If you're a big game hunter, you should know about the fabulous Sagen Saw. It's a practical tool, and it's not glamorous or expensive. It's been on the market for a few years now, and Sagen recently came out with a larger version designed for elk and moose. The original only weighs a couple of ounces, is perfect for deer and black bears, and it generally sells for about $20.
As you might have guessed from the picture, the Sagen Saw is a tool for cutting bone—specifically a deer's pelvic bone and sternum. Some hunters don't cut either when field-dressing a deer, but most choose to cut the pelvis, the sternum or both. (For me, doing so can make certain other steps much easier.) One of these little gadgets—and I'm not usually one for gadgets—is by far the easiest and safest way to get the job done. And if you use a Sagen Saw, you'll then be able to carry a smaller, sharper knife that stays sharp because you're not using it to cut bone.
Looking for a tip to help you get to the point in the hunt (ie: a little tip to help you kill more deer and bears) where you'll need to use a Sagen Saw? Check out this video about making your own scent elimination suit.
Cutting a deer's pelvis or sternum with a knife is not easy—especially if it's a larger, older deer that has heavier bones. I've heard of hunters breaking the tips of their knives, and sometimes bruising their palm or the heel of their hand, by pounding on the end of the knife handle. Some hunters use a rock or a stick to pound on their knife, which is a good way to damage its handle, break off its tip and shower a partially opened deer carcass with dirt, gravel, wood chips or insects.
I've even heard of hunters using a hatchet, which at best would lead to lots of bone splinters and sharp edges that will later be a hazard for you or your butcher. Plus, it just seems unnecessarily barbaric. The same is true, in my opinion, for a whole array of innovative, heavy-duty and just plain heavy gadgets that are designed to pry, scissor or hack through these bones.
The Sagen Saw also solves another problem: Just beneath that pelvic bone are internal organs you do not want to cut. If you're using a knife, that can be difficult to avoid. But with the Sagen Saw, it's no problem. That little plastic bumper on the end of the saw bumps against the bladder and intestines without puncturing them. This helps you avoid adding new, unexpected "flavors" to your venison.
One final advantage is safety. When using a knife to make these cuts, some hunters straddle the deer, bend over and pull the knife toward themselves. While this is a very bad idea, it would be awkward and difficult to make these cuts while pushing the knife away from yourself. Just give it an imaginary try right now, and you'll see what I mean. (Go ahead, even if you're reading this at the office. You're alone in your cubicle. No one's around. Try it right now. Pretend that's a deer down there on the carpet. Get out your imaginary knife and give it a try ...).
So, when your knife slips, or when it cuts the rest of the way through unexpectedly, you'd better be able to stop its progress fast. Good luck. More than one hunter has severed a femoral artery in this fashion (their own, not the deer's), bled to death in seconds, and then later been found lying dead next to a partially eviscerated deer. Don't do that. Instead, for an easier, safer method … try the Sagen Saw.
Al Cambronne is the author of Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter's Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison. His most recent book is Deerland: America's Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness. On Twitter: @AlCambronne.