The Gutless Method: How To Use On Big Game

Gutless Field Dressing – the Why-To and How-To

By Steve Sorensen

Picture of gutless method of field dressing a moose.

Instead of making an incision on the animal’s belly, make your incision along his spine. Peel the hide away on one side, down to his legs.

Did you know there’s a way to avoid gutting a deer, and still leave the guts in the field? In regular field dressing, take the inside out and keep the rest. In the gutless method, take the outside off and leave the rest. It’s easier than you think, and it’s more practical on big animals.


The Gutless Method Why-To:

Besides avoiding the mess, here are three main reasons hunters use the gutless method. One, the animal is too big to handle. Several years ago that’s what my brother and I faced in Alaska. We were looking at two trophy moose. No way we could zip open their abdomens and spill their guts out. We couldn’t even roll one of these massive animals over!

The second reason is that if you’ll be backpacking meat, field dressing the traditional way is just extra mess and a waste of time. You’ll be leaving the internal organs behind anyway, so why take them out?

The third reason is that if you’re in bear country, you want to minimize the smell of a fresh kill. Leaving the internal organs inside helps do that.

The Gutless Method How-To:

  1. Instead of making an incision on the animal’s belly, make your incision along his spine using a Havalon skinning knife. Peel the hide away on one side, down to his legs. Don’t slice it away yet. For now, use the hide as a tarp – it will be a clean place to lay meat while you work.
  1. Next, cut along the backbone to carve out the loin in one long piece. Then remove the hind quarter and the front quarter. Just follow the lines in the musculature. In the case of deer, the front quarter has no skeletal connection. In the hind quarter, you’ll have to sever the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. Put each quarter into cotton game bags.
  1. Strip meat from the neck, between the ribs – and elsewhere. In some places the law requires you to salvage every bit of edible meat.
  1. Make a long opening on the side at the small of the animal’s back, parallel to the spine. Reach in and remove one tenderloin. These rest inside at the small of the back on either side of the spine. Don’t miss them – they’re the filet mignon.
  1. Now, with half the animal in game bags, grab the legs that are still attached, roll him over, and repeat. Skin that half, carve out the loin, separate the quarters, trim, and finish by removing the other tenderloin.

Some Cautions for the Gutless Method:

  1. Put meat into cotton gauze game bags – they’ll keep it clean and allow the surface to dry, which protects the meat from bacteria.
  2. Most of the odor will be at the kill site. So in bear country, move the meat about a hundred yards away from the carcass as quickly as you can.
  3. Sooner or later bears will find the site so keep an eye out, work fast, and finish before they arrive.

One reason the Havalon knife is so effective in gutless field dressing is that if you hit bone and dull the edge, you don’t have to pause to sharpen. Just replace the blade and keep going. Hey – you gotta finish before the bears show up!

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About Steve Sorensen

Steve Sorensen image for gutless method story.Award-winning outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen loves the Havalon knife, and has been a fan of knives since he begged his dad for a hunting knife when he was six years old. His articles have been published in Deer & Deer Hunting, Sports Afield, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow his writing on his website,

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3 Responses to The Gutless Method: How To Use On Big Game

  1. k weston says:

    Thanks for this info as an older woman and pretty small, I was needing a new way to do things. this will help. My Alaska boy told me how to do this but I needed to see it in print. Thanks again.

  2. Desmond Jones says:

    Great article. Does a video exist of this method of field dressing big game?
    Thank you.

  3. Hi Desmond,

    Here is a link to a video for the the gutless field dressing method with Jay Scott Outdoors.

    Thanks for reading!
    Havalon Knives

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