Coconino Game Processing, Inc.- Flagstaff, Arizona

Field Preparation Recommendations


Recommend a well-placed head or neck shot.  Also the heart and lung area is recommended.  Shots in these areas reduce the amount of loss to the meat.

Field Dressing

Items recommended:
Knife with 5 to 6 inch blade
Nylon rope (for handling animal after field dressed)
Clear Plastic bag (for the heart and liver)
Cheese cloth or sheets (to cover the carcass)
Meat saw or hatchet (to cut through breast and pelvic bones in large animals)

Tag the animal immediately to comply with game laws.  Eviscerate the animal as soon after the kill as possible as gas resulting from microbial action begins to accumulate.

To eviscerate the animal, begin by rolling the carcass over on its back with the rump lower than the shoulders and spread the hind legs.  Begin between the legs by cutting down through the legs muscles to the skin over the pelvic bone.  Turn the knife over and cut through the skin over the abdomen by using two fingers from the other hand to hold the viscera (intestines and stomach) away from the tip of the knife.  

Cut up through the breastbone and up the neck as far as possible.  If the head is to be mounted, stop the cut between the legs at the base of the brisket.  It is easier, especially on larger animals to cut on either side of the breastbone or brisket (through the joints) rather than up the middle.

Sever the windpipe and esophagus as close to the head as possible.  Tie a string tightly around the esophagus to keep contents from contaminating the meat.  Cut around the anus and tie it with a string for the same reason.  Next, cut the diaphragm muscle that separates the heart-lung compartment from the main digestive tract away from the ribs.

This is a good time to remove the heart and liver.  They are excellent eating and should be kept in a clear plastic bag to keep them clean.  Keep cooled.

Lay the animal on its side.  The contents should either fall out or pull away.

Hang the animal in the shade to drain the blood from the body cavity and to circulate air around the body to cool it.  Hang with head or hind legs up.  If the body cavity is accidentally soiled from the digestive tract contents, wash it out with clean water.  Do not use water to wash the body cavity after the cavity is dried and sealed.


In most cases, if a big game carcass is dragged to camp or to your vehicle, leave the skin on to keep the meat clean.  Also, leave the hide attached to prevent the outer layer of meat from becoming  dry during the aging process. 

In warm weather, it is best to take the carcass to a cooler the day of the kill.  If this is not possible, transport the carcass to camp or home.  If the nighttime temperature is expected to be above freezing, skin the carcass.

If skinning is necessary, cover the carcass with cheesecloth or old white sheets to protect against dirt, and/or insects.

Scent Glands

Most big game animals have the scent or musk glands:  one pair on the inside of the hind leg at the tarsal gland and one pair in the outside lower hind leg (metatarsal glands).  The glands excrete an odor or musk.  Males frequently urinate on these glands during the breeding season.  Therefore, avoid touching exposed meat if you touch these areas.  Leave the glands on and skin them off as you skin the entire hide.  There is no danger of meat contamination by leaving scent glands.  They are fully contained in the skin and have only one opening to the outside.


Keep the carcass as clean and cool as possible.  For longer trips in warm weather, place bags of dry ice around the carcass to keep it cool.  For trips several hundred miles, or temperatures above 70 degrees F, butcher and freeze the carcass, pack it in dry ice and drive to the destination.  Do not use dry ice if flying; it is not allowed.   


The purpose of aging is to make meat more tender.  There are many practical considerations to determine whether to age or not to age game meat.  Among these are the temperature at the time of the kill, the chilling rate, the internal temperature of the muscle after chilling, the youthfulness of the animal, the relative humidity, the amount of weight loss the hunter is willing to sacrifice, the processing procedure and the cooler space and labor available if the game is to be processed commercially.

Aging or seasoning of game animals, under ideal conditions it is recommended to age antelope 3 days; deer, sheep, goat, and cow elk 7 days, and bull elk up to 14 days after the kill at 34 degrees F.  If the temperature is higher, the aging period should be shorter.  Game which is killed when the temperature is 65 degrees F or above and held at this temperature over 1 day should be cut immediately.  Game that is to be ground or chopped does not need to be aged.  Aging carcasses with little or no fat cover is not recommended (carcass loses moisture rapidly).  Slime formed by bacteria and mold growth then must be trimmed.

Many meat processors do not recommend aging game.  One reason is that much of the game delivered to a meat processor has already been aged long enough.  Depending on the schedule of the processor the carcass may have to be held in the cooler for a few days more to allow for the carcass to firm or to fit it into the cutting schedule.


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Coconino Game Processing 928-527-1538