Field dressing, butchering, processing, and cooking deer doesn’t require a lot of fancy tools. But having a FEW fancy tools DOES help. Below is a list of items I recommend that every hunter should have, and a few items that are nice to have.
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- Shoulder length gloves – buy these veterinary gloves in bulk, they are way cheaper than the field dressing kits at the sporting goods stores.
- Nitrile gloves – put these OVER the shoulder length gloves, not under.
- A smallish fixed blade knife – 3 to 3 ½ inches is all you need. No Michael Scott jokes people…
- Rope/Paracord – Always keep at least 50 feet of cord on you. And don’t be afraid to cut it. It’s a tool, it’s meant to be used. Tie a stick to the end as a handle for a deer drag. Haul your gear up to your stand. Lash an umbrella to the tree over your head in a downpour. Makeshift belt to keep your pants up.
- A bone saw – for splitting the pelvic bone when dressing, and cutting the ribs when processing.
A basic bone saw is all you need in your butchering kit.
- Food grade 5 gallon bags – Great for organs and big enough to hold whole animal quarters. I quarter my deer at camp, each quarter goes in a bag, then in the cooler. Another bag covers the non-bone meat. One for ribs, one for fat. Tied tight, it keeps ice water out of the meat.
In addition to the previous list-
- A game scale – knowing how much meat will go in your freezer is better than thinking “seems like a lot”. Once you start weighing your dressed deer, you will also get better at aging deer before you shoot. What you thought was big can change once you know what the true weight is.
- A skinning knife – The rounded blade makes skinning so much easier than just using your dressing blade.
- A flexible boning knife or fillet knife – you can maximize your meat on the backstraps and neck roasts with a flexible blade you can guide around the bone.
- A kitchen scale – I label every bag that goes in the freezer. Would you buy unweighed meat at the store? Knowing how much meat you are pulling out for a meal will help you know how many portions you can make.
- 18″ plastic wrap – Yes that is an 18. Like the amp that goes to 11, you want 18″ for wrapping those big roasts. I like to double wrap my steaks and roasts before vacuum sealing. I’ve had stuff go several (or what ever 4 is) years with no freezer burn. Yeah, sometimes stuff gets “lost” in the freezer…
- Vacuum sealer – I’ve tried a lot of vacuum sealers. This is one area spending more money will save you in the long run.
- Vacuum sealer bags – you can use these for sous vide as well as just freezing your venison. If you have a wider sealer, you can use these wider bags.
- Cast iron skillets – you can’t beat the even heat a cast iron skillet provides.
- Enameled dutch oven – a dutch oven will give you more cooking options for your stews and chilis.
- Meat thermometer
- Crock Pot – I prefer a non digital because it can double as a sous vide cooker.
- A thermostatic switch – just for sous vide on the cheap.
- A meat grinder – get one measured in horse power – NOT wattage.
- A vertical sausage stuffer – a 5 lb stuffer is perfect. The ones for your kitchen-aid are not nearly as good as these hand crank versions.
- Jerky gun – the bigger, the better. Metal is better than plastic.
- Dehydrator – My go to for making jerky.
- Electric Smoker – Make jerky, smoked sausage, smoked roasts, pastrami – a smoker gives you more options than you can imagine to use your meat for.
Books every deer hunter must read:
- Finding Wounded Deer by John Trout Jr. Ok, you shot a nice deer. Now you have to find it. Learn how to identify after the shot blood signs that will tell you how long to wait and what to look for. It’s an older book so you can sometimes find it used for just a few bucks on Amazon or eBay.
- Tracking Wounded Deer: How to Find and Tag Deer Shot With Bow or Gun by Richard Smith. Similar to Trout’s book, but this is one subject area you can never over study.
- Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing & Preparing Venison by Eric Fromm. This book has great illustrations and pictures on the cuts of meat you can get out of your deer.
- Making the Most of Your Deer: Field Dressing, Butchering, Venison Preparation, Tanning, Antlercraft, Taxidermy, Soapmaking, & More by Dennis Walrod. Dennis covers it all here. It’s a great book, but could use more pictures. Still, should be required reading for all deer hunters.
- Coyote America by Dan Flores. Deer hunters love to hate Coyotes. READ THIS BOOK. You will understand these crafty predators better, and I daresay, you will better appreciate them.