Menu
Back to Skills

Building the ultimate hunting kill kit

Building your hunting kill kit

Photo credit: Dave Barnett

Kill kit. This is a term that is commonly thrown around internet forums and social media. For those of you who have not heard the term, a kill kit is essentially a small bag (dry sack, stuff sack, zippered pouch, etc…) that houses all of the items you will need once an animal has hit the ground. The kill kit will keep your items organized, packed neatly, and provide go to access to whatever you may need during the field dressing process. In the following article, we will discuss what is generally found in the kill kit and what options are out there to customize your kit to meet your needs.

The bag

The basis of the entire kit is the bag or storage device. These can range from dry bags and stuff sacks to zippered pouches and, even, vacuum sealed bags. Generally speaking, I really like a small zippered pouch made of an extremely light material, such as silnylon. There are many companies making small organizing pouches that would work really well for this. This is the easiest step of building your kit and really requires nothing more than finding a good quality and lightweight bag that will hold your gear. A great bag to consider for its lightweight and waterproof properties in the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dryview Sack.

Game bags

Mule deer with Caribou Gear game bags

Photo credit: Brady Miller

Here is where some research and decision-making will come into play. The game bag industry is very competitive and there are a ton of options out there. So, the question begs, what are the best game bags for me? First, I consider the type of hunt I am going on and what species I’ll be pursuing. Sometimes I’ll need bags for boned out meat; other times I’ll need bags specifically for bone-in quarters. This can also be dictated by the species of animal I will be pursuing.

Game bags will generally be found in three materials: canvas, cheesecloth and synthetic. Canvas game bags are exactly what you’d expect. These are generally the most durable and offer great protection from bugs, but they are extremely heavy and do not allow the meat to breathe very well. Cheesecloth type bags come in all shapes and sizes and will generally provide decent coverage. These are usually the lightest of the three options, but do tear easily, which can lead to bug issues rather quickly. Additionally, cheesecloth bags are usually not reusable due to the fact that bacteria will grow once bloodied. In my opinion, synthetic bags are the way to go. These bags will generally be marginally heavier than cheesecloth bags, but they are far more indestructible, breath incredibly well, and provide excellent protection against unwanted bugs. Beyond that, synthetic bags are machine washable and reusable. My current set is on its seventh animal and, other than staining, is good as new.

In-depth comparison of game bag materials

Material Pros Cons Primary uses
Canvas
  • Very durable
  • Excellent bug protection
  • Reuseable
  • Washable
  • Very heavy
  • Not breathable
  • Bulky
  • Moderately expensive
  • Truck camping
  • Horse camping
  • Cold weather
Cheese cloth/cotton
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Great breathability
  • Inexpensive
  • Prone to tearing
  • Bad bug protection
  • Not reusable
  • All season
  • Day hunting
  • Backpack hunting
Synthetic
  • Lightweight
  • Very durable
  • Breathable
  • Excellent bug protection
  • Reusable
  • Washable
  • Moderately expensive
  • All season
  • Day hunting
  • Backpack hunting

After deciding on what bag material will best suit your needs, it’s important to then decide what sizes and how many you will need. Generally speaking, nearly all of my hunts will take place far away from my truck, requiring most animals to be boned out to be efficiently brought out of the woods. Because of this, I opt to save a little weight and go with a shorter game bag as I do not need the extra length to fit an entire elk leg; this is not an issue with deer either way. That being said, I do keep a set up of full-length game bags in my pickup should the case arise that an elk is taken close to a road and the quarters can be brought out bone-in. For my uses, the Caribou Gear Carnivore III pack is excellent. For those of you who are planning on bringing out your quarters with the bone still attached consider the Muley or Wapiti pack.

Gear Shop - Shop Now

Caribou Gear Carnivore III

Caribou Gear Carnivore three game bags

Caribou Gear Carnivore III getting the meat off the mountain in Colorado. Photo credit: Brady Miller

For elk hunting, I will usually carry all five of the bags that come with the carnivore set. This will allow me to break the bull into four separate bags of boned meat and leave a remaining bag for additional scrap meat, organs or a cape. For deer, I like to pack three bags so I can put one half of the boned deer in each bag and have an additional bag for scrap meat, organs or a cape.

Knives

Another avenue that can require a lot of thought and planning will be in what knife or knives you will carry. Personally speaking, I am terrible at sharpening knives. Give me a great stone and an excellent blade and I will show you how to dull that thing up in less than a minute. Because of this and my general lack of patience, I opt to go with a knife that utilizes a replaceable blade. These knives are always razor sharp, ultra lightweight, and much less of a headache. However, if I could maintain an edge on a fixed blade steel knife there would be certain tasks, such as popping joints, that would be much easier.

Havalon Piranta Edge

Havalon Piranta Edge knife

Photo credit: Brady Miller

For the past several seasons I have used Havalon Piranta Edge knives with great success. These are extremely sharp and the replacement blades are dirt cheap. Beyond that, they weigh virtually nothing and take up hardly any room in my kill kit. To save a marginal amount of weight, I ditched the nylon holster and slid my extra blades under the pocket clip to hold them securely. My favorite accessory for the Havalon style knives is the Blade Remover. This little tool can be the difference between a new sharp blade and a knuckle on the ground that was once attached to your hand.

Tyto 1.1

Tyto knife with mule deer antlers

Photo credit: Seth Webb

Another great replaceable blade knife that has hit the market recently is from Tyto knives. This knife uses the same 60A blades as the Havalon but comes in a fixed blade format undoubtedly adding some strength to the whole package. Additionally, the Tyto 1.1 comes in at an impressive 1.5 oz! Tyto also offers a fixed blade version of this knife in the Esee Izula.

Miscellaneous items

Beyond my knives and game bags, there are also a few small items that will always be found in my kill kit. Rubber gloves is a new item I have started packing. Beyond protecting myself from any cooties I may contract—I nick my fingers a lot while processing an animal—these also make cleanup a breeze. I have used the gutless method on game for years and generally have very little blood to deal with, but now I virtually have none! I also keep all of my licenses and permits in my bag.

Another staple that every pack should have—whether it’s in your kill kit or not—is 550 paracord. This can come in handy for tying animals off on a steep slope, for hanging meat or for attaching tags. Beyond that, it can be useful for emergency shelters, broken shoe laces and a million other uses. I always have fifty feet in my kill kit.

Before beginning to work on an animal, I always get my first aid kit out and available. Additionally, I have electrical tape wrapped around a lighter that is commonly found in my survival/first aid bag that will sometimes be used to attach tags.

What am I missing?

Because the items you use to break down an animal is a completely personal decision I also wanted to include commonly used items that I do not pack. Admittedly, I am a weight nazi when it comes to my pack and I usually carry the bare minimum to get the job done. This has changed slightly as I’ve gotten older (I like to be comfortable!), but I’ve definitely gotten better at certain activities and have found items that I simply do not need.

A ground cloth is something I get commonly asked about. Typically, these will be used to lay boned out meat on once removed from the bone. This provides you with a bigger working area and a place to keep the meat clean as it “skins” up before putting it into a game bag. Personally, I lay my meat out across available brush and downed trees or use additional game bags. I have used plastic sheeting as a ground cloth in the past, but have found that the meat tends to stick to the plastic and everything ends up wading into a ball before I’ve gotten the first shoulder done. I have heard of hunters using Tyvek with great results. This will be a far more durable option and this material can be used for a multitude of things while in the woods as an added bonus.

Flagging tape is another very common item that I do not carry. Perhaps I’m just stubborn, dumb, or lucky—or even a combination of three—but I’ve carried ribbon on so many blood trails and never once taken it out of my pack. This was just another item that regularly got tossed in the pack but never called up for duty. After several years of this, I decided to omit this from my bag.

Concluding thoughts

This article was to serve merely as a template to base your own kill kit off of. The items I carry have been refined and refined over the years and I feel like I have a setup that meets my needs perfectly. The kit is nothing special other than a bag that houses everything you need once a tag has been punched. Be creative, but smart, in your approach to building your system and decide what items need to be upgraded, cut or added.

Update on kill kits:

The goHUNT hunting kill kit for processing your animals

goHUNT now sells their own kill kit set with the option to select one of three different game bag sizes. You can check out their kill hit here.

goHUNT's INSIDER Research Tools

27 Comments

Log in or register to post comments.

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 05-03-2018 06:52:46 am
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Dan D- good call on the dry bag! I’ve thought above using one for blood protection on my gear but my worry has always been the breathability. Have you had any issues with this? Granted, the meat isn’t sitting in the dry sack all day but sometimes I will have a 3-4 hour one way pack.

Drakeventures
Dan D. - posted 5 months ago on 05-02-2018 10:16:06 pm
RIGBY, ID
goHUNT INSIDER

I always carry a super light wieght dry bag as well, made of same material as many of these "pouches" it is bit biger than my pack and comes in handy for stuffi g items into when it gets really wet. I put my kill kit in it and roll it down into minimal size. When throwing meat into game bags and into dry bag, i dont have to worry about making my pack and other items all bloody.

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 05-01-2018 01:28:13 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Brent D- that Outdoor Edge has some serious backbone. I recently switched to a havalon that is compatible with the 60A blades, much stronger. I used to break a few blades but now that I’ve learned the knife I very rarely, if ever, break one. I can break an entire elk down with two blades no problem.

brentdaley7189
Brent D. - posted 5 months ago on 05-01-2018 01:04:41 pm
Parma, Idaho
goHUNT INSIDER

I agree with Dave, I haven't needed a saw in a number of years. I use a replaceable blade in my kill kit, the Outdoor Edge...I've had the Havalon, and that thing is scary...breaks too easy. I like a thicker blade you can work on joints with.

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 05-01-2018 01:09:55 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Vance W- sure is nice to have everything organized, right? Since I’ve gone to the gutless method I’ve totally ditched my saws as I can do anything I need do with a knife. That being said, I do miss it when I have an animal down that I’d want to skull cap. Still, I’d rather carry a full skull to cut later than pack a saw all season. Good luck out there!

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 05-01-2018 01:07:22 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Stephen S- good call with the TP. Another time with a few uses!

Vance W. - posted 5 months ago on 05-01-2018 01:01:27 pm
Anthem AZ
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article. I started carrying a kill kit a few years ago instead of my knife and various other articles floating around the pack. One thing I've used for years and is invaluable on larger game like elk is a saw. I have carry an all aluminum break-down Wyoming saw for about 30 years but I noticed Havalon has a very functional light weight saw, the Baracuta, that I think I'm switching over to save some weight. It sure is nice to touch that pelvis with the saw a couple of times and pop you're in business.

stephen
stephen s. - posted 5 months ago on 05-01-2018 11:49:34 am
goHUNT INSIDER

A single square of toilet paper is all that is needed for tracking flagging. Shows up great at distance, other than on white snow... of course, then you should have a good blood trail against white snow, right... Other advantage over typical flagging material, no need to go back and pickup as it will disintegrate at first rain.

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 08:21:19 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Ben L- anytime you can multi-purpose an item you're ahead of the game! Thanks for sharing the insight.

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 08:20:23 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Mike L- good call on the block and pulley system! I haven’t packed one yet but have considered it. It would definitely help keep everything clean and make breaking the animal down a breeze!

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 08:07:58 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Brent D- always handy to have a ziplock for grouse breasts, good call!

Ben L. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 08:06:51 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Great read! On the ground cloth, I started using the cheap 5×7 tarps they sell in the automotive department at walmart. They are like $3, so when I'm done I just throw them in the trash. They are lightweight and also double as a glassing cushion and an emergency shelter if needed!

Mike L. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 06:18:01 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

@ Mark N - I carry a lightweight block and tackle system that I made up myself. It has two double pulleys about the size of a quarter, and 75 feet of 1/8" dyneema cord which has a 350lb breaking strength. Weighs maybe a pound if that. I was able to hoist my muley buck up last fall no problem hide and all. You would need to get a stick to wrap the dyneema cord up with as it is so small it cuts into your hand when lifting. Got my rope and pulleys from West Marine.

brentdaley7189
Brent D. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 11:44:42 am
Parma, Idaho
goHUNT INSIDER

One thing I usually carry in my kill kit is a gallon ziploc bag for the heart, or any grouse. The rest of your list is rock solid though, and is pretty close to what I use, ultralight bag, Kifaru makes them as well.

