10 Things You Need To Get Your Deer From The Woods To The Dinner Table
While obtaining healthy, delicious venison is one of the best parts of a successful deer hunt, hunters need all the right tools for getting meat from the field to the table.
The hunt was well-planned, stalk executed to perfection and your shot was right on the money. That feeling of elation that comes with a successful deer hunt is the icing on the cake! But for many new deer hunters, knowing what to do next can be confusing. To add to the dilemma, trying to figure out what tools are necessary to take a carcass lying at the edge of a field all the way to a sizzling steak on a plate with a baked potato and asparagus can also be nearly overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are 10 tools that can help hunters process their deer into tasty, healthy venison for their families.
If you’ve never dragged a deer across the ground for a long distance, you don’t know how heavy even a small buck can feel after a while. Their natural handles aren’t always comfortable to grasp, the ground is strewn with large rocks and other obstacles, and that hill you walked down going to your stand feels like it got a lot steeper now that you’re dragging your deer up it. It’s tough with a partner to help, but when you’re alone it can be nearly impossible. That’s where a good deer cart comes in. With a comfortable handle, tall wheels and straps for attaching your deer to it securely, a quality, lightweight deer cart can help you get your deer back to your vehicle—even by yourself—without all the extra labor necessary when dragging a deer the old-fashioned way.
When it comes to gutting and skinning a deer, many people prefer to do it with the deer hoisted up off the ground. To do this, you’ll need at least a gambrel and a rope. A gambrel is a metal device that a rope attaches to and is attached to a dead deer’s legs to hoist it up off the ground. Toss your rope up over a tree limb and pull down, and with some effort you’ll be able to hoist your deer off the ground. Even better are mechanical systems that can be attached to a limb and easily lift a deer with much less effort. For times when there’s no tree limb or barn rafter available, some companies make tripod game hoists that accomplish the same thing.
Field Dressing Gloves
If you’ve never gutted a deer before, you’ll quickly discover one thing the first time you give it a try—it can be very messy! Along with all the organs and blood, you’ll be operating in tight confines that don’t always give you a good view. Add to that the fact that often you’ll be doing it by flashlight. Field dressing gloves can keep your hands clean and dry when performing this sometimes unpleasant task. You’ll be especially glad you have them when the bullet or arrow has hit the stomach. Note that field dressing gloves are more than just a convenience. Because of the presence of Chronic Wasting Diseases (CWD) in deer herds in many states, public health and wildlife officials recommend that hunters always wear rubber or latex gloves when field dressing deer or elk.
Butt Out Tool
One of the problems that can occur during field dressing is having deer feces come into contact with the body cavity and the meat. While not something that will ruin meat if quickly removed and the meat is properly clean, it can make things messier and smellier than you really want them to be. Several years back, the folks from Hunter’s Specialties developed the Butt Out—a tool that, when used properly, alleviates this problem completely. After cutting around the deer’s anus, you simply insert the tool, twist and pull it back out. That lets you quickly and easily disconnect the anal alimentary canal from the game, leading to less possibility of getting stuff on the meat you don’t want on it. Many hunters won’t even think about gutting a deer without their Butt Out handy.
A good knife or two—maybe even three, depending on what specialized knives you have available—are essential to taking your deer from field to table. A gutting knife needs to have a 4- or 5-inch, sturdy blade, and it doesn’t hurt if it has at least some kind of point on it. A gut hook is also handy to cleanly open up the body cavity without cutting into the organs and creating more of a mess than necessary. Lots of hunters also use their gutting knife for skinning chores, although many companies make specialized knives with blades curved just right for skinning deer. Butchering also takes a good, sharp knife. And while many hunters complete the gutting, skinning and butchering chore with a single knife, specialized boning knives make the actual butchering part of the chore easier and more efficient.
Game Processing Kits
A good, high-quality game processing kit can enable new hunters to have all the tools they need to take their buck from field to table without having to make a lot of separate purchases. Many kits have a variety of different knives, including a caping knife, skinning knife, boning knife and specialized butchering knife. Many such kits also have a bone saw, game shears, a sharpening stone, a cutting board and various other handy items. When shopping for a game processing kit, look for knives and saws with blades made from high-quality stainless steel and all-weather type handles that will hold up to all the gore associated with deer processing and all the subsequent washing. While game processing kits aren’t a necessity, they can certainly make the job easier.
Most people who think of venison think of venison chili. Fact is, sitting around on a cold winter’s day eating a bowl of delicious venison chili is not only pleasant, but helps hunters relive past days afield when they had the opportunity to harvest that meat. While you can take your venison to a processor to have it ground, doing so yourself is not a difficult chore. If you are only going to ground a pound or two, you can do it with an old-fashioned hand grinder. If you’re going to do a lot, electric grinders are perfect for the job. Electric grinders are available in a variety of sizes and price ranges, and some will grind hundreds of pounds of venison an hour. Make your selection based on how often you’ll use it and how much meat you plan to grind each time.
Next to chili, venison sausage is one of many hunters’ favorite venison dishes. Whether jalapeño-cheddar bratwurst, Italian sausage, Cajun-type sausages or any other kind, deer sausage is just plain delicious. And it’s not hard to make your own. First, you’ll need a recipe. Many companies make sausage seasoning kits that have everything you need to mix in with a specified amount of ground meat, which you’ll have already ground up with your grinder. Once you mix the meat with the ingredients of the packet, you need a sausage stuffer to stuff the meat into sausage casings before packaging and freezing it. Sausage stuffers aren’t very expensive, and a good one will last for many years if cleaned and stored properly each time you use it.
There are many ways to adequately package venison for storage in the freezer. Wrapping cuts in freezer paper, taping it shut and putting it into the freezer is a time-proven method that has worked for years. Putting ground venison or different cuts into zipper style bags can also work, but they need to be very thick ones made for freezer use. And if you don’t get all the air out, freezer burn can set in pretty quickly. Vacuum packers are, by far, the best way to package venison, and they’re really not all that expensive for the service they provide. Not only will they basically shrink wrap your meat in a heavy-duty bag, they also suck out all the air so the meat cannot freezer burn. If you’re going to process your own deer, a vacuum packer is a great convenience.
How many hunters have you ever met who don’t love venison jerky? The answer is probably very few, and that goes for their families, too. Fact is, jerky joins chili and sausage on the list of all-time favorite venison treats. And making it isn’t difficult. Of course, you need venison, and you need a way to slice it in very thin, uniform pieces. Many companies make meat slicers that do just that. They’re very handy because if all the pieces are the same thickness, all the batch of jerky will be done at the same time. The other tool you’ll need is a good dehydrator. These come in two different types—shelf dehydrators and stacking dehydrators. While shelf dehydrators generally have more uniform drying, either kind can work fine to make delicious jerky from your hard-earned venison.
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