It is extremely important to clean your kill properly to avoid contamination of the meat. Cleaning your kill in the wild rather than waiting until you have returned home is referred to as field dressing. Field dressing generally includes cutting open and eviscerating (commonly referred to as gutting) of the kill, but not the removal of the hide or skin. The practice makes the kill far easier to transport out. More importantly, it protects the quality of the meat.
The rule of thumb is to always clean as soon as possible after the kill. Like any other kind of perishable meat, raw and uncooked game can be infested with food-borne pathogens like E-Coli or bacteria like salmonella. Flies and other pests can infest exposed meat quickly as well.
Exactly how quickly cleaning must take place depends on the weather, the game, other predators in the area, and other factors. For these reasons, it is best to study the techniques and warnings specific to your situation. If you can watch a veteran hunter perform his cleaning, it will prove to be an invaluable experience. Once you know the steps necessary, visualize the process repeatedly. Mentally practicing will make the actual cleaning go more smoothly. When it comes time to clean you kill, make sure your hands and arms are as clean as possible. You might even want to have some plastic cleaning gloves to wear. The smell and feel of your kill will be distracting, so be sure to stay focused on the task at hand.
The main principles of field dressing change little from animal to animal. The cleaner the kill, the easier the cleaning will be. Bullets that miss their marks can cause internal damage allowing organs to mix and become infected and unusable. This is just one more reason to know exactly where to hit your target for clean and efficient kills. Use of clean instruments is a must in order to avoid cross-contamination. Rubber gloves are also recommended. After being lay out on its back, a carcass is carefully cut from the sternum to the groin. Then, the skin and muscle together are peeled back to expose the internal organs. After the game is cut open, it should be carefully and effectively held open with sticks or other tools.
The cleaner will need both handsfree to work and cannot be distracted by his work area shifting or the carcass closing up. This is the most critical and time sensitive portion of the cleaning process and the time when the meat is most vulnerable to damage and infection. Loose substances like mud and soil should be kept out of the carcass at all times. Removal of the intestines is performed differently from one animal to another. However, it generally requires at least one surgical cut made within the body to separate the entrails. Once organs and entrails alike have been removed, the cavity must be cleaned out. The kill is then ready for transport. The hide and skin will need to be removed at a later time.
To give you an idea of what a typical cleaning entails, we are providing a few examples.