Mark N. - posted 5 months ago on 04-30-2018 09:55:34 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Anyone ever pack a lightweight pulley system to lift a heavy quarter into a tree when solo?

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-29-2018 08:42:26 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Evan S- Good question! To answer you, it changes with every situation! I usually try to balance all of my loads as much as possible but inevitably you’ll end up up with a bag or two that is heavier than the others. When dealing with deer I’ll generally pack the entire deer and my gear out in one trip.

For elk, I’ll usually either shuttle the meat back in small increments until I reach my truck or I’ll bring one quarter out at a time. When shuttling meat I try to pair my lightest game bag with all of my gear for one load and will drop all of my gear when packing the additional loads. When bringing quarters out one at a time I personally like to pick the heaviest load first and just get it out of the way. For me, and my mental health, knowing that each load with get marginally lighter is a big booster. Hope I answered everything for you, good luck!

Evan Shaw_10104612204956214
Evan S. - posted 5 months ago on 04-29-2018 06:41:11 pm
Athens, Ohio
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article! I''ve got a pretty basic question that's kind of related. Once you get an animal down and cut up, in what order do you bring out the meat? Quarters first? Does it matter? Thanks!

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-29-2018 10:05:12 am
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@C B- That's a good call, I've considered doing the same since I seem to be habitually accident prone! Thanks for taking the time to read the article!

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-29-2018 10:15:01 am
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Lance V- Dealing with the hornets during the early season can be a nuisance! Thanks for the great tip!

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-29-2018 10:13:32 am
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@David B- Great tip! Thanks for sharing

C B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-28-2018 08:38:53 pm

I always pack a left hand cutting glove. I'm right handed so I use the left to protect from cuts and added grip, no need for two.

Lance V. - posted 5 months ago on 04-28-2018 05:32:21 pm
Coeur D Alene, ID
goHUNT INSIDER

One thing I would add is a decent pair of thicker gloves that are workable when quartering and boning meat. These would really be specific to heavily timbered early season hunts. In North Idaho, hornets are everywhere and they are carnivorous. Once you get the meat out, the hornets are all over it while you’re working on it. The gloves let you swat them away and prevent getting stung. They’re a big pain if you have to swat them away with bare hands.

David B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-27-2018 09:06:48 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Large Ziplock freezer bags are my preferred means of organizing a kill kit and other accessories in my pack. Can see at in an instant what is in there and what may be missing. It's also water tight, so it's great for tossing in used nitrile gloves, bloody stuff, etc. without getting anything on the rest of the pack. Cheap to boot!

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-27-2018 07:26:57 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@AJ M- a lot of that will depend on the area the animal has died. If I have quite a bit of downfall I may move the meat to draw where I have good airflow and simply sling the meat over a few dead trees. If there is a lack of deadfall anywhere near I will then hang the meat from a tree. Whichever method you choose it’s best to look for areas with a lot of canopy cover for shade. Be mindful of the direction of the sun as the day progresses and the available shade moves. Good luck!

AJ M. - posted 5 months ago on 04-27-2018 06:41:21 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Dave, will you hang your meat boned out in a game bag while your cary a load to your truck?

dave.t.barnett
Dave B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-27-2018 04:51:38 pm
Lolo, Montana
goHUNT INSIDER

@Dennis B- thanks for the input, I’ve known of quite a few people using pillow cases in years past. Thank you for reading the article and good luck out there!

Dennis B. - posted 5 months ago on 04-27-2018 02:50:55 pm
Alaska

I have made my own game bags and I have purchased costly bags for both my personal and professional hunts here in Alaska. But for smaller animals like sheep, mountain goats, deer, and caribou where I can legally debone the meat I have settled on military surplus pillow cases. They can be purchased at most any military surplus store for no more than a dollar each, sometimes two for a buck. Search through the available pillow cases so you buy only those without any holes, because those big black flies will find any openings. Each pillow case bag will hold more than twenty five pounds of meat. Remember to bring an extra one for the raw cape. Plenty of my friends have smirked at the thought of using these pillow cases for game bags...until they use this cheap and efficient idea.