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Meatcrafter: Benchmade Blade Is Highly Functional Work of Art

Benchmade worked with renowned hunter Steven Rinella on a knife for the express purpose of turning wild game into table fare. The Meatcrafter is born!

Hunters and anglers know the value of a sharp knife. From the moment a hunter pulls the trigger, the priority is to get the animal carcass out of the woods, cooled quickly, and transformed into food. In many ways, a good hunter must be a good butcher to truly enjoy the fruits of their labor.

And exquisite tools, while not required, certainly don’t hurt.

Enter the Benchmade Meatcrafter. I would hesitate to call the Meatcrafter a hunting knife. For me, it’s too big for much fieldwork. When gutting, skinning, and caping in the field, I prefer a smaller, high-quality hunting knife.

But once you move from rough field cleaning to the next phase — breaking down the animal into steaks, chops, roasts, and stew meat for the freezer — a razor-sharp knife remains a critical tool. And this is where Rinella and Benchmade want the Meatcrafter to fit into the process.

In a video here, Rinella talks about how he worked with Benchmade to design the Meatcrafter, which is essentially a boning knife.

Benchmade sent me a Meatcrafter to examine and use before writing this article. It’s frankly tough to find any wild game to process in Colorado in the spring. So I did the next best thing: I pulled some venison from the freezer, thawed it, and went on slicing and dicing on the way to some carnitas.

Benchmade Meatcrafter Knife: SelectEdge Technology

Before getting into the review, I want to mention a few things about this knife that aren’t apparent on the surface.

First, Benchmade used the Meatcrafter as a launchpad for its new SelectEdge technology. The brand hasn’t disclosed exactly what this tech does, but without going down a deep knife-sharpening rabbit hole, Benchmade notes that this provides a sharper, more polished edge than anything it has created before. And from the appearance and performance of the blade, it seems like there’s something here.

The edge is polished and smooth. Out of the box, it glints like a mirror to a perfect 14-degree apex. And for the record, that’s crazy sharp for a hunting knife. It’s also a little fine for a hard-use knife, so don’t plan on batoning this one through wood! This is a meat knife after all.

Second, the knife uses extremely high-quality “ingredients.” The full-tang blade is CPM-S45VN premium stainless steel, which provides a balance of fine grain, sharp edge, and blade flex. It’s a step forward from the excellent and widely used CPM-S35V from Crucible Industries and one of the first applications of this steel we’ve seen in person.

The black, brown, and ivory G10 handle is really a thing of beauty. It sits perfectly in the hand and provides an excellent grip at several angles. For those working through a pile of elk meat for hours on end, it’s a very nice texture and shape.

Finally, the Meatcrafter comes with a very nice Boltaron sheath. The material has a stiffness of Kydex but has a surface feel like nice leather. The knife fits in securely.

One note that speaks to the intended use of this knife: The sheath has no belt loop. I thought this a little odd until I considered that the knife will more likely ride in a pack, truck, or sit in the kitchen. While it would certainly work in the field, it’s not exactly meant for gutting or survival — it’s a meat-processing tool.

Benchmade Meatcrafter: Steven Rinella Explains

I had a few questions about the knife and sent them to Rinella. Check out his interesting replies below.

GearJunkie: Why did you decide to go with a scimitar blade shape?

Rinella: When I was working on this knife with Benchmade, the priority was versatility. We wanted to take their proven technology that produces the strength and edge retention of the kind of knives I take into the field, but stretch it into a longer, thinner blade that’s best for making precise and drawn-out cuts.

Our long, trailing-point blade lets you remove muscle groups in a single cut, work around bone and joints, and get into hard-to-reach corners so you can get a precise cut the first time around. Everything from the shape of the blade to the angle of the edge was developed specifically for this knife and for the kind of work I needed it to do.

The other day, I was filleting some lake trout with the Meatcrafter, and it was a dream. The tip was perfect for opening cuts and precision work, while the thicker portion of the blade easily sliced through the heavy rib bones. I love that thing.

Do you expect to carry the knife in the field at all, or will it live in your truck (or kitchen/garage/meat processing location)?

While I do a decent amount of processing in the field, most of the work is done at home on my butcher block. That said, this is now my go-to butchering and processing knife, so I’m taking it wherever I think it’ll be useful.

