3Rivers Archery Supply
Meat care from field to freezer?
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
Lark Bunting 19-Sep-17
jordanathome 19-Sep-17
HDE 19-Sep-17
HDE 19-Sep-17
BackStraps 19-Sep-17
Ermine 19-Sep-17
HockeyDad 19-Sep-17
Ucsdryder 19-Sep-17
Lark Bunting 20-Sep-17
HDE 20-Sep-17
Glunt@work 20-Sep-17
jordanathome 20-Sep-17
APauls 20-Sep-17
Sage Buffalo 20-Sep-17
HockeyDad 21-Sep-17
Elkwhisperer 21-Sep-17
HDE 21-Sep-17
Lark Bunting 21-Sep-17
Ermine 22-Sep-17
butcherboy 23-Sep-17
butcherboy 23-Sep-17
trackman 23-Sep-17
HDE 23-Sep-17
DonVathome 23-Sep-17
TD 23-Sep-17
HDE 23-Sep-17
HDE 23-Sep-17
TD 23-Sep-17
butcherboy 24-Sep-17
butcherboy 24-Sep-17
From: Lark Bunting
19-Sep-17

Lark Bunting's embedded Photo
Piled up on logs to keep air circulating around game bags.
Lark Bunting's embedded Photo
Piled up on logs to keep air circulating around game bags.
I apologize for the length of this but I love learning and you guys have a ton of experience that I value!

I searched "Meat care" back 5 pages to see if there was already a thread that would help me out but I didn't see what I was looking for. I apologize if this is a repeat but I would like to learn from the experts.

The simple facts: truck was at trail head, camp was 2 miles in, dead elk was 3.125 miles in. We were scheduled to be there from Saturday - Monday.

I'm hoping you can tell me exactly what you do from Field to Freezer. I will share my recent experience, and I have been told that we didn't have to rush and worry ourselves like we did. We packed an elk out all night and it made for a miserable time. Yes, it was worth it, but it was seriously miserable.

We were up at 5:00 AM on Saturday, drove 5.5 hours, packed in 2 hours. My bull was shot at 5:20 at night. It ran 27 yards and crashed but we waited about 20 minutes before looking for the arrow, blood, and actually saw the elk dead at 5:40 PM. Photos, a brief conversation, retrieving packs from the place of the shot took about 20 minutes and we began the field dressing in the field around 6:00. I had never done the boneless method and was learning from a newbie as well. The first load of meat was coming off the mountain around 10:00 PM and we were just over 3 miles to the truck where I had my large cooler stuffed with frozen jugs of water and two old sleeping bags to help insulate.

It took us 2.5+ hours to get to the truck and 2+ hours to hike back to the site. We began packing just after 10:15 PM and got the last load of meat to the truck at 6:30 AM (Out, in, Out). We slept for 3 hours and had to go back in to retrieve camp and the bull's head/antlers. We never slept in camp and chose to rest for the few hours at the truck at the trail head. We were absolutely dead at 6:30 AM, dehydrated, sore, blistered, and quite frankly at that time I had regretted shooting. (Yeah, I was being a bit of a baby but I'm being honest here)

The bull died in a small creek in dark timber. My initial impression was that we could hang the meat over the creek or create a lattice of logs over the creek and leave them until morning, while we packed out our first load and hiked back into camp. This would have put us in camp around 2:30 AM. Still not a great night sleep.

The other option was to hang it all over the creek and head to camp around 10:15 PM, in camp around 11:15 and a good night sleep after a back strap steak and a shot of whiskey. That would have left the meat hanging over night, over a creek in the shade but we'd have had to pack meat out all day on Sunday in 80° heat.

One last option (but not very likely since our camp was fairly open and no creek near by ) was to pack all the meat the 1.125 miles back and forth to camp and deal with it in the AM. I didn't like this option since it was hot outside.

I'm not sure what exactly I'm looking for here or if I'd actually change anything at all, I just wanted to hear your thoughts on this since I'm taking my son back up this weekend. I've never been so nervous to have elk encounters as I feel we may have a pretty good shot at another elk. I say that since at one point we had 5 elk bugling around us while my bull was down. We had a bull come inside 15 yards as we were field dressing my bull and while I went to retrieve the head on Sunday my buddy and son were in camp packing up and had a 4x4 bull come inside 12 yards from where they were resting on a log. This area is littered with elk! I want to make sure that if we get another down that we make the correct decision on getting it back to the cooler without causing undue stress.

