It's on the deck. You’ve been successful. After congratulating yourself and unloading your rifle, take a good spell to enjoy the moment. The next priority is to decide how much of the carcass you will retrieve. This may vary between the whole animal or nothing depending on circumstances. If it’s a reasonable distance to your car or quad, you may decide on taking the whole carcass. Normally I would start by “ringing the deer”. Use your knife to cut around the anus and rectum as far into the pelvic girdle as possible without puncturing anything messy. Then start your gutting cut at the sternum taking a cut through the skin first, then carefully slice the abdominal wall till the inner cavity is reached. At this stage face the cutting edge of the knife outwards , place the edge between two fingers and gently slide the blade cutting the wall using your fingers to prevent the blade piercing the gut bag. Work your cut from the sternum to the anus.
Then I will position the carcass so gravity helps dropping the gut bag out. I will remove all the insides, reach down to grab the rectum as close to the anus as you can to minimise droppings contaminating the cavity. I then like to cut around the diaphragm to give access to the heart and lungs. Make a cut from the brisket to the throat to free the windpipe. Cut this free then remove the heart and lungs. Cut through the neck at the atlas axis joint to remove the head.
At this stage I like to prop the gutted carcass open for a while to help with heat dissipation. Pop it on your mates back and struggle back to the vehicle. Cooling the meat as quickly as you can is vital.
I never carried out this procedure while I was working. I only carried back to camp the amount of venison we needed as camp meat. There was no point in carrying skin or bone anywhere. While I was working in the Kaimais my cobber Steve said let’s go to Stewart Island and try meat hunting. I looked at his robust build, looked at my skinny frame, and said “ I’m a racehorse, not a packhorse, you go for it. “ When we next caught up we compared how much we’d earned. I had earned the same as he had; and I just had to carry tails.
For camp supply meat I would position the deer on its side then lift up a hind leg. Make your cut in the groin area working toward the hip joint. A bit of careful cutting will free up this joint then slice along the pelvis to the tail. This will free up a whole back leg. Poke a hole through the hamstring then hang the leg in a tree. Do the same to the other leg. Now with the carcass belly down, slice through the skin right up the backbone and peel the skin away from the back steaks. Slice the steak along the spine then slice the muscle away from the spine and ribs. I would normally take both steaks. Depending on the location of the kill and the likelihood of being able to return to the site which wasn’t very often I would either hang the steaks on a tree or string them from my belt and continue hunting. This enabled the meat to cool. The plan was if we ran out of backsteak at camp we would return to the last leg for meat. I don’t recall ever having to go back for leg meat.
I’ve used variations on this theme depending on circumstances. I don’t like carrying bones and skin, you can’t eat them. A reasonable way to carry both hind legs out is to cut each leg through the hip joints but leave a band of skin from across the back to keep them in one package. You can drape them over your shoulders to carry them out. I would normally prefer to skin out the legs, separate the bone out and carry them in a day pack. In this circumstance I like to place the butchered legs and steaks into the coolest spot I can find for as long as I can before carrying them out. The modern fly proof meatbags are invaluable for keeping flies off the meat. We used pepper liberally sprinkled on the cut surfaces but even then the flies could blow the meat making it inedible. A lock blade pocket knife can make all the cuts you need in the bush , I used an 80mm long EKA most of the time. Just keep it sharp, don’t cut bone and cut skin from the inside out.
Venison was our main protein supply while we were working so I’ve eaten a lot of it. About two out of ten deer tasted really good and I wondered why I disliked venison so much. About two out of the ten were edible but the remainder were awful. I politely decline now when someone offers me venison. I found that fat young stags were the best eating, the best venny I’ve ever had was from a couple of fat spikers I shot in Blackbridge Road , Silverdale. They were better than some beef.