Forget field-dressing a deer if it’s been recovered soon after harvest and weather isn’t unseasonably warm. Instead, with a truck or ATV, get the entire carcass back to a designated camp cleaning area, which can be as simple as an open-air shed with a concrete or wooden floor. A garage, post barn or even a lodge porch can work great.
Hanging the carcass by its hind legs makes skinning, processing and cleanup easy. An inexpensive commercial gambrel is ideal, or you can make your own from concrete rebar or even heavy metal pipe.
Lifting the carcass off the ground to chest height is best for processing. The simple way to do this is with an inexpensive boat winch fitted head-high to a solid pole or wall near the cleaning site. The cable or rope should run from the winch to an elevated spot well above the cleaning spot, with the line free-flowing through a stout, screw-in eye bolt secured well into a ceiling rafter or beam.
Connect the winch line to the gambrel center. Now use a knife to pierce the deer’s thin skin just above each rear foot, then insert one end of the gambrel into each cut. Crank the winch to get the deer well off the floor, then begin skinning and removing all animal feet (a small woods saw works well).
A water source with hose and spray nozzle should be available to keep the processing floor area clean. A large cooler with ice for meat should be on hand. A big bucket should be available for non-used deer parts for later dumping in a designated area far from camp.
Additional processing equipment needed includes a sturdy-blade skinning knife, thin-blade fish fillet knife for boning meat, freezer paper and tape, (or vacuum sealer and bags), permanent marker, paper towels and plenty of ice.