By Tony J. Peterson
Butchering deer isn’t difficult with the right knowledge and tools. Processing at home or in a camp, provided you know what you’re doing and have access to the right gear, takes only a few hours from skinning to cleanup for a mature deer. That’s not a bad investment in time if you want the satisfaction of knowing how your venison was treated and what you’re going to find every time you unwrap a package or cut into a vacuum-sealed bag of the good stuff.
This process, at least to me, is the final stage of the hunt. I love the feeling of sitting down to a whole deer and carefully piecing it out and then turning it into multiple packages of meat that will feed my family for the year. This is partially because I’ve butchered so many deer in my life that I have a firm grasp on the process, but also because I’ve learned to use the right tools for the job.
You should too, because they can change what an be a serious chore into a rewarding task that takes very little time and provides so much benefit.
Following are five must-haves for the home processor.
Bear Edge Model 61519
Butchering starts with a clean gutting job. This means you’ve got to have a sharp knife designed for both skinning and slicing. A great option is the Model 61519 from Bear Edge, which weighs well under 2 ounces and is built with two stainless steel blades. The first is a gut hook and the second is a drop point, both of which come in handy when looking to take the insides out of a freshly arrowed deer.
Browning Long Haul Folder
When it comes to quartering and boning out a deer, I like a decent-sized knife like the Long Haul. It’s not designed for the delicate work of trimming silver skin off specific cuts, but it is ideal for taking apart a deer properly given it’s 4.5-inch drop-point blade, which is forged from 7-Cr steel, meaning it’s shaving sharp. The handle is made from injection-molded polymer, so that it’s comfortable and won’t slip from your grip when you’re working away in the field or garage with bloody hands.
Cancooker Plank Cutting Board
This cutting board is handy. I keep one in my truck and one in my camp tote at all times. I’ve also got one stowed away with my meat grinder at home. Having one good-sized cutting board to work with no matter where you plan to butcher is a must, and the American-made Plank works very well. It’s foldable so it travels well, is super easy to clean and is available in three sizes. I prefer the large, which measures 16 x 32 inches when fully folded out.
Cabela’s Carnivore Grinder
I’m not big on eating ground venison that is laced with too much deer fat or anything else that isn’t pure meat. That’s why I like to trim and grind my own burger, just so I can control the whole process. This is easy to do at home with a good grinder, like the Carnivore from Cabela’s. I use the .5hp version, which can handle five pounds of meat per minute. In fact, even if I have a good year and need to grind 75 pounds of burger, it tends to take longer to clean up than it does to actually grind. The Carnivore is also a must if you want to make homemade sausage or deer jerky. If spending $350 for a grinder you’ll use once a year is too steep, split it with a hunting buddy or two. You won’t regret it.
Outdoor Edge Game Processor
Every year I set out in search of public land whitetails in multiple states. I know I’ll be camping and butchering in camp if I’m successful. An Outdoor Edge Game Processor kit goes into my truck and stays there until I’m out of tags or the seasons are all closed. This kit contains a caping knife, boning knife, butcher knife, bone saw, cutting board, a knife sharpener and other necessities. If you plan to process deer on your own, this is an inexpensive way to ensure that you have every tool you might need while butchering.
Wiebe Knives Monarch
Have you ever caped your own deer to prep it for the taxidermist? This job is not easy, even when you do it in the comfort of your own garage and have all of the time in the world. In the field or on your tailgate in camp, it gets a lot harder. That’s why I always carry a Monarch with me, no matter where I hunt. The Monarch is a lightweight, replaceable blade knife that is scalpel-sharp. It’s designed to be easy to work with and makes the delicate job of caping or skinning in general easy. If one of the blades dulls, it’s a simple job to pop it off and install a fresh one. Even if you don’t anticipate giant taxidermy bills in your future, you’ll find that carrying a replaceable blade knife like the Monarch in your daypack is a good idea on plenty of occasions.