5 Easy Steps for “Caribouing” Your Deer

By Judd Cooney

Here’s why bringing your deer out whole might actually be a good idea!

Skinning a deer before gutting

Skinning the deer before gutting it keeps scavengers and predators away from your hunting area. Dog is optional. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

My hunter was unhappy about having to drag his trophy buck a couple hundred yards to the truck. When we got there, he stated in no uncertain terms that it would have been a heck of a lot easier to drag if we had gutted it on the spot.

I explained in my typical gentle way that our policy was to gut a deer on our leases only when it was in a difficult location and NEVER to eviscerate a deer  recovered near one of our foodplots or a feeding area. We have a lot of coyotes in our section of Iowa, and the last thing we want to do is attract them to our prime hunting areas. To further control these canine deer killers, my partner Sheri and I have coyote traps and snares set around our key hunting spots. A gut pile would give them a free lunch without consequences and could reduce the effectiveness of our trapping efforts.

So, we like to “caribou” our deer.

What is Caribouing?

Getting ready to gut the deer

Head, hide and legs are gone, but the guts are still in the deer. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

“Caribouing” is a term that comes from the Far North. It describes how the denizens of that inhospitable habitat process caribou with minimum fuss and mess. Once a hunter watches Sheri (she’s a world class taxidermist and experienced butcher) wield her Havalon Piranta to apply the same process to his deer, the argument about our “bring ’em out whole” policy ends immediately.

To make our job easier we’ve installed a hydraulic winch in the skinning area so one person can back a truck into the room and hang even a big buck by himself. We saw off the hind legs below the hocks, cut a hole between the bone and Achilles tendon and insert a gambrel, meat hooks or other type of hanger. If you have a lot of overhead space, removing the hind legs first is not necessary, but the low ceiling in our processing area necessitates it.

Step One: Skinning

Hang and begin skinning the deer. When Sheri gets past the hindquarters she jams her elbows and forearms against the hide and applies her full weight to pulling the hide loose. Very effective. Split the hide along the back of the front legs to the center of the brisket and then saw off the legs at the elbow joint to facilitate peeling the hide from the front legs. Pull the hide down to the base of the ears and cut off the head with the skin attached.

Step Two: The Front Half

Cut off the front shoulders and bone out the neck meat for grinding. Cut a slit in the legs and hang the front quarters on some meat hooks, a gambrel or run a cord through and hang wherever available.

Removing the backstraps for quartering a deer

First cut to remove the backstraps is right in front of the hindquarters. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

Step Three: Backstraps and Hindquarters

Cut the muscles crosswise in front of the hindquarters to start stripping out backstraps. Peel them using your fingers and knife to separate from the backbone and ribs until they come free. Hang on a gambrel or lay on a clean surface.

Step Four: Gutting

Carefully cut around the anus from the outside, as deeply into the pelvic canal as possible, so you can pull it from the inside through the pelvis; that way it keeps its contaminants with the innards. Next, cut through the lower belly muscle below the hindquarters and drop the intestines. Paunch far enough to finish cutting loose the bladder, intestines and anus. Drop the guts the rest of the way out, cutting loose as needed.

Step Five: Tenderloins

Gutting the quartered deer

Begin gutting the deer. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

This gut dropping operation exposes the tenderloins. They’re against the back, inside the abdominal cavity on either side of the spine. Carefully use your razor sharp Havalon hunting knife to peel these choice morsels away from the spine and lay or hang with backstraps. With the tenderloins removed, either cut or saw through the back bone just below the hanging hindquarters to fully separate guts with the carcass.

We use a plastic sled situated under the hanging carcass to drop the head, hide, carcass and guts on it. This keeps the mess off the floor and facilitates loading into the pickup bed for disposal, or pulling behind a 4-wheeler or snowmobile into the field behind the camp house for coyote bait.

Step Six: Separate Hindquarters

Use a meat saw or regular cross cut saw to cut down through the pelvis and separate the two hindquarters. Now you have four quarters ready for the butcher, or to cut up yourself.

This is a simple, methodical process, and it’s fast, neat and easy! Your meat now cools faster, has less hair on it and each piece is light enough to handle easily.


judd-cooney-head-shot-457x542About Judd Cooney:

For the past 30 years Judd has been writing and photographing full time in addition to running his guiding and outfitting operation, spending 18-20 hours a day trying to avoid working an 8-5 job. He says, “I wouldn’t change it for the world!” He has articles or photos in many of the outdoor magazines every month, covering bowhunting, muzzleloader hunting, big game, small game and predator hunting, plus turkey, waterfowl and upland game hunting. He can be reached through his website, www.JuddCooney.com.


Looking for the¬†perfect knife to skin that trophy buck? Try the all-new Havalon Piranta Black Stag – the sharpest knife you’ll ever use! Click here:

Black stag hunting knife and skinning knife

3,634 total views, 2 views today

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Big Game Hunting, Deer Hunting, Deer Processing, Field Dressing Tips, Guest Writers, How To, Judd Cooney and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *