Place your deer backside-down on a slight incline if possible (head pointed uphill). This is easiest with a limber, freshly killed animal. If there’s a small creek, pond or other water source nearby, it makes the clean-up a little easier.
Use your knife to make an incision on the belly just deep enough to get through the skin without actually puncturing through the stomach muscles. Slice underneath the skin clear up to the base of the deer’s neck and down to the anus.
Carefully make an incision through the belly muscle. Slide two fingers into that incision and lift the muscle away from the stomach organs while carefully slicing the belly open. A gut hook on your knife can help with this step. Open the belly all the way to the end of your lower cut. If you’ve shot a nursing doe, you’ll need to remove the mammary glands. If you’ve shot a buck … well, you’ll need to cut that off, too.
Working toward the deer’s head, slide your knife blade underneath the rib cage on one side or the other of the sternum. Cut through all the ribs using a prying motion with your blade.
Open the chest cavity. The diaphragm is a thin, flat (but tough) muscle that separates the heart / lung area from the stomach area. You’ll need to slice that free from both sides of the rib cage. Use one hand to reach into the deer’s chest and locate the esophagus. Grasp it firmly, and use your knife in the other hand to cut it free.
With that chore complete, you should be able to pull the guts out in one fairly continuous pile. Use a bone saw or hatchet to slice through the pelvis and clean out anything that remains. (I often save this step for later, or skip it altogether if I plan to quarter the deer immediately.)
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