How to Field Dress Big Game with a Hatchet

Illustration by Joel Kimmel

To field dress big game with a hatchet, use it as you would a big belt knife, opening the paunch with a small incision at the base of the sternum. Then, tip the blade at right angles to the animal, with the handle up and your fingers spreading the skin close to the blade as you run it to the rectum. Do not try to cut the skin down into the animal; hair will collect on and dull the blade. Dump the entrails.

To quarter the carcass, hang it or set it belly-up on the ground. Loosen hams with careful strokes tight against the pelvis and through the ball joints. Don't chop; use the blade like a knife, your fist around the hatchet head (inset). Remove the shoulders the same way, leaving the skin on unless you must remove it to let a big animal, like an elk or moose, cool in warm weather. The hatchet (or, better yet, a slim double-bit ax) excels at splitting the backbone. Hang the animal head down, rear legs spread, to facilitate this task.