If you're a hunter who goes after deer, you know the risk you take when you pull the trigger on your gun or release the arrow from your bow. Shooting a deer in the head or lungs results in at least a fairly quick death, if not an immediate one. But if the deer moves and you end up hitting the gut or haunch, you could have a drawn-out mess on your hands. Rather than trying to salvage the meat on your own, talk to butchers who specialize in cleaning gut-shot animals. That could end up saving much of the meat that you might otherwise toss.

Know about degradation and contamination

Hunting for food means not wasting the food if you can help it. First, it's a plain waste, and second, it's disrespectful to the animal you just killed. As the very least, you should make an effort to use as much of the animal as possible.

That becomes a problem with gut-shot deer. When that shot goes off course and hits the deer's stomach or haunch, it can pierce the deer's actual stomach or intestines, resulting in the contents of those organs spilling over the meat. That poses a major contamination and illness risk, especially if the deer staggers away and you have trouble tracking it.

Once the deer dies, the meat starts to degrade, especially in temperatures above freezing -- and bacteria multiply like crazy. If the meat is contaminated with stomach or intestinal contents, there will be even more bacteria present to ruin the meat.

Do Your Best

You're going to lose the meat that came into contact with those contents, but to save as much of the rest of the meat as possible:

  • Do your best to track the deer, hopefully administering a second shot to the head or lungs -- don't let the deer wander for hours, injured.
  • Recover the dead deer as soon as it is safe to do so. Keep track of how long it's been since you shot the deer and since it's died. Note the time and temperatures, too, as well as weather conditions.
  • Bring the deer to a butcher or game processor who knows how to safely wash out and cut up a gut-shot animal. Let the processor or butcher know about times, how long the deer's been dead, and what sort of environmental conditions it's been exposed to.

There is the chance that the entire deer will be too risky to touch, and you'd have to dump the whole deer. That contradicts the idea of not wasting food, but if the deer ended up really getting contaminated, or you didn't do a good job of tracking it and it's started to spoil, you might not have a choice. So recovering the deer and getting it somewhere where it can be processed safely as soon as possible is really crucial.

Even the best hunters out there have the occasional bad timing, and knowing what to do if a gut shot happens is going to make things a lot easier. If you have other questions concerning safely processing meat, contact a company like Custom Butcher & Smokehouse