Field Care of Game

How you care for game once it has been harvested will make a tremendous impact on how much you, your family and friends will culminate your hunt by enjoying a wonderful meal. Cut corners here and you will regret it later. Any complaints at the table about “gaminess” can be traced straight back to how you handled, or mishandled, your game after the harvest. The three factors that can spoil meat through the spread of bacteria are: heat, moisture and dirt.

hunters field dressing a deer gutting a deer hands in gloves

Field Dressing, whether in the field or back at camp, it should be done soon after harvesting the animal. It involves removing all the internal organs from the body cavity. This first step begins the cooling down of the meat. An experienced hunter should guide the novice in the procedure. Plastic gloves are recommended when cleaning game animals, especially feral hogs. Some diseases or parasites can be transmitted by the animal’s blood into any nicks or cuts the hunter may have. Packs of disposable gloves are readily available at pharmacies and large supermarkets. They don’t take up much space and are easily carried in a pocket while hunting.
folding knifefolding knife with gut hook

A good, sharp knife is needed in all phases of cleaning game animals. A sharp knife makes the work safer and easier since it is less likely to force the blade and lose control of the cut. Many experienced hunters have a sharpening device nearby to touch up the blade as needed.

hunters cleaning hanging deer woman skinning hanging deer

Watch a video on: Field Dressing.


It helps to hang a deer after field dressing to facilitate draining any excess blood. Use a hose and water to help clean off excess blood but remember that moisture is one of the factors which contribute to bacteria growth, so dry the animal off well. Once the deer is hung, the next step is to remove the skin. Skinning the deer also helps cool down the meat.

Watch a video on: Skinning Deer.

butchering the deer several hunters processing deer processing deer carcass

Quartering is when you butcher the deer by removing the forequarters (shoulders), the hindquarters (hams) and the backstraps from the carcass. By Texas law, you may not process the deer beyond quartering until you reach your final destination. This means you may not ‘bone-out” the shoulders and hams. You may take trimmings from the neck and ribs. Don’t forget the tenders on the inside of the chest cavity that parallel the backstraps.

Watch a video on: Quartering Deer.


deer carcass packed in ice chest

Keep your quartered deer meat cool and dry by placing your meat in plastic bags inside an ice chest. Add some ice and you’re ready for the trip home. You will need to retain the tags, along with proper “evidence of sex” (head of a doe or antlers of a buck) to your final destination. Consult the regulations in the Outdoor Annual for more information. Under no circumstances should you ever transport game animals on the hood or roof of cars. This is a sure way to spoil the meat. It is also very likely to offend many of the non-hunting public. Most non-hunters are not against hunting but witnessing this type of disregard for the animal could turn them against hunting. Just don’t do it!

Now That You've Killed It (pdf)


Transferring Game to Others

It is possible to give game to other people when hunting. The hunter that harvests the game must fill out and sign a Wildlife Resource Document.

Download the form.

Field Care of Game Birds

Many hunters clean and dress their birds right after the hunt. It is important not to leave a pile of feathers and entrails at the hunting site or in town at a motel. Contain and dispose of feathers and entrails properly.

Remember: One fully feathered wing or head must remain attached to dressed waterfowl while being transported between the place taken and the personal residence (personal abode) of the hunter, the personal residence of another person receiving the dressed birds or a migratory bird processing facility. One fully feathered wing or head must remain attached to all migratory game birds imported from Mexico.

hunter cleaning harvested dove close-up of dove cleaning game scissors

Plastic gloves and a good pair of game shears are helpful for the task of cleaning birds.

hunters picking feathers from ducks plucked ducks with one wing attached as per regulations

There are two basic styles of cleaning birds. First is picking the feathers and leaving the skin on.

dove breast removed


The other method is called “breasting” where the skin is removed with the feathers intact, along with the  back and legs, leaving only the breast meat attached to the breastbone.


This apparatus separates the breast and wings from the rest of the body.

duck being debreasted on device separating the breast from the duck separated duck portions


duck meat placed in cooler

Place your birds in plastic bags and then into a cooler with ice for transportation. You can learn more about dove in our publication Field to Freezer (pdf).

Watch a video on: How to Clean and Grill Dove.