Most hunters learn how to field dress a deer from someone they know, but not me. I did not learn how to gut a deer from my dad, grandpa, or redneck relative. I learned the dirty deed from Tim Farmer, a man who posted the tricks of the trade in a six-minute YouTube video. Tim makes it look so easy; a cut here, a rip there, flip the deer over and he’s finished. Surprisingly my first experience went almost as planned.
I shot my first deer and I could not have been more excited. I went from dead tired to wide-awake in a split second. My dad and I made our way across the soybean field to assess my perfect shot. To me she was a beauty, but the small doe weighed no more than a buck twenty. My dad and I pulled out our surgeon’s blue latex gloves and got to work. The video warns that this job is not for the faint of heart and I quickly learned why.
The first step is to remove the arse of the deer. I hesitate at first, but my dad tells me that since I shot it I have to clean it. So with my freshly sharpened folding knife glistening in the early sun, I make the first incision. I feel the doe’s steamy blood seeping from the two-inch circle I just cut from her derriere. Next, I felt the soft, white fur of the deer’s underside in search of the base of the ribs. Here I make my next opening. I cut slowly but efficiently down the middle of the deer’s abdomen, carefully peeling the layer of fur and skin revealing the muscle wall, called the diaphragm. This is where Mr. Farmer warns explicitly to take extreme caution to avoid puncturing the stomach. I switch to a smaller knife to make short strokes like an artist painting a picture. My hand was shaking like the last leaf of fall hanging from a tree. I hear a hiss, like a tire quickly losing air, but the smell is something from another world. I did exactly what Tim Farmer warned not to do. It smells like a mix between rotting eggs and day-old vomit. I take a step back but the stench is everywhere, encasing me in a giant bubble of nasty gas. I must finish the job, so I inhale as deep as I can and go back to work.
The belly-up deer is now wide open and steam from her warm organs drifts into the frigid air. My dad holds the deer steady as I reach as high as I can into the deer’s neck and feel around for the esophagus. The doe’s warm blood covered my arms as my hands grasped the esophagus. It was thick, like a garden hose. I gently cut through it and it came free. When I pulled the esophagus toward me, the heart, liver, putrid stomach and all other entrails tear free and lay in a small heap a few feet from me.
The deer’s tongue hung from its mouth. Her lifeless eyes were pale. There were two small wounds where the slug went in and out, and one gaping cavity where the vital organs used to be. The only step left was to drain the deer of the puddle of blood left in her body cavity. My dad and I flipped the deer onto its stomach making sure the head was facing uphill to let gravity run its course. Standing over the deer, I saw the frost bitten ground turn a dark shade of red as the blood wove in and out of soybean stalks. I felt lucky. I felt like a hunter. Tim Farmer would be proud.