Hunting gear can seem overwhelming and expensive, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You can put meat in the freezer with affordable gear.
Whether you’re wide-eyed at the prevalence of $300 hunting knives or $500 hunting packs, it can seem like your bank account is going to have to take a serious hit in order to put quality meat in the freezer. But there’s plenty of affordable gear that can get a deer into your freezer. Fret not.
Here are my picks for affordable, quality gear that will do the job just fine.
I’ve used replaceable-blade knives in dressing deer, and they work just fine. The pro of these little guys is that their surgical-quality steel blades are uber-sharp. Like, you’ll cut yourself if you’re not careful, and it will suck.
But they do a great job getting through a deer in a nimble, precise fashion. They’re wildly affordable, and when blades dull, you just throw a new one on.
Besides accidentally cutting yourself, the cons of replaceable blade knives are that (1) they can break if you push them too hard, (2) changing out the blades has a bit of learning curve, and (3) they won’t go through heavy bone like the more durable heavy-duty folding knives (hence the hacksaw).
Mini Hacksaw: $11
I personally haven’t used this hacksaw. But reviews say it cuts through metal and pipe, so bone will likely not be an issue. I have used larger hacksaws and find them more annoying to carry around.
This has replaceable blade options and, when you get into spots where you need a bit more heft and leverage, I’d bet on this blade or something similar to get you through just fine.
You can probably get by without a saw, but having one does open up some possibilities when cleaning game.
Alaska Game Bags: $15-23
I still have a few of my original Alaska Game Bags (shown above left) from when I started hunting. You can wash these and use them again and again.
They’re not my absolute favorite game bag at this point – shoutout to Argali’s new backpacking series (shown above right) – but they’re certainly affordable and just fine. I beat the tar out of my mine, and I’ve had zero tears or issues.
I also bring a few freezer bags from my kitchen for organ meat (tongue, liver, caul fat, heart, and kidneys) as well as other cuts beyond the quarters (backstrap, tenderloin, rib meat, neck roast).
Any Weight-Bearing Backpack, Seriously: Prices Vary
I packed out the first buck I killed solo in an old, huge backpack I had used on the trail for years. And I have zero complaints.
Look for a secondhand pack with a hip belt and a bit of padding. They’re affordable and easy to get your hands on if you don’t have one already.
Electrical Tape: $5
You can pick up electrical tape in most gas stations, or you can prep and just get it on Amazon. But it serves enough purposes in the field that it’s worth buying a few rolls.
The main purpose it serves is in tagging your animal without destroying the tag for the game warden that might be hanging out in the parking lot. Another way to attach tags that works great is a zip tie or length of parachute cord through a hole punched in the tag.
Of course, the orange color is nice because you can use it to mark blood trails or other locations in the woods. Surveyor’s tape in a bright color is another good option for this job. Just be sure to pick it up after you’ve recovered your animal.
Bonus: Health & Medical Kit
After processing a deer, my hands usually look like they just had a starring role as table fare in the show “Chopped.” It’s certainly advisable to pack a first-aid kit including nitrile gloves, Band-Aids/gauze, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and a full bottle of water to rinse and wash as you go.
Before I made a living working in the gear world, I was squeaking by on the stuff I could just barely afford.
Of course, great gear can change things, and it can be worth it. But you can get out there and have a great experience at a minimal cost.
And if you hunt an area where you’re more likely to drag a deer than to quarter it out, you can ditch the game bags and the pack, and you’ll be good to go for under $75.