Deer Dressing Equipment
Nothing beats a sharp knife! Over the years, I've used everything from a machete to a pen knife to clean a deer. I believe someone could field dress and skin a deer with a spoon - I wouldn't want to but I think it could be done. So why do I have all these "specialty" knives for cleaning deer? They make the job easier. For me, the preparation to hunt is always a lot of fun. Sometimes more fun than the actual hunting. Likewise, the tracking, retrieval and cleaning of a deer can be a lot of fun. A good cleaning station is the key to making deer processing fun. Having running water and a good hanging station can make the process enjoyable. Of course, a few friend to help out is an added bonus :)
Note: I put a 270 Win cartridge in the pictures to give a reference point for size of knives.
I'm a big fan of Puma knives. They hold an edge very well, are easy to resharpen and are quality made. I carry a puma folder with me hunting and use two additional puma knives for processing.
Folding Knife - Used for all processing from time deer is found until animal is quartered except skinning.
I like this Bear case better than the puma case that came with the knife - it's thicker and fits the knife really well.
Skinning Knife - Used for skinning only. From lessons learned, a skinning knife is better if it's a little dull. A skinning knife that will shave will cut through the hide easily.
Trail Knife or Fillet Knife - Used for deboning and slicing meat after quartered.
I do a lot of knife sharpening! In the old days, my grandfather was a whittler - he made a ton of cedar shaving. I can remember watching him spend days working on a new knife blade to get the angle cut just right. I learned a lot from him. I might spend every night for a week working on one knife to get the angle just right. Once I get the angle cut and the knife shaving, it only takes a few strokes to get the edge back after use. I've used my Puma folder to clean four deer this year. It would shave at the start of the season and I didn't sharpen it until after all four deer. It took less than two minutes to get it back shaving - having the correct angle is what's it's all about.
I use a DMT knife sharpener. I use the medium (blue) stone to cut the angle and then finish with the fine (red) stone.
Cost: From $25-$50 depending on size
The DMT is an amazing stone - several years ago I sharpened a machete until it would shave on most parts of the blade!
A good butcher saw is a must to process deer. I use the Cabela's brand Professional Butcher Saw model that's 25 inches. It's great for sawing the brisket during field dressing, splitting the hams and sawing the legs. It's well worth the money.
Cost: $40 - extra blades $7
After processing, I clean the blade with boiling water and spray with a light coat of Pam oil. I store the blade in the original plastic sleeve. Cutting the skull plate/antlers off will wear out a blade faster than any part of the processing - I keep an old blade with me for sawing out the skull plate. A blade will last for many deer - Jim used one blade for at least 30-40 deer. At the end of the season, I throw away the "antler" blade, replace it with the "meat" blade and start with a new blade the next season. The camo bag came with a folding chair but works great for storage of the saw and blades.
Vacuum sealers are great for freezing meat. The Food Saver rolls are less expensive than zip locks and dramatically cut down on freezer burn. They're easy to use - just be sure to cut roll material straight. I use a pencil and ruler.
Inside Loins - ready for the frozen with no freezer burn