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Can You Dress a Deer with Only a Knife?

 
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Why yes, yes you can. Here's a simple video I made the last time I dressed a deer.

https://youtu.be/GMV9CSLVZnM
 
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Hi Jordan;  
Your video isn't there.
What other tool would you want? A knife is all you need for a deer.
Now an elk is quite a bit larger . You really want a saw when dealing with a #500+ animal
 
Jordan Holland
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thomas rubino wrote:Hi Jordan;  
Your video isn't there.
What other tool would you want? A knife is all you need for a deer.
Now an elk is quite a bit larger . You really want a saw when dealing with a #500+ animal



Hmm...it seems to be working for me. What happens when you click "watch on youtube"? Does it not go to youtube, or does it go to youtube and youtube says it isn't there?
 
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It's there, but you have to sign in to Google to see it. Maybe their bots classified it as "gory stuff?" Which is silly IMO.
 
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I cheat and also use a small folding saw to cut through the pelvis for easier removal of the pellet feeder.  But it could be done just fine with only a knife.  Along with skinning and butchering.
 
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thomas rubino wrote:Now an elk is quite a bit larger . You really want a saw when dealing with a #500+ animal



I suppose it may depend on how one is segmenting the animal for packing.  Riverboat hunting for moose, where we could usually drop an animal within a few hundred yards of the beach, my father used nothing really except his regular hunting knife and a skinning knife (bit of a curved cutting area).  He'd open and gut the carcass with the hunting knife, then skin as much of the animal as he could reach (with cursing children hauling on leg ropes and such to manipulate parts of the animal).  Then he'd start cutting off quarters using the tip of his hunting knife to pop the joints.  We never used a saw, except that one time that nobody speaks of where there was a frozen carcass of uncertain provenance (somebody knew, just not me) and dubious legality that got chainsawed into chunks as a team effort for rapid removal from the public gaze.  

I believe we carried a small bowsaw in the boat for removal of hooves from the quarters, in the event that we somehow shot a moose so deep in the woods that we'd need to backpack it out (rather than just staggering to the boat with two people on each end of a heavy chunk).  But I don't remember ever using it.

We had a family friend who scoffed at my father's two knives and once insisted on showing us how to skin and quarter a moose with nothing more than the same two-inch pen knife that he used for skinning rabbits.  That looked like it took real skill, though.
 
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Do you have any concerns with processing it on the ground? Whenever my dad brought home a deer, it was hung from a tree branch so he could split the skin down the belly, reach in and cut the esophagus, then pull out all the organs at once from throat to anus. If the day was cold, that also helped with getting the meat to cool down, you could put a stick between the ribs to keep them spread open. Then you could easily skin with both hands free too, and keep the dogs from taking any samples when your back was turned  
 
Mike Haasl
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I don't have any concerns with gutting a deer on the ground.  Hanging it to gut would be a luxury that I've never had the joy to experience.  

Butchering it while hanging is a good plan.  If on the ground (quartering something big?) I suspect the hide is used as a clean blanket to work on.  But I might be making that up from watching the discovery channel.
 
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I would want two (of the same) knives and a steel to keep them sharp for an animal that size.  

I really like using a gimbal.   but I'm not muscular,  so I like to let the tools do the work.

a bone saw is nice too, but it depends on the cuts I want.  But if I'm working in the field, I just quarter it so it's easy to carry with a knife and transform it into meal-sized chunks in the kitchen with the tools I have there.  

That is all that is in my kit.  But a knife and steel alone can do it so long as it is sharp and I'm careful not to dull it on a bone or hair.
 
thomas rubino
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I haven't needed to dress an animal in the woods for many years now.
Elk and deer are shot and transported by tractor bucket up to the shop.
Either are completely skinned and then cold water rinsed to remove hair.
A wheel barrow is moved under the animal and then while it is hanging upside down from the gimbal  I gut the animal.
Another cold water wash to rinse out any blood .
On elk I use a sawsall to split the backbone and remove hooves and foreleg.
 
 
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I always do my deer with just a knife (or 2).  I have a hunting knife, but to be honest, I have a serrated knife (steak knife?) that I rescued from the trash, and I very much prefer the serrated knife for a lot of the jobs.  I hang the deer in the barn, gut it in the barn and throw the entrails out for the hens.  Since I hang it in the barn, I have to finish the job on the day I skin it... otherwise it would get contaminated by dust, or eaten by cats, chickens, and the barn dog.  As long as the skin is on it, they leave it alone, but as soon as it is skinned, anything low enough is fair game, so far as they are concerned.  
 
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I prefer to butcher with a small paring knife, about 2 or 3 inch blade.  Very sharp.  I do everything from cattle to deer to hogs to small stuff like rabbit or chicken with the same knife.  Once you know the anatomy, it's easy to just disjoint to remove hoofs, head, or whatever. It's like having a very sharp finger. Big knives are dangerous, especially if you are working with someone on the same animal.  I have lots of other knives, as one does, but I always end up back with the paring knife. And an old toolbox sized saw to split into sides, until I discovered using a cordless saws-all for that,which is the wonder tool of our time!  Yeehaw!
 
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I'll have to watch the video later, but I'll throw in my 2 cents. I've field dressed (gutted) deer with everything from a 2" gerber folding knife to an 8" KaBar. What I learned is you can have too little and too much knife for the job. What works well on one animal may be inadequate for the next.
Personally, I like to get the animal dressed and chilled as quickly as possible. It makes a difference in the quality of the meat. The best knife is the one that you are comfortable with and is sharp. For deer, it's not necessary to split the pelvis or sternum, although it can make some tasks easier. But it's not necessary.
I harvested two deer this year and dressed both with a knife I forged, that's sharp enough to shave with. (Photo attached if I can get it to work from my phone)
The way I was taught and find most effective for the way we handle and process deer is to start at the anus, or vent if you prefer, and cut around it just through the skin. Once through the skin I begin working around it pulling the vent to one side and cutting until it pulls freely from the cavity. Some folks will use string or zip ties to tie it off so it doesn't drain anything out onto the carcass. I then split the skin from the anus up past the ribs until I can reach the esophagus at the other end. On this cut I try to be careful to only cut the skin and not the lining that holds in the organs. After cutting free the esophagus and all that comes through the front of the rib cage, I will then split the lining and peel the diaphragm so it's loose. At this point, if you did everything right you can reach in from the middle of the animal with one hand and grab the esophagus and then grab the intestine/colon right before it goes through the hindquarters with the other hand and pull everything cleanly out.
A rinse with a hose is a nice finish and then we hang the deer, weather permitting, for up to 14 days. Most of the time the weather only lets me get about 3-5 days of hanging before butchering.
And that turned into a far longer post than I thought.
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I used only a knife with my rabbits & deer, hogs we used a  hand meat band saw to half the hog.
 
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I've only used one knife, an EZ Lap diamond rod and a home made gambrel. I used a Western Cutlery sheath knife with a 5 inch blade for many years until it was stolen. I bought a Finnish Lauri blade with differential temper and made a nice handle for it. The thing is like a straight razor! The cutting edge is only 3 1/2" but thats fine. I do much like everyone else here as far as skinning and gutting. The gambrel lets me pull the deer up to stand up working height. I'm 67 and have a busted lower back so that is a necessity. I hook the gambrel to the deer's legs at the knee's, tie a rope to it and hoist it up on a limb with the pickup truck. That works for me.
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