There is much to be said for using only a knife to field dress an animal, it can be done and is absolutely a skill that every outdoorsman should aspire to possess. But for those who are just getting into wild harvest and a life in the outdoors where you meet your food face-to-face, there’s nothing wrong with packing a few more tools to get the job done. You just have to know what to bring and what to leave behind. Most importantly, you must be aware of what must be in your kit when it comes to field dressing. Although a great deal of time and effort goes into locating, patterning, stalking and getting an animal down, that is when the real work begins. In order to effectively field dress your game, it helps to have some sharp and efficient hand tools. We’re going to go ahead and assume that you’re packing a solid knife. That said, here are our top three suggestions.
The gutless method of field dressing animals is all the rage right now. There is nothing wrong with that. But for those who prefer a more traditional method of gutting animals, whether to learn more about that animal’s eating habits or to harvest internal organs such as the liver, a gut hook sure comes in handy. If nothing else, it eliminates the safety concern of cutting yourself while attempting to open the main body cavity of animal. Using a gut hook ensures that you don’t penetrate so deep that you puncture organs.
If you’re looking to make the most of your animal, splitting the torso and taking the rib meat is great. It just takes a heavier blade than your skinning knife. Splitting the pelvic bone is also far easier when you bring something a bit heavier into the equation. Small tomahawks or hatchets work great. They pack in and pack out easily, aren’t too heavy to carry but get the job done quick. Just make sure to keep the blade sharp and be vigilant when it comes to cleaning the blade when you get back to camp.
When it comes to removing the head, getting through joints or other tough jobs, having a folding saw can make things quick. A sturdy folder is great if you’re hunting solo in adverse conditions where you need to cut through bone, stuff game sacks and “get outta dodge” in a hurry. It should be noted that when using a saw like this you must take great care in cleaning its teeth afterwards. A folding saw will do its job well, but often times will hang on to bits and pieces of the meat afterwards.