I might be cutting up a turkey on my tailgate or an elk hind in my kitchen, and it gets the job done right in either place. So far, I’ve been keeping mine in the DECKED system of my pickup truck half the time and in my kitchen knife drawer the other half.

What role do you see this knife filling that you felt was missing from the market?

You can easily find a great field knife, chef’s knife, or pocket knife, but in all my years of working with game meat, I’ve never found the perfect purpose-built blade for processing. I work with a lot of animals, from moose to beavers, and even if I’d found a knife that worked well for one task, it never had the full versatility I needed. The Meatcrafter fills those gaps.

While it seems a little stiff for a fillet knife, do you expect to use this knife on fish much?

For the right fish, definitely. I’ll often use a more flexible blade for something really delicate. But when I’m ripping burbot out of the ice, this thing makes cleaning them damn easy.

It’s best when working on four-legged fare, but throughout the testing process, we found that it can handle almost everything that ends up on your plate. I don’t imagine using it for panfish like bluegills and perch, but definitely for everything from walleye to salmon to tuna.

Obviously, a $300 knife is a significant investment. Who should buy this knife?

This knife isn’t for everyone. It’s made for folks like me: the ones that have always felt like their processing knives just aren’t up to snuff. When you spend as much time butchering game as I do, even small frustrations can take the joy out of the work, and using this thing helps keep me focused on why I do what I do. I want to create great meals for me and my family, and this knife makes that easier.

It’s a work of art and one that I’ll be using for years to come. My kids will have to fight over which one of them gets it after I’m dead.

Benchmade Meatcrafter Review

This is a super-early first look at the Meatcrafter. So far, I’ve used it to process a little stew meat from a deer and a bone-in pork loin roast. And without a hunting season for months, this knife won’t get to properly craft a full carcass for some time

But my initial impression is great. The long belly of the scimitar shape and the very fine point give you both a very fine/exact blade as well as a long cutting edge. It provides versatility for small, accurate cuts or long slices, both of which are a major part of meat processing.

The flex of the knife is just right for deboning large cuts of meat. While stiffer than a fillet knife, it offers enough flex to closely follow bones in big game. And while not its intended purpose, it would probably work fine to fillet a fish.

The handle is lovely to use. And while the appearance of the multiple G-10 colors is in the eye of the beholder, I personally love it. Its layered appearance, with splashes of color around the large lanyard hole, just oozes quality.

With a fresh edge from the factory (which you can have re-serviced by Benchmade for free for the life of the knife), the blade fell through meat like it wasn’t there. Cutting away silver skin took almost no pressure as I touched the blade to the meat, lifting the skin away from the muscle. It was impressively sharp. And cutting pork was like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

I am excited to use it on a big project. I expect it will be a lot easier thanks to such a fine tool.

So, who is it for? My gut tells me that serious hunters who like to process their own meat from field to fork will love this knife. It makes the work of cutting down big-game muscles into small cuts of meat easy, and I expect it will hold an edge well for most of a hunting season with regular stropping.

So now, what will be the hangup for many people? Price. The Meatcrafter rings in at a hefty $300. However you slice it, that’s a lot of money for a knife.

But I can pretty easily justify this purchase. If you take an elk to a butcher, you’re likely looking at a $400 bill just to have one animal turned into steaks, burger, and sausage. Do it yourself once, and the knife pays for itself.

Obviously, you need other tools too, like a meat grinder and sausage packer. But these things all pay for themselves over years of use and animals processed.

Avid hunters who fill freezers in the fall will likely enjoy a high-end knife like this season after season. And yes, you can use a much cheaper knife to do the job, keeping a butcher’s steel at the ready.

But if you enjoy a finely crafted tool and have the budget to buy one, I expect the Meatcrafter will do its job flawlessly for years to come.

The post Meatcrafter: Benchmade Blade Is Highly Functional Work of Art appeared first on GearJunkie.

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Turkey and Bear Seasons Are Opening: What Hunters Need to Know

Some hunting seasons are already open for spring, others are fast approaching, and the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. Here’s what hunters need to know.

Snow is melting, spring is here, and gobblers are strutting around the country. But it’s important to take safety into account as COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S.

