Deer Heart 2007


Disclaimer – This blog contains some graphic scenes from the Bio AP lab.


For the past five years, Mark and Meg have gone deer hunting.  Their deer hunting has been documented on this blog.  In 2007, Mark got a new partner for his hunting lease, partly because his wife didn’t like him going out hunting alone.  His new partner is Mike McCartney.  Mike works at Spirit AeroSystems with Mark.  His sixteen year old son, Joe expressed an interest in hunting.  So Mike, Joe and Mark set up this years hunt.


Meg expressed an interest in dissecting a deer heart if one should become available.  Joe was young enough to hunt the Kansas youth hunt.  This is a preseason hunt for young hunters.  I passed on Meg’s request to Joe and Mike.  They said they would call me if they got a deer and I could come out and pick up the heart.  Joe got a medium sized doe.


Donor Deer


Joe and Deer


This was a good deer to get the heart from.  Joe shot her through the lungs.  She was standing under the tree stand when he shot her.  She jumped and ran off after she was shot.  Joe saw a puff of dirt just past where she stood.  He said he didn’t see how he could have missed.  He didn’t, the bullet went right though her.  She ran into the woods before piling up.  So it was not too big a task to track her.  After they found her the next step in the heart journey was to extract the heart from the deer during the field dressing.  Here is Joe field dressing his first deer.


Field Dressing


The shot was a double lung shot, so the heart was intact.  This was the perfect situation for Meg’s request.  So Joe extracted the heart and I bagged it and took the deer heart home with me and put it in the freezer.  Here is the double bagged heart.


Frozen Deer Heart


Once a suitable heart was procured, the next problem was to transport it via aircraft from Wichita, Kansas to Detroit, Michigan.  We finally had to email the airline to see how to do it.  Here is the letter we got back on how to transport it.  They said to pack it in dry ice and place it in a ventilated plastic container.  We had a small orange cooler.  We had never procured dry ice before and the internet came in handy for that.  It turns out you can get it at the local grocery store for $1.12 a pound.  So I bought dry ice on the way home from work and packed the heart and the remaining jerky in the cooler and headed to the airport.


Dear Mark  Moeller,

Thank you for contacting NWA Luggage Service Online.  In your letter,
you requested information regarding carrying on and/or checking
perishable items and/or dry ice.  Allow me to provide you with the
guidelines Northwest Airlines uses for these special items.
Each Passenger will be allowed up to 4 lbs. of dry ice to be used for
packing perishable items. The dry ice must be packaged in a hard plastic
container that allows ventilation and is clearly labeled as containing
dry ice.

KL  Accepted in carry on or checked luggage.
NW-  Accepted in carry on or checked luggage.
Maximum weight per passenger  4 lbs. no charge.
In excess of 4 lbs. must be submitted to airfreight.

Ref. IATA Dangerous Goods Section            


So we cleared the airline hurdle.  We went to the airport with time to spare.  That was a good thing because it took awhile to clear security.  I guess a person carrying a cooler containing dry ice through security is a bit of a novelty.  The agent doing the initial inspection didn’t know what to make of it.  So they called the shift supervisor.  They had me step aside while they contacted someone else via phone about the cooler with dry ice.  It took a few minutes but they eventually let me pass.  I had the airline information and had complied with the requirements.


One would think that was the end of my problems.  I had cleared the airline and security hurdles.  Of course, being Mark, one would be wrong.  The puddle jumper out of Wichita was overbooked.  Ordinarily, one is allowed two carry on bags: a purse/briefcase and a bag.  Because of the capacity situation, only one bag was allowed.  I had stuff in my briefcase that I wanted to keep with me.  So I reluctantly allowed the cooler with the precious deer heart to be checked.  This turned into a huge problem because my connection time in Memphis was a paltry thirty-seven minutes.  Due to weather in Memphis, we were delayed thirty minutes on take off.  So I had to pick up the checked bag at the gate before I could proceed to the next flight.  They didn’t know what to make of a cooler with dry ice and it was handled gingerly, if belatedly.  It was intact when I got it and I rushed to the next terminal over to get my flight.


I got the heart to Andrew’s apartment and put it in the refrigerator to start to defrost for Meg.  Andrew remarked later that this was good for his diet as he was reluctant to open the fridge door with the deer heart in open display.  Andrew doesn’t eat mammal.  He contends it is ecologically unsustainable.  He is probably correct.  But another way to think about this is that another methane producing herbivore has been eliminated from the ecosystem.  This makes the farmer happy as it removes three mouths from the field next year.


So Thursday afternoon after the lunch with my old Ford colleagues, I stopped at Andrew’s apartment and picked up the deer heart and transported it to the Cranbrook biology laboratories.  Meg enlisted the help of her Science teachers and her friend, Natalie.  They had done some research on the web and came prepared with fetal pig heart dissection information.




The heart was not fully defrosted by the time it arrived.  So we gave it a warm bath while Meg and Natalie read over the dissection procedure.  The heart was intact.  It was still contained in the sac that surrounds it.  It also had quite a bit of extraneous tissue still attached to it. 


Washing the Heart


The next step was to extract the heart from the surrounding tissue.  Identifying the tissue was interesting in and of itself.




Extracting the Heart






Isolating the Heart


The Heart


Lung Tissue


Once the heart was isolated the dissection process could begin.  They followed the instructions in the fetal pig dissection hand out.  They were able to identify all the items called out in the manual.


Heart Dissection




More pictures to get a better feel for the process…………………………..


















I wish one of the doctors in the family was there to instruct them.  They spent more than two hours doing the dissection and following the handbook.  This was really a quality specimen.  The girls took their time and I documented their efforts as best I could.


I think we probably could have found the nerves as well as the major heart structures.  But all in all it was a quality experience.


I wanted to have a second heart for them to dissect.  Unfortunately I shot a little too high and hit a doe in the shoulder.  I inconvenienced her, but she learned a valuable life lesson.


Not for general public viewing.  Contains graphic pictures.