Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Ever wonder how healthy your harvest is? There's a lot you can look at to get an indication of a deer's health not only on the hoof but by doing a quick field necropsy, a successful hunter has an opportunity to take a closer at a deer's overall health post mortem. From a biological standpoint, a hunter can learn an immeasurable amount of data from their harvest that can serve them well in planning the best herd management and habitat management strategies--getting a better understanding where the individual deer and possibly the herd might stand at health-wise, and other individual deer in comparison to sex and age in the habitat.
One of the first things of many steps we do during field dressing or after we get it home and hung is checking bone marrow. Bone marrow is as important to overall health as the heart, liver or lungs and so it can be critical to check. Here we can explore the overall nutritional status of this animal --not in the stomach or by any undigested food or matter that may be in other parts of the digestive tract as one may think. Here we check a leg bone because it is a large bone, and is easy to cut through, easily accessible and the bone marrow is accessible visually without too much effort but will give a hunter the greatest amount of important data. Of course, there are factors that are on an individual basis and circumstantial but this will give important data on the individual deer's health for those who are wondering that point in time.
When fat is not present marrow will be red or yellow in color, even transparent. Red, pink, slimy or liquid marrow indicates the body is eating it to survive. when fat is stored in the marrow, it will be white in color and dense in texture. Storing fat on their bodies is a natural process that every animal performs every year and it is a good natural strategy for surviving winters that are harsh with mass amounts of snowfall and cold temps. Wildlife biologist have been heard saying a deer is "walking dead" or "dead deer walking" when the bone marrow is clear in color and liquefied. Biologists observe that marrow fat is the last reserve of fat to be depleted in nutritionally stressed deer coupled with a reduction in the waxy feel of the marrow, corresponds to its diminishing fat content. When energy-rich fat deposits under the skin and around the viscera (abdomen) have been exhausted a deer will start utilizing marrow fat instead. Such animals break down their bodies’ protein and fat reserves to a point of no return. What's important to remember is deer body condition varies season to season and over all health/body condition during early hunting season should be in a lot better shape than later in season or after season when hard winters can take its toll on them but is an easy way to check for overall health in the field for those successful hunters who are curious and want to take a few extra minutes to check this interesting and important tidbit.