The quick (and yeah, a little killjoy) takeaways are the following:

If you’re traveling far enough to restock on supplies or use public facilities, you’re traveling too far.
Some hunting seasons are affected. Check in with your state fish and game agency before heading out for a hunt.
Most public facilities, campgrounds, and recreation sites are closed. And dispersed camping might be off the table.
Some public lands — including many state lands and wildlife areas — are currently closed.
It’s best to hunt alone, with immediate family, or with roommates. Social distancing still applies while hunting.

With travel and public land closures very much in limbo, be sure to know the facts before dusting off the old turkey gun and heading to your favorite spot to call in the toms. And if you’re holding a spring bear tag, the same advice applies.

Currently, most hunting seasons and dates are going on as normal. But a bevy of other issues might interfere with your annual camp. Here’s the best info we were able to dig up.

Coronavirus Travel Restrictions Affect Hunting

To be blunt, this is a bad time to travel far from home. And while some states don’t have specific orders in place, COVID-19 now affects everywhere in the country.

There are currently travel restrictions in place for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut for the next 2 weeks. Thankfully, the Centers for Disease Control breaks down the questions you should ask yourself if you’re considering traveling domestically.

If you live in an area that’s sheltering in place but allowing outdoor recreation, your best bet is to stay near home. Use cautionary measures while getting gas. Pack all your own food, drinks, and necessities to minimize contact with others.

Now for some tough love. If you plan for a long trip that requires you to cross state borders, stay at campgrounds, or resupply, it’s probably best to put it off until next year.

Rural areas across the U.S. are pleading with people to stay home as to not over-tax healthcare facilities. So as much as it sucks, the responsible thing is to cancel big trips. The turkeys will be there next year.

If you must make that trip, remember to check shelter-in-place guidelines for the places you must visit along the way. And do everything in your power to provision your trip from door to door to minimize contact with people along the way.

Coronavirus and Hunting Seasons

Local and state authorities manage many turkey hunting lands. So if you plan to hunt a state-managed wildlife area, park, or forest, check with local authorities before heading out the door. We checked in with a few states to see how COVID-19 will affect the turkey season.

This list is far from all-inclusive, so check with your local authorities before heading to the field.

Nebraska: Nebraska today suspended the sale of nonresident spring turkey hunting permits. Nonresidents who have purchased permits will be able to use them, but they won’t be able to purchase additional permits.

Nebraska Game and Parks will contact nonresidents with turkey permits through email within the next week with information, including potential refunds. As of writing, Nebraska’s hunting season is still open and camping is still permitted.

Alabama: Most Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources outdoor facilities remain open for recreation. However, some offices may be closed to the public.

Colorado: Colorado has a shelter-in-place order through the first half of the turkey season. Colorado Parks and Wildlife closed all campgrounds, dispersed camping, and camping facilities at Colorado’s state parks as well as camping at State Wildlife Areas.

While the hunting season is open, hotels, restaurants, and camping facilities are closed across the state. Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers tag refunds to those canceling their plans.

Florida: For those hunters yearning to fill an Osceola tag, Florida hunting remains open. Most public land in the state is also open for hunting.

However, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission closed all designated campgrounds on the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system for a minimum of 30 days beginning Monday, March 23.

In areas where it’s currently allowed, dispersed wilderness camping (camping outside of designated campgrounds or where no permit is required) is open only for groups of fewer than 10 people.

Kentucky: Fishing and hunting for 2020 are still open per statewide seasons/regulations. Open-air sites such as public lakes and streams, as well as WMAs, remain open.

State offices and facilities are closed to in-person contact with the public to minimize health risks. Until further notice, please use this website, call at 800-858-1549, or email for assistance.

Minnesota: Hunting is open for turkey and WMAs, state forests, and Scientific and Natural Areas are open for recreation. Campgrounds, group camps, and remote campsites — at all state parks, state forests, and state recreation areas — and most other facilities are closed.

Missouri: Nature centers, visitor centers, and staffed shooting ranges are closed. Otherwise, the hunting season is open at this time.

Montana: All seasons are on as scheduled. But state parks, fishing access sites, and WMAs remain open for day use only, with camping prohibited and public bathrooms closed. All FWP offices are closed as well.

Washington state: One of the harder-hit states by COVID-19, Washington already closed several seasons. The state has also canceled the youth turkey hunt scheduled for April 4-5.

