Lakecaster Online



I trembled as I followed the fresh blood trail through the limestone creek bed. Even though it was a warm Thanksgiving holiday in the Texas Hill Country, my jacket was not helping to keep me from shaking. Was I cold or just nervous?

With another cartridge chambered and my gun on safety, I stayed alert looking for my buck. It was a trophy. The shot couldn't have been any easier. Only 40 yards away standing broadside. I didn't even stop to count points or look at spread. All I knew was that he was mine.

My confidence was building as the amount of blood on the white rock increased. I had already trailed this huge buck for more than two hundred yards when I saw him. He was fatally hit and was larger than I'd hoped for. No ground shrinkage here.

See, this was my first buck. I was twelve years old. I'd been hunting with my father since I was five. During that time, I had carried my own rifle but had never shot a deer, although my dad had taken many with me by his side. I learned to shoot and track animals from my dad and was now being put to the test on this deer.

I was all alone when I shot my first buck. My dad was sitting in a blind over a half mile away. Now, kneeling next to my fallen trophy, I suddenly realized I didn't know what to do next. I had made a perfect shot and then tracked the deer, but what was next?

I didn't want to admit it to myself, but I knew what had to be done and it wasn't going to be pretty or fun. This buck needed to be field dressed and there was no one to help me. I had watched my dad take care of at least six deer during the previous years, but I hadn't really paid much attention.

I looked at my watch and realized that dad had told me he'd be back to get me at 9:00 a.m. I only had to wait ten minutes, then help would be on its way. At 9:00 a.m. sharp, I heard his familiar whistle. I responded. By the time he located me and my buck, I was jumping for joy. Not just because of getting my first buck, but because I had help in cleaning it.

After lots of hugs and pictures, my dad asked, "Did you bring your knife?"

"Sure, it's right here," I answered.

His reply was something I'll never forget: "Then you need to get busy and gut this deer yourself," he said. "That's the only way you'll ever learn. I'll watch." From the sound of his voice I knew he really meant it.

"If you kill it you've got to clean it," he explained. "All you need to remember is not to puncture the stomach and get the insides outside."

Sometime later I had managed to remove "the insides" and we were on our way back to camp with the deer. I was filthy, covered in blood and needed to get that smell off me and my clothes.

Now, more than thirty years have passed. I've cleaned literally hundreds of game birds and animals. But those wise words from my dad still come out every time I'm cleaning. "Get the insides outside."

Certainly there's more to it than that and properly taking care of your deer is what this story is all about. There are countless ways to field dress and butcher deer. Just about the time I think I've seen them all, somebody will show me something new. Properly field dressing and cutting up your deer will make or break the way the meat tastes. Each year thousands of deer are ruined by the time they reach the processing plant. Either they have left something in the animal that should have come out, or they may have let it get too hot and spoil. Some deer arrive at the locker plant with so much dirt in the body cavity that it can't be totally washed off. Ever wonder why there is dirt in your sausage?

I tried numerous different ways to field dress and butcher my deer. Some of them work better than others. I then developed my own system which is by far the best way I've found. Even other hunters who have many more years in the field than me agree that my method works fantastic.

By following some easy instructions and having the right tools (sharp knife, rope, gambrel, bone saw) you can process your deer and do it like a professional butcher. As a matter of fact, you won't believe how clean the end product will be. No dirt and no hair on the meat.

Even with detailed explanation this method is so simple I still have hunters in my camp that don't understand "how to" until they see it done. It is for that reason that I produced the videotape, "From the field to the Freezer." This tape is a complete how-to video that covers everything from killing a buck to having it ready for the freezer. If you have ever taken a deer to a processing plant, you have probably had some doubt about getting your deer back and not someone elses. You should have that doubt, especially with big city volume processing plants.

ith literally thousands of deer brought in, do you really think they keep yours totally separate? If you do, then I know of some affordable ocean property in New Mexico for sale. I've taken a deer in for processing that I had carefully taken care of and received meat back that was obviously not mine and it was inedible. This particular deer was taken in an ice chest to the plant. I had head shot it, skinned and quartered the animal. The meat didn't have a hair on it.

The meat I received a week later was covered in hair, grass and dirt. I also found two bullets. One in the ham, the other in the shoulder. After confronting this processor, I realized that his customers who really expected to get their own deer back were naive. Me included.

It's no wonder that many people don't like the taste of venison. If I had to eat meat that was not properly taken care of I wouldn't like it either.

Many would-be hunters don't hunt because they don't know what to do with a deer once he's down. That's another reason we produced this videotape. Educating deer hunters on the proper way to take care of their animals will assure them that the thrill of the hunt will be heightened by the joy the meat brings to the table.

The "From the Field to the Freezer" video is available for $14.95 each (Texas residents add 8.25% sales tax) plus $4.50 for shipping and handling. Mail your check to River City Video Productions, P.O. Box 310379, New Braunfels, Texas 78131-0379. This tape is also available at your local Academy Store.

Keith Warren is the host of The Texas Angler Television Show along with Hunting and Outdoor Adventures, both of which broadcast statewide. Catch the Texas Angler from January through June, and Hunting & Outdoor Adventures from July throught December on FoxSports Southwest Cable Network on Sundays.

Call our office @ 830-625-3474 for air times. You can write to Keith Warren at P.O. Box 310379, New Braunfels, Texas 78131-0379 or visit online at

Back to Lakecaster Online contents