A Quick How-To to Field-Dressing Your Food

As a true prepper, you understand that the resources and daily comforts you now have access to could become unavailable at any moment. That’s why you prepare. Ideally, you won’t ever be required to use most of your gear or saved up supplies. But when the time comes that your survival gear and supplies are all that you have left, you’ll be glad you knew what you were doing.

The most important things to have in a catastrophic event or its aftermath are: water, food, and shelter. In this blog post, we are going to focus on your food. Specifically your meat, which may become the food source you rely on after a disaster. When things goes south, and you find yourself in need of nourishment, you may have to start hunting the critters still left in your area. If it comes to this, proper knowledge about butchering your own food could be a life-saver. Here is a simplified how-to guide on butchering 3 different animals that you’re most likely to find in or around a typical U.S. city: Squirrel, Pigeon, Deer.


1) Remove the Hide

Begin by laying the squirrel on its stomach and pulling the tail up.

Cut below the base of the tail, about 1 inch up the squirrel's back. Cut through or twist to break the small tailbone. Once this is done, you can lay the squirrel on its back, step on its tail, and pull the squirrel up by the back legs. It should begin pulling out of its skin, up toward the front legs. 

Use your fingers to pull both the front and back legs out of the skin. This doesn't take much effort

Cut the feet off at what you might call the "wrist" and pull off the hide.

Cut the squirrel's head off at the base of the neck. 

2) Clean Out the Organs

Make a small incision at the bottom of the abdomen and carefully cut up the stomach, exposing the insides without catching your knife on any internal organs. If you accidentally puncture the internal organs, it will get messy and the fluids will ruin your meat.

Once the abdomen is cut open, lift the squirrel so it is vertical and reach two fingers in to pull all the guts down and out of the body. They are connected and should come out all together. 

After the animal has been cleaned, the easiest way to cook it is on a spit over a fire. 

Here is a video demonstrating how to skin a squirrel.

Pigeon, Chicken, or pretty much any bird

1) Pluck the Bird

There are devices you can make to quickly de-feather a bird that are often used by chicken farmers, and if you have one that’s great. If not, plucking by hand is messy but will still work.

2) Remove the Breast Meat

Cut from the base of the breast bone up to the base of the neck, cutting along the edge of the breast bone. Do not cut up into the crop, where undigested food that the bird has eaten will be stored within the throat. Technically you could eat things the bird has in its crop, but there won't be much there.

Remove the breast meat from each side of the breast bone by cutting diagonally underneath the breast meat, from the breastbone outward. 

Peel off any skin left on the backside of the breast meat.

Here is a video demonstrating the process.


1) Clean Out the Organs

There are lots of little steps to this process. For a full demonstration, watch the video link below.

2) Remove the Skin

It helps if you can hang the deer in order to work while standing and use gravity to help the skin come off. 

Make incision just through the skin around the deer's neck and begin pulling the skin down (if the deer is hanging upside down, start around the legs).

Use knife to gently cut away at fat and fibers holding the skin to muscle, as you continue to pull the hide downward, until it is removed

3) Cut Off Sections of Meat 

Meat is best if left to hang on the deer for a few days in a dry area, but this may not be possible in a survival situation.

Here is video demonstrating how to field dress a deer.

Many of the same principles can be applied to butchering other animals you may find the need to eat in a survival situation. These 3 species are intended to demonstrate basic technique for getting meat from common animals you may come across when looking for a source of food.