Bird hunting can be a fun and relaxing past time, but it’s often most exciting when you actually have a successful hunt. Of course, nabbing a bird comes with a fair share of work, but even after downing a bird, that work doesn’t end. Whether you plan on consuming the meat yourself or selling it, there are a few steps you should take during the field dressing process to ensure the meat remains safe and edible.
The main goal of field dressing a bird is to keep the carcass as cool as possible. Internal organs continue to hold heat even after death, and can easily cause meat to spoil if left inside for too long. That’s why it’s important to start field dressing a bird as soon as possible, ideally within moments of killing it.
Of course, before you begin dressing the carcass, you’re going to want to make sure the surrounding area is as clean as possible. Keep the bird either on its back or side before cutting from the crotch to the sternum. You should turn your knife’s blade so that it is pointing up and out so that you don’t accidentally cut into the organs, potentially leading to a messy situation.
Next, free the colon of the bird by cutting around and then use a string to tie closed the anal opening – this will help prevent feces from spilling into the bird as you remove the organs. Next, cut around the diaphragm and cut the windpipe and internal organs away from the body cavity, taking special care to avoid cutting into the intestines or bladder.
After removing the organs one by one, you should allow any remaining blood to drain out of the carcass. Once this process is complete, prop open the body cavity so that the cool air can help to chill the meat and lower the temperature to help preserve it. As soon as possible, place the carcass in proper storage to keep the carcass chilled to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower until you finish butchering and preparing the meat.
These are just some basic tips when it comes to field dressing, so it’s important to do some additional research or bring along a friend if you don’t have experience in this area. For more tips, check out the Ontario Hunter Education Manual.
Happy hunting from Tom and Michel!