If you’re a backcountry DIY hunter and you want to quickly break an animal down into manageable pieces and get it cooled down, the best way to do that is called the gutless field dressing method. It’s fast, and also keeps your meat cleaner. When it comes to the skin, you have two different options. You can leave the skin on the quarters, which is the cleanest route, but if you’re needing to pack it out, you’ll need to eliminate as much weight as possible. By the way, you should check out these backcountry hunting tips.
Gutless Field Dressing Method
First, cut around the top of the front and back legs, just above the knee. Then open the skin by slicing up the leg, across the midsection about halfway up, and down to the other leg cut.
Extend the cut up the bottom of the neck to the skull so you can get to the neck meat. Now skin the entire side up to and slightly past the top of the back. Don’t waste valuable time skinning the belly section.
Next, remove the front shoulder by simply slicing between the ribcage and the shoulder until it comes free. Slip the quarter into a game bag and lay it in the shade on a couple logs so the air can circulate and cool it down.
Now remove the hindquarter by slicing along the pelvis in a circular pattern around the base then lift the hindquarter and locate the hip socket.
An inexpensive, lightweight, simple game harvesting kit with everything you need to efficiently process your animal, and stay clean doing it.
Having a helper makes the entire process much easier, obviously.
Use the tip of your knife (we use Havalon) to cut the main tendon inside the socket. Remove the hindquarter and bag it. Be sure to leave evidence of sex (testicle) where required.
Next, remove the back straps by slicing along the spinous process bones straight down to where the ribs attach to the spine. Slide your knife along the top of the ribs and meet up with your first cut.
Run these cuts as far up the neck as you can then bag the backstrap, along with all the trimmings (neck, hip, and rib meat) from the entire topside of your animal.
Now carefully cut into the body cavity along the spine just behind the last rib. You can use a saw to disconnect the last rib to give you more room to work.
Reach in and filet out the tenderloin, which lies under the spine. Be very careful not to nick the stomach. You may choose to wait and remove the tenderloins as a last step.
Now simply flip the skin back down over the carcass, roll your animal over and repeat the process on the other side.If you’re packing your animal out on your back you’ll usually need to “bone” the meat to save weight. With a little practice you can bone a hindquarter in less than a minute. The front shoulder takes a little more work. Just remove the muscle groups from the scapula and bone out the lower legs and throw in the trimming pile. Boning is also the quickest way to get the body heat out of the meat.
Obviously, there is more than one way to “skin an elk” but this is a quick, clean, and efficient method for getting your animal cooled down and into your freezer in the best possible condition.
Photos by Bowhunter