Learning field care for big game animals is an essential part of hunting them. To preserve the game meat of these large animals, there are some field care steps you must perform on the animal immediately.
A clean shot to the head or neck is the best way of killing a Caribou or Moose; failing that, a shot to the heart or lungs is acceptable. When an animal you’ve shot isn’t dead but is fatally wounded, you should kill it by shooting it in the head or neck.
Once you’ve taken down your big game, you’ll want to bleed it before eviscerating it. When a major artery has been severed (typically when the animal was shot in the neck) or when the animal has been shot in the heart or lungs, bleeding may not be required—there’s usually sufficient blood loss from the wound.
Cutting an animal’s throat where the neck meets the body should sever an artery and be sufficient for bleeding. Bleeding the animal before eviscerating and skinning helps improve the taste of the meat and can make other processes less messy.
Evisceration is the process of removing an animal’s internal organs—this helps to prevent the meat from being spoiled by bacteria. These organs, especially the gastrointestinal tract, are more prone to rot than the rest of the animal.
Using a sharp knife, you’ll cut near the animal’s pelvic bone (starting at the hind legs) and carefully slice up to the breastbone. From there, the organs are removed, being careful not to puncture any of them. Puncturing the stomach, for example, can leach stomach fluids into the meat, contaminating it; misplacing your cut by even a few inches can lead to disastrous consequences.
All internal organs are removed during the evisceration process, and many hunters choose to eat the heart and liver around this time.
Usually, you’ll want to skin the animal after transporting it. The skin of big game animals protects the carcass from the elements; the hide also prevents the meat from becoming dry during transportation.
Skinning is a complex process; ideally, you want the skin to be removed as a single piece, especially if you’re going to use it as a decorative piece. We highly recommend taking courses on skinning animals to perfect the technique—it would be impossible to describe in detail here. Skinning when you’re keeping a trophy head is particularly difficult.
Generally, it’s fairly easy to preserve the entire carcass during transportation. With the skin and hide still on, all you’ll need is a clean and cool space to keep the animal in. Placing plastic bags on the surface you’ll be transporting the carcass on can help keep your vehicle clean.
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With proper care, you can preserve a large animal until you arrive at camp. We advise against field dressing like tagging until you arrive at camp—we can handle that for you. Our guides can also help you with any of the steps we’ve listed above.
A properly harvested big game animal tastes better—and is more ethically hunted. We’re glad you’ve read through this guide.