Field Dressing


Well-Known Member
Dec 18, 2009
Large game newb question. I have never had the opportunity to take a bull, so I'm curious about one thing. If you want to have it mounted, do you just pack out the entire head/cape/horns in one piece? Also, do all of you gut it before quartering it? I've seen some videos where they quarter it to the point the guts are just there...

Man everyone does it differently. It really depends how you’re packing things out. I’ve tried it both ways but I personally prefer to take the paunch out then quarter or half. If the bull is going up on saddle horses then you want to half him third rib up then split down the spine with your saddle axe but don’t split the hide. Put him over the saddle hide down cut a small slit at the horn and slip the hide over. Tie him off. Do both halves that way. Head horns and cape should go on the horse with the front half as it’s the lightest. If you’re coming back next day with pack horses or you’re going to back pack then quarter and hang to cool.

As for the cape I skin it out right to the base of the lower jaw and cut the head off. I pack out the cape attached to the head and horns. Make sure to leave plenty of hide on the cape around the front shoulders. If you have to split the cape you can do that on the top side. Your taxidermist will sew it back together and it won’t show.
1 st. ? Yes, pack out head and horns, It can get very heavy, if to heavy,cape off from horns. I have shot elk where horns are 30#'s alone, add green cape and can be over 100#s. I dont have horses so most of my stuff is done the , leave gut in method and take 1/4's. Use to do as above mentioned when I was in my 20's.Depends where you get them, I halved one and floated it about 6 mile down a river to get it out. Lots of times w/2 people, typical bow hunt w,heat, bone them out. I hunt w/pack that has meat packing option. I always take horns and back strap on my way out, sometimes drag a 1/4 or 2, depends on terrain. Never, waste any time when you get a elk down, There is lots to do, I hunt alone alot , but I always 1/4 , bone cape, whatever I can do to make the pack out easier.Walked out many a time in the dark and my four squares where ready to go. Sometimes you go in the next day and your elk is froze like a block of ice.
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well it depends on how much help you have.. I always quarter my elk without gutting I believe this is called the alaskan method. You can google videos on how to do it. Once you know deer/elk anatomy it's pretty easy. Then if I'm within a few miles of the camp I'll just cape the bull and take the whole head and cape out at once. If you have the time and help then you could cape the whole head and saw the skull cap off. either way I never gut them. Theres no need to. Good luck
I aggree 100% with sp6x6.
It all depends ON WHERE YOU ARE IN RELATION TO HOW DAR YOUVE GOTTA GO. And ALWAYS care for your game ASAP, too many what if factors come into play.
Personal preferance really. just to reitterate a previous statement, if you have to cut the cape, DO IT UP THE BACK OF THE NECK. I dont know your taxidermist, nor how often you get to hunt trophy elk, but cut it in the wrong place, and your txaidermist might not forgive you, let alone having a visible scar on your mount makes it hard to forgive yourself. dont slit the throat, or cut from the front, and when in doubt, leave extra hyde!
Large game newb question. I have never had the opportunity to take a bull, so I'm curious about one thing. If you want to have it mounted, do you just pack out the entire head/cape/horns in one piece? Also, do all of you gut it before quartering it? I've seen some videos where they quarter it to the point the guts are just there...

First off, my first bit of advise is pracice skinning out the head of a cow elk, deer, or what ever you can. Even a coyote is better then nothing. An elk has the tear ducts to deal with but you have two on a practice head, and by then you will have the idea, of how to skin heads like us wanna be pro's. Do not cut the hide from the horns but pry it with a screw driver, or stick when you are in the hills. If it is hot, and you can not get out that day, the hair can slip pretty fast. So it is a valuable skill. stop by your taxidermist and pick his brain. Trust me he can help you, save him lots of work.
In most cases you will pack out the head not fully caped out.
I always gut the elk as quick as possible. Some times after the big photo shoot they will already be starting to bloat. It only takes around 3- 5 minutes and can sure save you some mess! We split our elk length ways to pack them out, and I can not imagine cutting an elk in half with he guts in it. Oh boy, the sound or smell of cut guts means lots of teasing. I have heard of a guy who gutted an elk with his saddle axe because of a lost knife, and he never cut a gut, but this is not adviseable.
We are right in the middle of our late elk hunt so PM me and I will get some fresh pictures to you on some cool ideas and tecniques. We pack out on horse but all this can be applied to foot soldiers as well.
In Idaho it is illegal to pack out the head first but ignorance of the law is the excuse I use.

I always bone everything on the spot. I hunt alone mostly so it is all on my back. The real amount of meat on an elk is probably less than 40% so you save a lot of weight plus boned meat fits better in a back pack. I usually have a 1 mil plastic tarp in my pack and use it to begin the process when I shoot it. I do not stay until after dark. I always work until I am tired and then go to camp and come back the next day. Exception is as noted if it is hot weather you have to cut it up enough for it to stay cool. If the bears or wolves come and eat it I wouldn't mind as long as they left the antlers and didn't bite me. Leaving an elk hide down even on cold ground is a problem. The hair is an unbelievably good insulator and the meat will not cool.
rooster47,Lookes like you guided out of the Gardner area, awsome elk picts.Saw the "why you dont guide" pict. I went over there 20 yrs ago with my dad and he shot a bison. Remember seeing 7x7 booner elk in town, never did get a tag. The number of game back then and guality was amazing, somebody from here was always coming home with one of those great bulls. I DONT NO IF THAT LATE SEASON HUNT EVEN exists anymore? Ialways wanted to go after one of those big boys.
Rooster740 (Hank)

Nice pics!

As others have asked, are you out of Gardiner? Work for an outfitter?
I went hunting there this past fall, and would love to know if you could tell us more.
I quit gutting animals I pack long distance about 5 years ago. I still the tenderloins. I will never go back to the gut method again. You end up rolling around in the mess and I see no point to it anymore.
We have been leaving the guts in and just skinning one side take all the meat off that side and than flip it over skin the other side and do the same. The back straps and tenderloins are easy to remove also all the neck meat etc. Usally carry all our stuff out by foot with the rear quarters boned out and carry the fronts. If ya really want the heart ya go in after.... Easy peasy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)
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Never had the opportunity to dress out an elk. Interesting reading...learning. Thanks to everyone.
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