The most important thing to do after shooting a wild hog is to cool the animal down. This means you need to start the field dressing as soon as possible.
Shot Placement Determines Where to Begin
The shot placement on the wild hog will be a determining factor on where to begin processing the animal and what steps should be taken from then onwards.
Shot placement can be divided into two sections
- Gut and/or vital organs such as the heart and lungs.
- Head and neck area.
A hog that has been shot in the guts and organs runs a higher risk of having the meat spoil as opposed to one that has been shot in the head.
Intestinal juices are highly acidic, carry bacteria such as E. coli and apart from the obvious foul smell and taste, those fluids will negatively affect the quality of the meat quickly and must be removed immediately.
Internal bleeding especially within the chest cavity and torso of the animal plays another role in meat spoiling.
Rifle calibers of .270 and higher will in most cases punch through a hog, creating an entry and exit wound. Should that bullet hit the vital organs or non-vitals, it will cause internal bleeding, this will, in turn, allow the blood to either build within the animal or leak through under the skin and onto the surrounding muscle tissue.
Tissue damage, blood staining, and shock from the impact of the bullet contribute to meat degradation of the animal and those parts of the animal will have to be discarded.
Hence, the steps taken to field dress your hog correctly are determined by shot placement.
Equipment and Tools You Will Need
You must have the right equipment for the task at hand. The correct tools will save you valuable time and effort. Below is a list of the most basic items you will need to process the hog correctly.
- Sharp knife with a minimum blade length of four inches
- A knife sharpening tool or stone
- Eight-inch bone saw
- Two pairs of latex gloves
- At least five gallons of clean drinkable water
- Refuse bags or heavy-duty meat bags
- A suitable length of rope, pullies, and a gambrel (if available)
- Bucket and two hand towels
Dressing Out the Hog
A hog that has been shot through the internal organs, should not be skinned first. The priority and aim are to remove the organs and associated fluids as soon as possible without having them come in contact with the meat. By not removing the skin, you are effectively providing a protective layer over the meat. Should any fluids or blood spill from the cavity they will not touch the meat and can easily be washed from the hog’s skin.
- With the hog lying flat on its side, cut a straight line from between the hind legs towards the beginning of the sternum of the animal. Do not make the cut too deep, it is only necessary to cut through the skin and epidermis layer.
- Roll the hog onto its belly to drain all fluids and then lay it back down onto its side. This will make it easier to see what organs are damaged and where you need to cut them to remove them.
- Be sure to move the hog to a clean area, away from the fluids once they have been fully drained.
- You can then extract all the organs from the animal, including the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys, placing them to one side or in a clean meat bag should you wish to process and consume those organs later.
Why is it Important to Remove the Internal Organs Before Hanging the Hog?
The chest cavity of an animal that has been shot through either the gut or vital organs, will fill with blood and other fluids. Hanging the animal by the hind legs first will cause these fluids to seep into the head and neck muscle tissue which make up almost twenty-five percent of the carcass, potentially ruining the meat.
- A hog that has been shot in the neck or head, can be hung first and then have the internal organs removed.
- Once that it is complete hang the hog by cutting a hole in the hock of its back legs. Insert the gamble hooks into those holes and hoist the hog up to a comfortable height, generally, the belly of the animal should be at eye level.
- The head of the hog can be removed by cutting at the top of the neck, just behind the skull. Removing the head will allow any blood to drain out.
- Before removing the skin can take place, it is important to first wash your knife clean and sharpen it. A fresh pair of latex gloves is also recommended.
- While removing the skin, the knife should be regularly cleaned in a bucket of fresh water to prevent any cross-contamination. Remove the skin, beginning at the back legs and working downwards towards the neck by peeling it away from the carcass, while cutting the thin membrane which attaches the skin to the muscle.
- From the point at which the head was removed, make a cut along the underside of the hog’s neck to the base of the neck, where the chest begins. Remove the esophagus and clean the area thoroughly of any blood and bile.
Cooling and Storage of the Hog Carcass
Once the skin has been removed, use the bone saw to cut through the pelvic bone and sternum of the hog. This will open the carcass and allow for cold air to adequately cool down the meat inside.
By not doing this, you will effectively insulate the meat which will remain at body temperature even inside the cold room and increase the chances of it rotting.
Areas of the hog that were damaged from the bullet impact can be cut away from the carcass.
With the head and entrails removed and the hog now completely skinned out, it should be thoroughly washed down with clean water. Be sure to remove any foreign material from the carcass such as dirt, grass, hair, and feces.
The carcass can now be stored inside the cold room and left to cool or quartered up by removing the front and back legs and cutting out the back straps.
The ideal temperature within the cold room should be between 28°F and 32°F. Bacteria development and spoiling of the meat will begin at temperatures greater than 40°F.
Meat should not be stored on top of other meat that is not packaged or allowed to sit in water or blood.
After shooting a wild hog the first thing you need to think about is getting the animal cooled down. Opening the cavity and remove the organs will help to quickly cool the meat and prevent it from spoiling. After the hog is field-dressed you can proceed to get the meat to cooled storage.