The guts of freedom

Two years ago I did not know how to gut and butcher a dead mammal.  I had helped gut and butcher (the sterile, slightly dishonest term would be process) deer before, and knew how to gut a fish, but those don’t come close to being the same.  I wanted to be comfortable doing this before I went hunting for big game, so I watched videos, shot small game, practiced, watched more videos, and practiced some more.

The above video, by Meat Eater’s Steven Rinella, is the clearest, more thorough overview I’ve yet seen. As he mentions at the beginning, you don’t have to do it this way (see below), but practicing gutting exactly as Rinella does here will give you a solid foundation which can be applied to anything, from rabbits to deer, and then tailored to the species you hunt the most.

Randy Newberg’s video, below, takes the task of gutting and butchering to the next level, both in that it shows how to break down the animal into transportable parts, and shows a common and efficacious shortcut to the basic gutting methodology as espoused by Rinella.

It takes very few animals butchered to realize how remarkably similar mammals are to one another. And presumably, to humans. In the past few months, a lot of people have told me that they like eating game meat, but don’t want to have to take it apart themselves. Mostly, I think this reticence has to do with not being acquainted with how basic the procedure is. Minimal experience makes it quite simple. I can understand reluctance to hunt for your own meat; it’s a multifaceted discipline and few of those facets are themselves anything other than time consuming, and all of them must be grasped well before you head out. I have less patience for brute squeamishness related to not wanting to (quite literally) get your hands bloody. Setting the ethical dimensions of vegetarianism aside* for a moment, it’s safe to say that everyone has dirty hands insofar as they eat dead things (including dead plants). I do not approve of consciously remaining distant from this fact. It is, and should be, unpleasant killing and cutting apart something which was until very recently running around the woods. But I’m not sure that becoming numb to the blood is any worse than refusing to better know how your food comes to you.

It’s not the easiest thing to learn to do, but I’d encourage everyone to at least get educated on this subject. It is a humbling and empowering task.

* I don’t think plants dying feed other creatures is morally distinct from animals dying to do the same, but that’s a topic for another day.

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6 thoughts on “The guts of freedom

  1. Good post! Thanks. I’ve butchered a lot but used to dislike the smell, or tried to not notice it, just “deal with it.” In recent years, tho, I’ve come to enjoy the smells of fresh raw meat as I’m butchering. I can tell quite a bit from it. Good meat smells good. I get a sushi thing going. It might even be that I prefer the butchering over the hunting. I don’t sit still very well. So I’ve gravitated to roadkill for the most part. It makes a lot of sense to me. I can get great meat right up or down the road where I live. When friends and I get to prepping venison in the kitchen sometimes the raw meat smells so good it doesn’t make it to the grill — a little salt’n’pepper and olive oil… Mmmm…

    • Montana recently passed a law which codifies and makes simple the recovery and use for personal consumption of roadkill. Provided you retreive the creature in a safe manner and file the online permit within 48 hours, you’re good to go.

      Something to keep in mind this winter.

  2. I really like going gutless. Newberg removes the hindquarters. My variation is to peel the skin from shoulders to tailbone then bone out the hindquarter while leaving the leg-bones attached. Seems faster and tidier to me. No need to carry those bones.

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