No Guts, No Gory
A step-by-step to the gutless method of field dressing.
Gutting a critter is an essential skill that all hunters should master. However, removing meat via the gutless method is a close second, especially if you plan to hunt big game in the backcountry. It can save you valuable time, energy, and weight. And don’t worry, you can still get those tasty organs like the heart and liver. After I learned it, the gutless method became my go-to way of field dressing. Follow these steps.
Skin the Animal
The first step is to get the hide out of the way. While this will dry the outer layer of meat, it removes a lot of weight. Position the animal on its side and make an incision along the spine from the top of the neck to the end of the hindquarter. Peel the hide down the animal, skinning around both the front and hindquarter.
With the animal still on its side, make a cut where the shoulder meets the ribs. Trace around the top of the shoulder blade and up into the neck meat. Then, lift the shoulder and cut along the ribs toward the spine. Continue until this bottom cut meets with your top cut and the shoulder separates from the body.
Lift the quarter away from the body and cut in the crease between the stomach and the meat, paying close attention to keep your blade away from the guts. Peel the leg away until you hit the ball socket where the leg attaches to the pelvis. Cut around this joint until you reach the spine and the quarter is removed. Note: this is the most difficult part of the process and tit helps immensely to have a buddy hold the leg. If you’re alone, tie the leg off to a tree with some cord, to help you see where you’re cutting.
Now that the first two quarters are removed, the backstrap is visible. Just like you would a gutted animal, remove this tasty slab by cutting against the spine to where it begins at the top of the neck. This is arguably the most fun part of the process.
Now it’s time to gather all the excess “scrap” meat. This includes the rib and neck meat. The neck makes a great roast, so if possible, remove it in one piece. Salvage as much remaining meat as you can and put it in its own game bag.
After the above steps are complete, flip the animal over and repeat the process. Finally, go after the last few cuts. Note that Montana game laws requires evidence of sex, so don’t forget to retain the appropriate parts.
To access the tenderloins, make a shallow incision along the spine just above the hip bone, again taking caution not to puncture the stomach. Reach your hand under the backbone to locate the meat. Create separation between the loin and the backbone with your hand. Once you know where the meat starts and ends, make your cut to remove it. This is somewhat of a blind cut, so be careful that the direction of your blade is away from your hands.
Heart & Liver
Once all the quarters, backstraps, and tenderloins are removed, all you’re left with is a chest cavity. To salvage the heart and liver, make a cut and reach in through the ribs to remove the organs. You may have to maneuver the stomach contents a bit, but if you know where and what you’re looking for, access is straightforward.
Corey Hockett has been butchering animals since he was 10 years old. Wild game is his favorite table fare.