For great-tasting wild game, it starts in the field. The first item on my Top 5 list is the Outdoor Edge Razor-Pro. It comes with replaceable razor blades that are easily swapped out with the press of a button. This particular model also includes a gut hook. These blades are super sharp. You're going to be exhausted after killing a big game animal and this knife allows you to get in and get it done quickly. It also works great for small game ducks, pheasants, and just about anything else.
Once you get back to the house, there's a lot of work to do. Since 2012, I've been breaking down and processing my own deer. One of the first things I bought was the Outdoor Edge Game Pro Game Processing Set. It's an 11-piece set that includes a butcher knife, boning knife, skinning knife, and a caping knife. It also comes with a sharpener, a cutting board, and game shears, which I use a lot for small game as well. A bone saw and a carcass spreader are in the set as well. It's great kit at a great value. Mine has lasted me more than 10 seasons. A good knife set helps make field dressing a breeze. Can't recommend this set enough.
Quite possibly the most important item you can have is a quality grinder. I've upgraded over the years to fit my budget. It takes a lot of time to process your own deer at the house and now that we are bringing home three to five deer a year, we need a good quality grinder that will speed that process up quite a bit. This is a number 8, half horsepower. Very economical, and always gets the job done. LEM does make other sizes of grinders to suit your needs and budget.
Now that you've ground your meat, what do you do with it? Our go-to system has always been the LEM Ground Meat Packaging System. It includes a tape dispenser and wild game bags. My family uses a lot of the 1-pound bags that come with it. Once the meat goes from your grinder into the bags, you twist it up, you put it through the dispenser, and then they stack up really nice in the freezer.
Rounding out the top five, and easily just as important as having a way to grind the meat, is having a way to preserve the meat. Whether that's deer, elk, or small game, having a vac sealer for storing the meat is a great way to ensure that the meat lasts a long time in cold storage. I use the LEM MaxVac 500 Vacuum Sealer Kit and I've had some small game last as many as four seasons in the freezer. You get a great seal with this machine, and because the bags are clear, you can see if your seal or your meat has gone bad in any way whenever you reach into the freezer.
Of course, you can get different sizes of bags to accommodate different sizes of meat cuts. There are also different models to suit different budgets and game meat volumes from economical up to commercial grade. I like to have this workhorse in our kitchen. It's a great product -- and when you think of all the time and energy that goes into pursuing the game we harvest, it's a worthwhile purchase. Take care of it, respect it. Get yourself a vac sealer.
It's hard to make a short list of items you need when you're processing your game at home. So, I wanted to add one item as honorable mention and that is the heavy-duty LEM Meat Lug. I bought some of these when I first started processing my own wild game. When I'm breaking down the animal while it's hanging and I've got my quarters, I put 'em in a Meat Lug. When I'm taking the quarters and breaking those further down into different individual muscle groups, I put those in yet another Meat Lug. It comes with a lid so if you don't have time to get to everything, you can put the lid on it, put it in your fridge, and get to it the next day. If you're not using it for meat, it also makes a good storage vessel for your tools. That butchering set and packaging system can go into the box, along with other accessories when you're not using them. I have two or three of the larger ones and I have a smaller one, and almost all of my smaller miscellaneous equipment fits inside.
You can find all of these items right here at midwayusa.com. Best of luck this season and if you haven't tried processing your own wild game, this is the year to try it!
--Wild Game Cook