Field Dressing Wild Game


Dressing Wild Game



© copyright 2004, by Gary Benton

Once you have snared or killed game for the stew pot, do you know how to field dress it? There are different types of game and just about as many different want to dress it. But, since most survivors hardly ever kill a moose or a bear, I will skip the big game part. For out purposes we will stick to birds, rabbits, and squirrels.



Many people are not very excited about the idea of processing their own meals. Seems in our society today we have lost the art of killing, dressing and processing our own foods. While it is convenient for us, it has hurt us in some ways (primitive survival). And, I agree with what some of you may be thinking, we don’t have a need to do that stuff much any more. However, once forced in the wilds, we will need that skill if our hunting ability pay off.


Your first step is to insure your animal is dead. I can tell you from experience that most small game, while not able to cause serious injury, can scratch or bite you. Use caution and kill the animal before you pick it up. A quick way to dispatch a snared or trapped animal is with a heavy blow to the head from a club. Or, you can spear it. I prefer to use a club because it kills instantly and the animal does not suffer for long. While I do have to eat, I don’t relish the idea of hurting any animal. But, as survivors we must eat and part of that diet must be animal proteins and fats. Something must die for us to live.




A rabbit is very easy to dress and takes but a couple of minutes. You can hang the animals by its back legs (see the illustration) and grasp the skin on a leg. Make a small cut, from one ankle down and across to the other ankle. You can now pull the skin down, and off, like a glove. Remove the feet and the head. Retain the head for eating. To gut the animal, pinch the upper stomach and make a very small incision. Take the tip of your knife and slowly cut down and then up. That procedure should have opened the stomach cavity. Remove the inner organs, with your hand, using caution not to rupture the bladder (urine). Retain the heart, liver, and kidneys, if they are not spotted. While the thought of it may gross you out, the head and inner organs are very important to your survival diet. You must find a way to cook them that will allow you to eat them. I would suggest you make a stew and just add all of the meats.




A squirrel is a little tougher to skin. It is suggested that you do not hang a squirrel when dressing it. Make a cut about two inches long on the animals back, grasp the two pieces of skin, and pull them away from each other (see the illustration). Then, remove the head and feet. Keep the head for cooking. Gut and retain the inner organs just like you did the rabbit. Remember, avoid breaking the bladder or you will get urine on the meat.


Birds can either be plucked or skinned. I suggest they be plucked. This keeps the skin on the meat, which is full of oils and fats. To pluck them you just need to pull all of the feathers out. For small birds it is easy to do, but with a goose or a turkey, it may take you a little time. Gut them immediately, keep the inner organs, and cover them with cloth if you have any. This is to keep flies and insects away from them. I recommend in warm weather that your bird be cooked as soon as possible. An, no matter how pretty the picture is of a bird roasting over a fire, make yours into a soup or stew. You should boil it because you will need all of the nutrients in the animal. Roasting will allow those important parts of your diet to drip and burn. While boiling retains them.


The thought of killing, field dressing, and preparing meat is disturbing to some folks and it is easily understood. Nonetheless, in a survival situation, you must learn to prepare your own foods. I have eaten many rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and opossums. In my travels I have even had monkey, boa (snake), rattlesnake, lizards, and other small animals. You can do the same. Keep the will to survive alive in your head and you too can make it. Learn to live!


To learn how to dress a deer, click here


Dressing Wild Game


Gary Benton has over 45 years of outdoor experience in camping, hiking, fishing, and other activities. He's no armchair survival man, he's walked the walk from the arctic to the desert and all the area in between. Gary has an associates degree in Search and Rescue, Survival Operations, a B.S. in Industrial Occupational safety, and all but his thesis completed for a M.S. in Counseling Psychology.
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