How to gut a big game animal


Jason Hairston and Jay Scott with a Montana bull elk
Photo credit: Jay Scott

It is extremely important to get the hide off of your downed animal as quickly as possible in order for the meat to cool. To do that, you have to either gut the animal or perform the gutless method. You will see in this video series the necessary steps involved with gutting an animal. If you have a place to hang your animal, gutting is a great option due to air flow when hanging. Hanging an animal also makes it easier on your back when you remove the quarters at a later time. Also, if you can get a vehicle close to the downed animal, gutting is the preferred method of choice due to minimal time and less chance of getting the meat dirty in the field. Although my preferred method is the the gutless method no matter how far from the vehicle we take an elk, gutting an animal is the traditional way to get your animal ready for processing. Special thanks to Cody Wetmore for the help.

Here are some tips on gutting an animal:

1. Always use a sharp knife.
2. Take your rings and watch off prior to gutting your animal and roll your sleeves up or even take your shirt off to be cleaner and not lose those items.
3. Wearing plastic gloves can make cleaning your hands and arms up much easier.
4. Cut around the anus first in a cylinder shape so that it will easily come free when you pull the guts out.
5. Try to use gravity when gutting an animal as it makes the process go smoother.
6. Make sure to cut the windpipe out of the neck as it holds in a lot of heat.
7. Smaller knives are often times much easier to use and manipulate while gutting an animal.
8. When reaching up into the cavity to cut the windpipe use your opposite hand to cut around the pipe and then pull as you go. Be very careful not to cut your hand that is pulling. Be conscious of where your pulling hand is at all times.
9. You can use a saw to cut the pelvic bone and it makes pulling the guts out much easier.
10. Make sure to include proof of sex if the state you are hunting in requires it.

Part 1 - Beginning cuts


Part 2 - Cutting method to avoid puncturing the guts

Continued below.

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Part 3 - Removing the guts and working on the back end


Part 4 - Removing the heart and lungs

If you would rather skip the gutting method, you can always use the gutless method.


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