Essentials: From Field to Freezer
The right tools for making venison.
You can turn a buck into venison with nothing more than a pocketknife. I’ve done it-but I wouldn’t want to do it again. It took me all day and night, and I had to make so many cuts that my hand cramped up. Don’t learn the hard way. The tools below are specifically designed to make field dressing, skinning, and butchering your buck as efficient as possible.
**1. Meat Grinder: **Cubers and meat mixers are pricey extras. But a manual meat grinder is a comparatively inexpensive and invaluable tool for turning tough cuts and scraps into burgers or sausage. For link sausage, make sure your grinder comes with a stuffing tube, like this model from Cabela’s (800-237-4444; www.cabelas.com).
2.Plastic Wrap, Freezer Paper, and Permanent Marker: If you value your venison, double-wrap each cut tightly with plastic wrap and freezer paper. Mark it with the type of cut it contains and the date.
**3. Gambrel and Hoist: **A hoist with a 4:1 ratio lets you quickly hang your deer at a comfortable height for skinning and butchering-even if you’re alone and not an Olympic weightlifter.
**4. Game Saw: **Use a fine-tooth bone saw to open the rib cage, split the pelvic bone, remove the head or antlers, quarter the deer-whenever you need to cut bone. The same saw can cut shooting lanes for hunting if it also features a wood-cutting blade, like this Gerber Exchange-a-Blade model (800-950-6161; www.gerberblades.com).
5. Boning/Fillet Knife: For your primary butchering knife, a slim 71/2-inch (or so) blade is well suited for boning, trimming fat and silver skin, and cutting steaks.
**6. Drop-Point Knife With Gut Hook: **The gut hook zips open the body cavity, and the 41/2-inch drop-point blade does the job for basic field dressing chores, including cutting the windpipe and separating the diaphragm. Also ideal for skinning, it will be handy for tough butchering tasks like separating ball-and-socket joints.
7. Steel or Sharpening Stone: The job will be easier (and safer) if you keep your blades sharp throughout. A diamond-surface sharpener, such as Smith’s Diamond Combo (800-221-4156; www.smithabrasives.com) is best.
8. Rubber Gloves: Ideally, you want two types: a heavy-duty elbow-length pair for field dressing, and a tight-fitting wrist-length pair for butchering.