Six game management units that were scheduled to open on April 1 for spring bear hunting are closed pending further evaluation. Nearly 90% of spring bear permit holders in northeast Washington would be traveling from outside the area, according to WDFW.

Recreational fishing and shellfishing are also closed until April 8.

Federal, State Land Closures: Know Before You Go

Around the country, public lands closures are affecting both recreation and some hunting and fishing opportunities. Many recreation sites like camping areas are now closed. Even many popular trailheads of otherwise open land are closing to mitigate potential contact.

Some places like the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are entirely closed to all recreation. Others like the Gallatin National Forest have specific measures in place for recreation sites. All DNR lands in Washington state are currently closed to the public. Washington state has even closed all recreational fishing and shellfishing.

It’s wise to call ahead or check online if you can. If you’re hunting national forest lands, you can check the specific forest on the USFS site. Many sites have moved to day use only, so even dispersed camping might be affected as well.

As we head into the field, we also must minimize risks to first responders. Although backcountry travel isn’t typically associated with turkey hunting, many bear hunters do go deep in the mountains. Consider the terrain and mileage you’re taking on. Be conservative with backcountry travel until COVID passes and avoid calling for help.

Social Distancing and Hunting Camp
Illustration by Jasmine Lilly Creative

Although it’s possible to maintain 6 feet of distance while hunting, attending a shared hunting camp with folks from outside your household is likely a no-go at the moment.

This is a good time to test your solo turkey hunting skills, provided safety remains top of mind and you’ve mitigated the other risks mentioned. And hunting with roommates or immediate family members is certainly within bounds.

I know we all know the basics by now. But, if you do encounter other hunters, maintain the 6-foot rule at a minimum. And practice your usual hunting etiquette of social distancing, which is clearly much, much more than 6 feet. Or two labrador retrievers, which is a bit easier for us hunting folk to remember.

Final Thoughts

Spring turkey hunts can provide a bit of respite as 3 out of 4 Americans are currently under some sort of shelter-in-place mandate. If you’re lucky enough to have private land or permission to hunt on private land, you can avoid many of the issues others will face. And if asking for permission, please call or email rather than knocking on doors.

Other seasons will also see their share of changes. Spring bear hunters should follow these same steps in considering their hunting plans. And all sportspeople should pay attention to their local fish and game websites in order to follow possible date changes, closures, and, of course, reopenings as COVID-19 continues to spread.

We hope this information helps as you navigate the strange new ecosystem of a pandemic. Good luck if you head to the field — and stay safe out there.

The post Turkey and Bear Seasons Are Opening: What Hunters Need to Know appeared first on GearJunkie.

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Mule Deer Migration: One Woman Follows in Its Footsteps

Like wildlife? Required something to do? Calm down with this hour-long virtual movie celebration.

The movie “Deer 139” follows the efforts of a little group at the Haub School for Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. The movie opens with one scientist’s objective to track tagged doe No. 139.

The lead scientist, Sam Dwinnell, chooses her group will trace the doe’s 6-week, 85-mile migration in simply 9 days. That suggests moving quick with great deals of equipment: boots, skis, camping tents, and packrafts.

” Sound absurd? It is absurd. It’s about science and our desire for an insane experience,” tells Dwinnell. Joining her on the experience is a field biologist, Anya Tyson, and an investigative press reporter, Tennessee Watson. It’s an all-female group.

And it’s more than simply research study: Tracking this Wyoming mule deer herd belongs to an effort to maintain the renowned, now-endangered types. The scientists’ deal with the deer is a homage to the animals and individuals who survive on the land now —– and the ones who will inhabit the land in the future.

” This land has some constraints; they are crammed in. The truth is that they have no place else to go,” discusses Dwinnell in the movie. “Their survival suggests being faithful to a particular spot of land.”

The scientists’ primary concern: What about our environment figures out survival? For deer 139 and for others, this group was devoted to discovering the response. Did they do so in time to conserve the types?

.’ Leave Nice Tracks’: The Trail Crew Who Built Out Vermont’s Backcountry.

Deep in forests of Rochester, Vermont, one path team is developing regional access to backcountry snowboarding. This movie informs the entire story. Read more …

The post Mule Deer Migration: One Woman Follows in Its Footsteps appeared initially on GearJunkie .

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