only tasty if the deer was field dressed quickly and properly. I've never let one go bad, so I can't vouch for that personally.

Besides, think about it. Who's going to want to stick their hands up in the body cavity to dress a deer that's been ripening for a couple of hours? Yuck! It only takes ten or twenty minutes, and what a waste if you lose the meat because you put it off. Don't.
Old 11-28-2006, 12:29 PM
butler1850 butler1850 is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: NH, Escaped from MA
Posts: 2,885
I'd say from the experience I've had with my 2 deer that you need to do a few things...

Make a good shot so that the deer dies quickly.
Wait a long enough time to make sure the deer is dead before trailing it. (the hardest part)
As soon as you find it, and confirm that it is dead, begin the dressing process. (the 'gross' part)
Get it to the butcher ASAP, and into his cooler.

You have more time in cold weather, and less in warm weather. I hunt in New Hampshire, so even when it's hot for the time of year, it's still not really that hot.

Both of my deer (relatively small) have both tasted great, and I attribute it to getting it processed in the field, and at the butcher quickly.


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