By DAVID A. WILSON
You've just taken your first deer. You've followed the first step recommended by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to make sure the animal is actually dead.
You've tagged it. And amazing as it may be in the Missouri hills you hunt in, you actually had cellphone coverage and were able to Telecheck your animal.
"What do I do now?" is the next question asked frequently by a hunter who has taken a first deer (or almost any other game, no matter how small).
What should not be done is load up the whole deer and take it to a meat processor.
It's been done. The processors don't like it.
The next logical step is to field dress the animal. That means open the animal up and remove the internal organs and intestines.
From "What do I do now?" we move on to "Do I have everything I need?"
The answer to that question is "No." No one ever has everything they need for the job, especially if the hunt has taken them far from their vehicle or hunting camp. Almost everything was left there because you didn't want to carry it.
A problem with traipsing back and forth with eveything is that MDC recommends the animal be field dressed immediately to allow the carcass to cool down. The faster it cools down, the less bacterial action there will be.
Items recommended include (but are not limited to): sharp knives (at least two); a whetstone (deer hides dull knives quickly); a small saw or axe (for cutting through the pelvic bone); string (to tie off intestines); rope (to pull or suspend the animal), large plastic bag (for the liver, and if so inclined, heart and kidneys); a deer sled or large cloth or tarp (to wrap the animal in for dragging through the woods); rubber gloves, rags and water (field dressing is usually very messy).
An additional and sensible warning is given by MDC - Don't carry the animal on your shoulders, since that might draw a shot from another hunter.
For the actual field dressing instruction a good source is the Department of Conservation. For those go to mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/deer-hunting/field dressing.
After that, you can have a processor do the rest or if you feel confident, you can do it yourself. According to Missouri Conservationist magazine, it is a good idea to keep the "appropriate part of the animal to document that it met the legal requirement for harvest (turkey beard from spring turkey, deer antler for buck harvest).
Remember, just because you can cut up a supermarket chicken, don't get the idea you can field dress a deer.
As one hunter said about a first deer, "This isn't anything like a chicken!"
Good luck on the hunt!