Yeah, I know it’s ‘Tinker Talks Guns’ but this is related. Trust me. As I mentioned in my last blog we slaughtered a goat last weekend. We’d hoped to slaughter a deer but having failed to encounter one we helped Joanne harvest one of her goats- a process basically identical to harvesting a deer. We used two knives for the entire process- dressing, skinning and butchering. I want to talk a little about those knives and how they worked; give you some food for thought when selecting your own knives for tasks such as these. This is not a tutorial on skinning or butchering, just a commentary on the knives and how they handled the task.
Here are the knives we used-
The top knife is a Schrade 49er, and is probably 40-50 years old. I inherited it from my Uncle Jim when he passed away. I found it in the bottom drawer of his tool box with the handle and sheath completely covered in green fur. I removed the mildew, then treated the leather with Fiebing’s Carnuaba Wax cream. The blade was lightly polished and I honed the edge with a buffing wheel.
The lower knife is a Case slip-joint that started life as a trapper. Age is unknown, but I believe I bought it used in the 1980s. It went hunting with me frequently in those days and dressed a couple of deer. Eventually it was loaned to a friend and came back with a broken clip-point blade. I was only mildly annoyed; I think I paid less than $10 for the knife and was no longer hunting so it really didn’t matter. The knife floated around with other random possession until I took up hunting again a few years back, at which point I removed the broken blade and center liner and reassembled the knife as a single-blade- sort of a ‘half trapper.’ All I needed to do to prepare it for work was to hone the blade.
The two knives between them did an excellent job- the only thing they weren’t suited to was severing the spine to remove the head. I used a larger knife for this- it wasn’t suited either but managed the task eventually. I think with a little prying at the joints of the spine I could have managed the task with the Shrade at least as well as I did chopping with the larger knife.
I used the Case folder to ‘unzip’ the hide, starting with a cut at the neck. I used the slightly longer Shrade to core the anus. The point of the Schrade was useful in a number of places, like piercing behind the tendons to hang the animal. The body cavity was opened with the Case since the spey-blade has a lesser chance of slicing the internal organs. We wound up skinning the animal together, Tony working with the Case folder and me with the Shrade. We were able to get the hide off in one piece with no nicks and very minimal damage to the meat. Joanne, the property and goat-owner, refrigerated the hide to be dealt with later.
Tony cut his finger about the time we finished skinning and had to bow out of the butchering. I used the Shrade exclusively for this (except for cutting the thigh-bones) and even though it’s only 4-1/2″ long it was up to the task. Joints were handled by cutting the tendons and breaking them apart, sometimes inserting the point and popping the joint loose enough to break it.
Using these two knives and minor assistance from a chopper the animal went from ‘on the hoof’ to fully butchered in about 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Neither knife needed resharpening during the process, and in fact show no evidence of dulling- impressive! After the work was done the knives were washed in soap and water and the Case folder was thoroughly sprayed inside and out with WD40.
My thoughts? The Case folder could not do the entire job by itself, with the lack of point being a fatal flaw. If the clip-point had still been there it could have done about 90% of the work, but a stout fixed-blade or a bone-saw would be needed for the joints. It was a great knife for skinning the animal though.
The Schrade 49er could have done the entire job by itself provided a chunk of wood or a mallet to hammer it through the thigh-bones. It’s a great shape for the work- obviously why this basic blade-shape has been a favorite for generations at least. Enough point for the job, plenty of belly for skinning and slicing, long enough to core the anus. I’d thought I would make myself a hunting knife, but why? This one does a great job and has sentimental value.
Pretty happy with both of these knives- and the good news is if you shop antique malls and second-hand shops you could probably pick up both of these knives for $50 or less. It might be worth doing that; I’ve never used a modern equivalent of these knives that held it’s edge as well as these two did. I know there are some that will, but you’ll spend a lot more money on them.
I apologize for the lack of photos- I lost my iPhone somewhere along the way and no-one else thought to take pictures. I did take a picture of some of the results…
Goat shoulder and shank, brined overnight then slow-roasted for six hours at 225-degrees with sweet onions and herbs. Delicious, tender and not at all gamey; very like Ostrich actually. Served with home-made coleslaw and steamed asparagus. Wonderful.
These knives will be going with us again this weekend- possibly with the addition of a bone-saw or hatchet for the heavy work. Hopefully this time we’ll be using them on a deer…
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