Two questions for you in the fluorescent orange.
One, why are you going deer hunting?
Two, what are you going to do with a deer when you kill it?
All right, the "why" of deer hunting can fill much more than this allotted space. Deer hunting is big in Arkansas and many other states. It is a sporting undertaking to most hunters. It is a social event to many. They anticipate "deer camp" in the same light as kids look forward to Christmas and your big-eating brother-in-law looks forward to Thanksgiving.
You may go deer hunting because your friends do. Your co-workers do. Your relatives do, and you want to keep up.
You may go deer hunting to get venison for the freezer. Yes, it’s good eating, handled correctly. And, yes, you can call it deer meat instead of venison. Nobody will criticize that choice of words here in Arkansas.
You may go deer hunting because it has become traditional for you. Your daddy and your grandpa deer hunted. Your uncle and your older brother deer hunted.
If you confess that you go deer hunting "to get away from the house," then you may have problems that deer hunting will not cure.
OK, what are you going to do with that deer when you get it in your sights and score with an accurately placed shot?
There it is on the ground. What comes next? Some work and some physical effort follows, and it is not always pleasant for the hunter. But it is highly necessary.
The first step is to tag that deer lying at your feet. If you bought a hunting license, tags are attached to it. Pull one loose, fill it out in ink as required and fasten it to the deer, meaning the antlers if a buck and through a slit in an ear if it is a doe. Don’t move the deer without the tag in place. Tags are also in the back of the Arkansas Hunting Guidebook.
Then it’s time for a decision on your part. Do you field dress the deer on the spot or transport it to camp, to home or to somewhere else where you may have help and facilities like running water?
Field dress can mean gutting and leaving the hide on the deer, or it can mean gutting and taking the hide off. Either way, it is work.
If you have never gutted a deer, here is a tip: Get someone to show you how.
Be honest. Tell this person, "I have never handled a deer. Can you help me out?" Your chances are pretty good that the experienced person will reply with something like, "Let me show you how to get started then you do it."
Oh, it sounds simple. Turn the deer on its back and cut it open from stem to stern. You want to be careful, very careful here. Cut too deeply, and you’ll puncture something that you don’t want to puncture. You need to make a shallow opening cut then work the tip of a finger between the knife’s point and what is inside. You can get the knack of this quickly.
You have taken off your good jacket and shirt, haven’t you?
When that long cut is made, just reach in and pull everything you can out. Reach as far up the neck as you can and cut the windpipe loose. Be careful cutting around the back end so you don’t slice into the bladder.
Now you have a deer that has been gutted. You may choose to leave the hide on until you reach another location, maybe one with running water. Some processing businesses will take a deer carcass with the hide on, and some will not. Most will not take a deer that has not been gutted.
If you take it to a processor, be prepared to tell how you want the meat. There is wide variance among hunters here, and it partly depends on who will be the cook.
One common plan is to tell the processor to remove the backstraps or tenderloins and the hams then grind the rest. Other hunters may want more of the meat in roasts and steaks, leaving less for grinding.
Whatever, you’ll have the basis for some fine eating.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.