It's imperative to field dress a deer in the woods to lower its body temperature so the meat doesn't spoil.
Things You'll Need
A sharp knife It is more important that you are comfortable with your knife and that it is sharp than what type of knife it is. Despite what you see in movies, a shorter knife is usually easier than a huge one!
A few bags You will want a bag to carry your trash out in, and a large one in case you want to save the liver/heart/kidneys.
A strong stomach Don't kill anything that you don't plan on taking care of!
At least 20-30 minutes if you have never done it before. If you are new to dressing a deer, take your time and be safe!
A friend or peer Having someone help you makes things go faster and easier.
Water and some paper towels In case you need to clean yourself up afterward.
Drag rope Helps you in dressing and in dragging the deer out!
A heavy knife, and/or bone saw, or zip saw if you prefer to cut through bones. This is totally optional. Some of the best field dresses I've seen didn't use these.
A rope, vehicle, and appropriate tree or hanging platform if you prefer to dress your deer while it hangs.
Make sure the deer is dead. If it's not dead, shoot it again; pointing in a safe direction. DO NOT try to approach a wounded deer to cut its throat. They can behave erratically and are very strong.
Once the deer is confirmed dead, wear gloves during the process to prevent disease.
Lay the deer on its back. Find its sternum. Cut from sternum to crotch, penetrating the hide and the membrane below. Do not, however, pierce the guts.
Pull the guts out, starting from the crotch, while also cutting the membranes linking the innards to the spine. Take care not to cut too close to the spine or you may cut the tenderloins.
Keep pulling guts and cut the diaphragm. Don't be shocked if a lot of blood spills. It's expected.
Find the last membranes holding the guts inside the carcass, sever them, and pull the guts free.
Cut through the center of the pelvic bone using a zip saw, bone saw or by pounding your knife through. Cut the skin around the anus and pull the colon out of the body cavity.
The heart, lungs, liver, and anus can be removed now, but you may find it is convenient to remove them later.
You can save the liver and heart if you like to eat it. Surprisingly it is very good.
It is much easier if you put the deer's hoof above its head when dragging
Method 2 (the easy way for wooded areas):
Definitely put on rubber gloves.
Have a heavy duty rope available in your vehicle.
Tie the rope to the neck (or antler base if you are going to have the deer mounted). Throw the other end over a stout tree branch a foot or two above head high.
Pull the deer up off the ground so the hind legs are barely touching, either by hand or with a 4-wheeler or other vehicle.
If not mounting the head, cut the throat all the way to the wind pipe so that it falls down into the body cavity.
Start an incision at the crotch, going all the way up to the beginning the sternum if mounting the head. Otherwise, cut all the way up through the ribs to one side of the sternum.
If mounting the head, reach up in the body cavity as far as you can and cut the wind pipe from the inside.
Pull the wind pipe down so that it falls into the body cavity and cut the first membrane. The guts will fall down to the second membrane.
Cut the second membrane and the guts will fall out on the ground.
Do as suggested above squeezing feces out of the intestine, cutting it and tying it off. Also, be careful of the bladder.
If you have a gallon of water, you can now wash a lot of the blood out of the body cavity.
Let the deer back down to the ground and you're through. This is a much easier and cleaner method than trying to clean the deer laying on the ground.
Method 3 (an alternative, super detailed version):
If dressing in the field without the aid of hoisting, consider the following:
Ensure the deer is deceased. Approach from the back of the deer's shoulders; away from hooves and head. Using a long stick or piece of grass, touch it to the deer's open eye. If there is any reaction at all, a sound chest or neck shot will end things.
With the deer on its side, maneuver the deer so that its head is uphill if applicable. This will help it drain as you dress it.
Get out your supplies; a sharp knife, gloves, bottle of water if necessary (to wash your hands/arms off afterward). Roll up your sleeves and put on the gloves.
At all times, be aware that the tarsal glands on the ankles of the deer have a strong musk and should not be handled. Bucks especially have a stronger musk and if this gets into the meat it will make it more gamy. Avoid touching the tarsal glands on the hind limbs of the deer (located at the ankles, they are a patch of longer fur and are often much darker in color)
Starting at the anus, take a smaller sharp knife and carefully cut the ring of hide surrounding the anus to detach it from the hide. The object is to detach the anus and colon from the hide to prevent tearing and the soiling of meat by the deer's droppings. Gently tug the anus and attached colon (intestines) a few inches back away from the deer's body. If desired, you can tie it in a knot at this point.
