In my household, venison is the number-one source of protein. We mix in plenty of other wild critters, of course, but it's the whitetail deer that provides the most meals for my family.
This is reason enough to pay serious attention to the process of field dressing and butchering the deer that I arrow each season, but it goes beyond that.
There is something about the feeling of wrapping 40 or 50 pounds of deer meat and layering the packages in the chest freezer that is so satisfying. It's something that represents the closure of a specific hunt and probably tickles something primal in our brains that the availability of easy food has suppressed for decades now.
Whether you fill a single tag, or go on a tear through multiple states, the process of butchering a deer takes the right equipment. This not only ensures that butchering your deer doesn't turn into a six-hour horror show, but also nearly guarantees a better finished product. That's a reality not to be taken lightly.
Following are ten must-have meat care products.
Canyon Coolers | Quest
The high-end cooler market has absolutely exploded in the last few years. Of the litany of coolers available, there are a few companies leading the charge.
Canyon Coolers happens to be one of them. They've got a lineup of Outfitter offerings that range in size and are excellent for keeping meat cool when you're on a traveling hunt.
They also released the Quest Soft Cooler, which has become a personal favorite of mine. If I'm packing out a buck in the right situation, I'll use it. I've also used my Quest for keeping my food cold for all-day antelope blind sits and for packing in bear bait, proving its versatility.
Gerber | Gator Premium Folder Clip Point
I'm somewhat of a knife addict. There's nothing better than a good blade, and that's one of the reasons I've started carrying around one of the latest offerings from Gerber - the Gator Premium Folder Clip Point.
This American-made knife utilizes S30V steel in the blade to ensure a wicked sharp edge and is fitted the rubber overmolded Gator Grip to keep this deer-gutting work of art where it should be - firmly in your hand.
Havalon | Hydra-Red Double-Blade Hunting Knife
Havalon produces some of the best blades I've ever used, and their Hydra-Red double-blade hunting knife is an excellent choice for all kinds of game-care jobs.
This new-wave cutlery comes with a host of different styles of blades that are perfect for everything from caping out a trophy to cutting a pelvic bone or producing the kinds of cuts off of your deer that will win over anyone who attends your future BBQs.
This is an excellent knife to carry in your whitetail daypack or keep in the glove box of your truck, because when you need it, you'll be awful happy you have it.
Ontario Knife Company | Robeson Heirloom Drop Point
OKC makes some of the best knives I've ever used. Their latest, the Heirloom Drop Point, is designed with D2 tool steel meaning it will last longer than you will.
Measuring nine inches, the Heirloom Drop Point is the right size for field dressing and butchering jobs. Each comes standard with a premium leather, Scandinavian-style pouch sheath, which complements the classic look the high-end drop point offering.
Outdoor Edge | The Outfitter
You don't have to spend your fall hosting a range of paying hunters from experts to idiots who couldn't kill a buck staked to a tree to appreciate all that Outdoor Edge's The Outfitter has to offer. This kit contains a caping knife, gut-hook skinner, boning knife, ribcage spreader, and a ceramic/carbide sharpener.
If there is a blade that can help you with the butcher process, it's in this kit. Keep one in your truck or in hunting camp and you'll breeze through the process of turning a whole deer into a year's worth of meals.
Siberian Coolers | Sidekick
The tendency with coolers is to go as large as possible. I get that, especially if you're planning to hunt elk or moose at some point. For my latest deer trips, however, I've been downsizing to a cooler that is sized for whitetails like the new 22-quart Sidekick from Siberia.
At the onset of a whitetail trip, this 10.75-pound cooler is filled with sandwiches and snacks, by the end of the trip if I'm lucky enough, it'll be full of trimmed steaks. The ice retention of this cooler is impressive, and I've come to love the carrying handle for overall ease in use.
Viking Solutions | Rack-JACK Magnum
Viking solutions has addressed a lot of issues with game care throughout their extensive product line, but a personal favorite is - without question - the Rack-JACK Magnum.
Instead of trying to find a suitable tree limb to hang a deer from, the Rack-JACK Magnum allows you to easily hoist your buck in camp or in your driveway. Its offset outrigger design adds to ease of use, while the whole thing sets up in just two minutes and is capable of lifting 650 pounds.
Work Sharp | Combo Knife Sharpener
Dull knives are the shortest route to stitches, or at the very least, a frustrating butchering experience. Enter the new Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener, a bench-top, power knife sharpener that sells for only $60.
Flexible abrasive belts work to create a scary sharp convex cutting edge on your knives. For a manual touch-up job, the Combo also features an angle-guided (25-degree) ceramic sharpener that will bring back the blades on all of your cutlery, even those with cerated edges.
Weibe Adventure Knives | Vixen
Caping a deer head out while at home is challenging enough, but when you have to do it in the field or on the tailgate of your track with headlamps, it's a whole different experience altogether.
This is when you can truly appreciate the right cutlery, like Weibe's new Vixen. This replaceable-blade knife is essentially a surgical-grade scalpel that measures 7.5 inches when unfolded. Each Vixen comes with 24 replaceable blades meaning you'll be able to cape out a pile of deer before it's time to re-up on your blade supply.
YETI | Tundra 65
It's highly unlikely that I'll ever own a high-end German sportscar, but I do have some YETI coolers, so I've got an idea of what it would be like. Not only did the minds behind YETI start a high-end cooler movement that has engulfed the outdoors, but they also created some killer coolers like the Tundra 65.
Three inches of PermaFrost Insulation and the ColdLock Gasket work together on this cooler to keep tenderloins and backstraps cold, but there is also enough room in the Tundra 65 to store plenty of sandwiches and post-hunt, celebratory cerveza.