How to Prepare for Processing Wild Game


One of the first hunting gear I owned was a Buck 102 knife.

It was my father’s. He gave it to me. Over the years, I’ve notched the scabbard every time I’ve taken a deer. The line of notches extends the length of the leather blade guard. A knife plays an important role in the hunting process. It is a link between the field and the table.

Hunting seasons are open across the country. Big game, small game, waterfowl and upland hunters reap the rewards of fall. The process of turning the game into a table meal is, to me, almost as much fun as the hunt.

There are so many ways to use healthy wild game for food. Roasts with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and onions. Steaks on the grill. Fried turkey nuggets. Whole poultry baked with wild rice. Sausages and jerky.

The process of slaughtering your own meat is, like most things in life, improved with experience. With enough practice, one becomes proficient. The basics are pretty simple, though.

Be careful. Understand the process. Have the right equipment. Enjoy the experience. If you have the right equipment from start to finish, the process will be much easier and more enjoyable.

Buck Knives recently posted a list of tips that I read and found to be perfect. I pass on these tips to you with my personal observation of each one.

Plan ahead and pack the tools you need

Different types of hunting require different gear. Most bird hunters do not process game in the field, unlike big game hunters. Big game hunters gut, skin, quarter and style game.

A single knife is not ideal for all this work. A bone saw is a big help. Ropes and paracord also work well and are helpful in the process, especially if you are on your own. You can tie one leg to a tree, truck, or rock to hold the animal in place while you work. A lightweight tarp to place your meat in throughout the process is nice to have. Game bags, the cloth bags in which you put the meat, help keep the meat clean and free of insects.

Take your time dealing with any game

If your knife is as sharp as it should be, you need to be careful when using it. It starts with not being in a hurry. Make a plan and follow the process. As you progress through the stages, stay fully aware of what you are doing. If you’re working with someone else, never cut to them. Knife blades slip all the time.

Also, don’t pull the knife towards yourself either. If you are tired, take a break. It is better to go out at nightfall after a job well done, than to cut yourself or your partner because you were in a hurry. If you are prepared and work wisely, accidents will happen. For this reason, you should carry an appropriate first aid kit with you.

Have the right knife for the job

You can gut a deer with just about any knife. The voucher makes the job much easier. My uncle has had the same Buck 110 folding knife since the 1980s. It is unknown how many deer he has processed with this knife. I use different knives for different processes. I carry a gutting knife and a skinning knife in the field. I also carry a folding bone saw. It has interchangeable blades, so it’s also my tree saw. I usually leave the caping to my taxidermist. Backcountry hunters don’t always have that luxury. They have to carry one more than an eastern deer hunter.

Keep your knife sharp

A sharp knife is essential. Trying to process the game with a dull blade is miserable. It starts with having a quality knife and taking care of it. There are all kinds of sharpening tools on the market that make it easy for hunters to keep all of their blades sharp. My go-to at home is a small sandpaper-style pencil sharpener made by Work Sharp. But you should also take a pencil sharpener with you to the field. A small sharpening stone in your backpack is essential. During field processing, you can set your knife within seconds of sharpening.

See you on the trail.

For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast at www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or wherever podcasts are played.

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