Rifle and knife
Getty Images, rabit023

When Should Hunters Start Field Dressing Their Own Deer?

Field dressing is a crucial part of hunting, but when is the right time to hand the knife over to a new hunter?

When you teach a newbie how to hunt, there are a lot of elements to make sure they know: Do they have the right deer hunting equipment to function safely and comfortably in the field? Do they know their gun or bowhunting safety? And then, of course, there's essential strategy like shot placement, breath control, and overcoming buck fever.

But it's after their first shot lands that all the real work comes in. Field dressing a deer is absolutely filthy—but also necessary. There will be blood and guts. That can be a lot for beginners to take in.

When is the right time to turn the reigns of this dirty job over to new hunters? How soon is too soon? That's a matter of perspective.

Getty, Sharfsinn86

There is a fine line to walk here as mentors. You want to teach your mentee everything they need to know, as best, and as quickly as you can. However, for some newbies, this step needs to be tip-toed into slowly. Some simply aren't ready to reach their hands inside a steaming carcass to pull out the innards until they have a few years of hunting under their belt. Some need to watch the process a few times before they are comfortable participating. Knowledge is power, so arm your mentee with the power to tackle the job of field dressing but work at the pace they are most comfortable with.

Whether the new hunter is ready or not, the deer still must be field dressed, and sooner rather than later. Even if you dress it, we recommend:

  • Explaining each step as you go through.
  • Explaining that for the best-quality venison, you should get the innards out at the earliest possible moment.
  • Name the parts that you're pulling out.
  • Point out any irregularities.
  • Have the mentee hold the legs open or hold a flashlight. Give them a job even if it's not actually doing the field dressing themselves.

Hunter recruitment is significantly essential, and there's no arguing that. For our hunting heritage to continue, there should be a legion of experienced hunters willing and able to introduce someone else to the recreational activity. Hunters have an obligation to pass on the knowledge of the sport.

READ MORE: You've Shot A Deer, But There's No Blood Trail—Now What?