August 31, 2023
As bowhunters, nothing is more valuable than the experience of the adventure and the hard-earned prize that we hope will wear our tag on the ride home.
It’s truly something special when both aspects collide with a simple drop of the string and we leave the field with memories of the hunt and coolers full of protein that we get to enjoy and share. Frankly, it’s the latter that seems to get me more excited as I’ve gotten older, and with all the ways we have to prepare wild game, it should be considered a valued commodity instead of just a byproduct of the hunt.
That said, proper meat care is essential for a tasty result, so taking the time to invest in the right equipment and learn how to use it effectively will make the outcome more enjoyable. It’s often said the work begins once the arrow flies; so luckily for us, there’s no shortage of quality equipment to pick from to ensure we get the work done right.
Obviously, having a quality knife is a good place to start, and it’s hard to beat what today’s replaceable-blade systems have to offer. Sharp, functional, and precise, the new Schrade Enrage Series ($39.99-$74.99) from Feradyne Outdoors is just one example. Featuring the slicing qualities of the popular Rage Trypan, this trio of knives features a scalpel-sharp, .24" stainless-steel replaceable blade that has a narrow point and up to 20% more cutting surface than those made by their competitors. They sport a proprietary locking system, so the blades don’t slip, and with the Ultra-Glide bearing system, it opens with the flip of your finger and locks into place. Available in 6", 7", and 8" configurations, they have a carbon-fiber handle, dual-slide blade case, sheath, and handy pocket clip.
Another great replaceable-blade knife is the RazorPro S ($89.95) from Outdoor Edge. The new S model features a bone saw that is forged from spring steel to ensure wear resistance and toughness as you use it to power through heavy bone. Combined with their replaceable 3.5" stainless-steel Drop Point blade that locks in tight but is easy to replace, it’s an ideal lightweight knife when it’s time to get dirty. It comes with six replaceable blades, has a TPR rubberized handle, and a Kryptek camo sheath.
At less than 2 oz., Havalon’s Piranta-Edge ($54.99) is the ideal solution for the bowhunter wanting to shave some ounces. There’s a reason it’s Havalon’s best-selling skinning knife. It features a scalpel-sharp stainless-steel blade, and with Havalon’s Quick-Change Technology, blades can be easily replaced. Its overall length is 7¼", and it sports ambidextrous thumb studs and a rugged blaze-orange handle with black rubber inserts for a stable grip when wet. The system includes 12 additional stainless-steel blades, a removable holster clip, and a nylon holster.
Combining a must-have gut hook with a bone saw, Browning gives us the Game Reaper T-Handle Saw ($30.49). Made from 440C stainless steel, it has a molded composite T-shaped grip for easy handling and comes with a nylon belt sheath when on the move.
Although there are some items we can skimp on as bowhunters, Game Bags shouldn’t be one of them if you want to keep your meat clean and allow it to cool. Shaped to complement Mystery Ranch’s Guide Light pack frame for stable hauling, these breathable nylon bags have drawstring closures and a pair of reflective handles for easy hanging, carrying, and locating at night. Sizes include 20L, 40L, 60L and 80L ($32–$40), or as a Kit ($159).
Accidents happen, especially when racing against time to process game, and the Wound Closure Kit ($149.99) from My Medic can minimize that worry. Equipped with five wound-dressing options in one lightweight kit, it has what you need should that slip of the knife happen. The Kit includes sutures, surgical tape, adhesives, staples, and closure strips to treat both minor and significant cuts.
If you want to be old-school and drag your buck out, the Leg Cuff Deer Drag ($19.99) from Feradyne Outdoors is a handy option. This simple but effective tool secures the buck’s head off the ground while dragging for easier hauling. Just “cuff” the front legs, position the head, and start walking.
Nothing’s worse than excessive hair sticking to your meat when skinning. Koola Buck solves that with the Hide Ripper ($389.99). The quickest, cleanest, and easiest way to skin a carcass — simply skin the back legs, insert the gambrel, and start winching. It attaches to your truck for portability and doubles as a game-hanger when it’s time to break down your prize.
Keep your meat clean and minimize waste with Hunters Specialties Butt Hook Combo ($24.99). Featuring their patented Butt Out 2 field-dressing tool with Gut Hook knife, it’s designed to disconnect the anal canal with a simple twist and pull. No more having to cut the pelvic bone or worry about puncturing the bladder. And with the uniquely designed gut hook, you won’t clip the intestines.
For those of us who value the field-to-grill lifestyle, Pit Boss offers the Sportsman 5 Wood Pellet Vertical Smoker ($659). With a 55-lb. hopper, it holds enough pellets when you want to smoke low and slow, and with the five adjustable cooking racks that offer over 1,500 sq. in. of total cooking space, as well as six sausage hooks, it can handle a pile of meat. It also sports a large viewing window for monitoring your meat and dial-in digital controls with LED for precise temperature settings.
Making it easy to prepare the best-tasting jerky to hit your taste buds, Hi Mountain Seasonings offers its complete Jerky Maker Kit ($89.99). Giving us the very best in wild-game seasonings for over three decades, the Kit features their Ultimate Jerky Cutting Board and Knife, so you can easily cut uniform slices that are either ¼" or 3⁄8" thick, a digital scale for mixing the right amount of seasoning, a Jerky Screen for even cooking, a wireless thermometer to check the internal temperature, and several seasoning flavors: Mesquite, Hickory, Cajun, and my personal favorite — Cracked Pepper N Garlic.
When it’s time to lay some wild game slabs on the grill, it’s hard to beat the tasteful benefits of a good dry rub, and with the Ultimate Pack ($137.50) from The Provider, you’ll have endless opportunities to fire-up your tastebuds. The pack includes a dozen carefully crafted blends, and with names like “Drop Tine,” “Crosshairs,” “Fowl,” and “Covey,” you know it’s made for the meats that live in wild places.
Although Traeger has earned its reputation by designing some of the best grills for cooking and smoking all sorts of meats, they also offer a seemingly endless supply of Rubs ($10) to make our trophies taste as good as they look. My favorites are their Jerky, Breakfast, and Burger Rubs, but any one of their 15-plus blends will wake up the taste of any game meat.