Be prepared to process wild game

One of the first pieces of hunting gear I owned was a Buck 102 knife. It had been my father’s before he gave it to me.

Over the years, I’ve notched the scabbard every time I’ve hunted a deer. The line of notches runs 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 dining table.

Hunting seasons are open throughout the country. Big game, small game, waterfowl and upland hunters are reaping the fall bounty. The process of turning game into table food is, to me, almost as much fun as hunting. There are so many ways to use healthy wild game for food. Roasted with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and onions. Grilled steaks. Fried turkey nuggets. Baked whole birds with wild rice. Sausages and jerky.

The process of slaughtering your own meat, like most things in life, improves with experience. With enough practice, one becomes proficient.

The basics are quite simple. 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 spot on. I’m passing those tips on to you with my personal observation of each one.

Plan ahead and pack

the tools you need

Different types of hunting require different equipment. Most bird hunters do not process game in the field, but big game hunters do.

Big game hunters are gutting, skinning, butchering and covering the game. A single knife is not ideal for all this work. A bone saw is a great help. Strings and paracord also work well, they are helpful in the process, especially if you are alone.

You can tie a leg to a tree, truck, or rock to keep the animal in place while you work. It is good to have a light tarp to place the meat on during processing. Game bags, cloth bags that you put the meat in, help keep the meat clean and free of bugs.

take your time like you

process any game animal

If your knife is as sharp as it should be, then you should be careful when using it. This starts with not being in a hurry. Make a plan and follow the process.

As you go through the steps, stay very aware of what you’re 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 get tired, take a break. It is better to go out at night after a job well done than to cut yourself or your partner because you were in a hurry. If you are not prepared and do not work wisely, accidents can happen. For this reason, you should carry a suitable first aid kit with you.

have the right knife

You can gut a deer with any knife. The right one makes the job much easier.

My uncle has carried the same Buck 110 folding knife since the 1980s. It is not known how many deer he has processed with that knife. I use different knives for different processes. I carry a ripping knife and a skinning knife in the field. I also carry a folding bone saw. It has interchangeable blades so it’s my tree saw too. I usually leave the cape to my taxidermist. Backcountry hunters don’t always have that luxury. They need 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 need to carry a sharpener in the field as well. A small whetstone in the backpack is a must. During field processing, you can sharpen your knife with a few seconds of sharpening.

See you on the road. …


Brandon Butler is an outdoor columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at [email protected]