Upon recovering the bolt from my first deer I found some blood, but not very much. Fortunately I had watched where he headed off to and had a general sense of where to start looking. The deer ran down hill towards a body of water which was about 100 yards or so away. Mike and I fanned out and started searching parallel to the water. Within five minutes Mike shouted out, down here. Cutting through brier patches and climbing over downed trees I headed to down to check it out. Sure enough there he was my first buck lying in a brier patch already expired. I’m willing to bet not all my future deer will be this easy to find. Examining the deer after cutting away all the briers I could need my shot placement was a little far back. The buck was slightly quartering away from me. The bolt had hit a little far back. It did catch the lung on the exit. If it hadn’t I’m sure my search would have been much longer.
For weeks leading up to my harvest I had watched just about every YouTube video I could find on field dressing a deer. If you haven’t looked there are hours of content you can watch. Most of the instructors in the videos make it look very easy. This went a long way towards boosting my confidence in what I was about to do. After dragging him out of the brier patch it was time to put what I had learned into practice. As I put on my gloves and pulled my knife out of my pack my nerves were starting to get to me a little. It wasn’t the act of field dressing a deer that made me nervous, it was more fear of cutting in to the gut sack. My nerves settled as Mike started to guide me through the process.
I started off very slow and cautious. My fear of cutting into the gut sack was actually causing me other issues as I wasn’t getting far enough through the skin that I was basically starting to skin the deer instead of cutting in deep enough to expose the gut sack. Mike helped guide me through the next layer. Realizing what I was seeing was skin and not the sack I cut deeper. After I made the cut I started to see blood. I had nicked the gut sack. Panicking that this would spoil my deer I made my cut up to the ribs and worked to get the sack out as quickly as possible so nothing from within the sack would get on the precious meat. I had a slightly difficult time reaching up to get the esophagus so I cut up the rib cage to get easier access.
After cutting off the esophagus I finished my cut down through the groin and removed the end trails. Nothing was nearly as easy as it looked in the video, but I had done it. Not only had I done it, but I learned a lot that will help me improve for my next one. Although I cut into some of the meat in the hind quarters and certainly ruined any changes of mounting my prize I had officially field dressed my first deer. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that I had now gained the ability to provide for my family in a new and very rewarding way. As I took off my gloves and started to clean up it hit me. I wasn’t out of the woods yet, literally. I remembered the 100 yard downhill trek I had to make through brier patches and over downed trees to get to my deer.
Having nothing more than a rope to drag my deer I startup to drag him up the hill while mike carried all of our gear. Mike kept asking to assist me, but I wanted the satisfaction of getting my harvest out on my own. That changed when we got about 25 yards from the trail. Worn out at this point Noah had arrived and helped me get him the rest of the way to the trail. Showing my age and lack of physical exercise Noah pulled the deer the rest of the way.
Each of these experienced taught me valuable lessons that I will use when I get my next harvest. I’m sure it will take a few more deer before I get adequate at field dressing. Before my next harvest I will surely have a better means of getting my prize out of the woods. I have a Summit Viper SD climbing tree stand and I’m considering getting a Sherpa Game Cart that would allow me to transform my tree stand into a cart. I would love to hear feedback from anyone that has one of these.