If you have a drag rope and a tree nearby, you can tie one of the deer's hind legs up at an angle against the tree to give you better access to the belly for dressing. Or, if you have a hunting partner with you, they can help by holding the leg up.
Locate the sternum. You can find it by feeling along the ribcage, to where it ends and forms a V shape at the base of the chest, just above where it meets the belly.
Using your knife, very carefully create a slit in the hide where the sternum ends. Point the blade end of the knife toward the rear of the deer.
Insert two gloved fingers into the hide. You should be able to feel the difference between the hide wall and the membrane/muscle wall that holds the innards inside. The goal in the next part is to cut through the hide and muscle wall only to prevent cutting of the organs and tainting of the meat.
Using your fingers as a guide to LIFT the hide/thin muscle away from the gut pouch, slide your sharp short knife back into the slot and using one finger on either flat side of the knife, slide it down and cut down the length of the belly to the pelvic bone. When done properly there is no gore.
Gently roll the organs out of the body cavity, away from the spine. Using care not to cut yourself or the guts, sever the attaching tissues. These tissues are stringy and attach the internal organs of the deer to its body and most are located along the spine. Unless you have the misfortune to have gut-shot the deer you should still have little to no gore or mess. The guts will tend to stay together.
Sever the diaphragm of the deer. If the deer was heart/lung shot this is when you will need to be ready for gore; if necessary you may need to roll the deer onto its belly, and splay the limbs for a few minutes to let it drain.
Remove the diaphragm by cutting around the perimeter of it, where it connects to all inner walls of the chest cavity.
There are a few ways to remove the heart, lungs, and trachea. Some prefer to cut through the sternum to open the rib cage. Some do not. If cutting through the rib cage it is pretty straightforward- simply sever the trachea as high up as possible, and the rest comes out.
If not cutting the sternum (This is how I do it) then carefully reach up into the chest cavity from below. Be very careful-- broken bones/shoulders/ribs are sharp on a deer! Feel your way up the trachea as far as you can, then using your other hand very carefully sever the trachea as far up as you can. The lungs and heart should pull free easily now. Always use caution and care! Do this step at home if you are not feeling comfortable with it in the field.
Remove all connective tissues to free the guts from the rear end of the deer. Use special care not to sever the bladder or colon/intestines! You can pull the colon and attached anus back into the body cavity to remove them. With a male deer you can now remove the internal genitalia. Check your state's regulations as sometimes it is necessary to leave the external genitalia in tact to prove the gender of your deer.
If a hind leg of the deer is tied up, now release it.
Roll the deer back onto its belly, splaying both the front shoulders and hind legs to allow the deer to drain and cool for a few minutes. A trick is to take the deer by the antlers (or ears) and lift the head high while draining; this will allow any extra blood to drain out through the chest cavity.
Take a few minutes to clean up; select any organs that you wish to keep and set them aside. The heart and liver are widely considered desirable. As a precaution, avoid the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes if you are in an area where "chronic wasting disease" has affected deer. The rest you can leave if it is okay with the landowner to do so- the ravens, crows, foxes and other critters will thank you for the feast! They won't be wasted. Remove your gloves and put them in a carry-out trash bag (lets keep our lands clean of trash!) and use some bottled water, snow, or nearby clean water source to scrub off any remaining blood. Don't forget to wash up thoroughly at home with soap and water.
Remove your deer and take it with you by whatever means. Keep the carcass as chilled and free of debris as possible. The sooner you can process it, the better quality your meat will be.
This method of dressing will also leave the deer's head/neck/shoulders in tact in case you wish to mount it.
If you plan to have your deer mounted, don't cut it above the ribcage. You'll have to reach up through the ribcage to cut the esophagus and windpipe. Leave the caping (the skinning of the head & neck) to a professional.
Cutting and spreading the rib cage makes it a bit easier to get all the guts out and cut the wind pipe, and also helps the body cavity cool quicker.
The job's easier if you use a sharp knife with a gut hook.
Gloves prevent the spread of disease.
Be aware if your area has deer with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and what to do if you suspect your deer has it.