Field to Freezer:

Once I got home with the elk all deboned and in the cooler full of frozen jugs I knew I'd be okay that night but began butchering it the next morning. I worked on meat all day. That's when I met up with a member here (dropping off my elk head to get euromount cleaned) and he told me to not rush the process and that I was okay to throw it in the freezer and thaw out pieces and process it as time allowed.

At this point I now have about 3/4 of the elk processed down to steaks, roasts and scraps for grind/jerky, all packaged up nicely and about 1/4 of the elk in a game bag inside of a trash bag in the bottom of my freezer.

As I mentioned before, I am quite new to ALL of this and I really enjoy learning from the pro's. I value your knowledge and experience so please share your thoughts!!!

Sincerely,

Tom

From: jordanathome
19-Sep-17
It ain't hot anymore.......much better weather for hanging and packing out meat now. Snow forecast in my spot Sat/Sun at under 10K.

I like the idea of hanging near or over the creek. I even had heavy trash bags for the early season to potentially bag the meat and hang in a spring pond to cool. The logs over the creek (with spacing for air movement) is a really interesting idea if there is sufficient shade during the day. Aspen groves are great...often in damp cool areas and lots of shade....just tie up and hang against the trunks.

From: HDE
19-Sep-17

HDE's embedded Photo
Hang, let cool, and "set" meat
HDE's embedded Photo
Hang, let cool, and "set" meat

From: HDE
19-Sep-17

HDE's embedded Photo
Debone while still hanging to keep clean
HDE's embedded Photo
Debone while still hanging to keep clean
Drop deboned meat into plastic bag as it comes off in one big chunk. Then place plastic bag in a cloth game bag for packing out.

From: BackStraps
19-Sep-17
There will be lots of opinions on the pack out. None are wrong. Your method worked, but you definitely had more time if you needed it. Matter of preference to tear the band-aid off all night, or take your time and hike in some heat the next day.

I'll focus more on the butchering. Why did you feel the need to freeze it so quickly? Meat is better when it has aged 5-10 days. Put your game bags in the refrigerator and rest up for a week. Then get back to-it and take 3 or 4 days to cut it up. It isn't going to spoil, and the taste/tenderness will improve.

From: Ermine
19-Sep-17
It was and still is very hot in Colorado. I get the meat out as soon as possible. I usually then put in a cooler and process right away.

This year however I deboned and put the meat in a freezer until I can get to it in a few weeks because I was busy with some other hunts

I'm not convinced aging is for wild game. I think aging is good for beef and meat with marble fat. But wild game I think is best processed quick

From: HockeyDad
19-Sep-17
No wrong way as long as the meat gets cool as quickly as possible, and that's gonna happen by hanging it with airflow on all sides in the coolest spot you can find within reason. And if its hot - Make sure the quarters are in good quality game bags during the day to keep the flies from laying eggs on the meat. If you have a creek nearby, take the bags off at nightfall and wash them to let them dry overnight - and Bag the quarters up again at daybreak.

You did great by having the coolers and frozen jugs in the truck! I even use the Pink 2" foam to line my coolers (Cheap coleman) and the sleeping bag to cover it. It will keep 10 jugs frozen for over 7 days in the truck bed under the topper sitting in the sun.

Only thing I can suggest is to watch a few more of the videos on the gutless method. 4 hours is quite a lot of time to get that elk broken down even for rookies. With 2 people that have done it before, it shouldn't take much longer than 45 minutes to get it broken down in bags and hung nearby. Always bring along 1 extra game bag, and use it and the existing hide to protect the meat from the ground/dirt.

From: Ucsdryder
19-Sep-17
Last year I hung them overnight under a huge fur tree without bags. The crust the next morning was outstanding and they were cool. Stayed all day and night before I got them all out. When I got them to the car I hung them in bags over a creek just above the water. Took 2 days to get the elk out in 70 degree temps. Meat was amazing.

From: Lark Bunting
20-Sep-17
Thanks everyone for the input, I have a few follow up questions:

HDE, why do you use plastic then cloth bags in that order? Seems the plastic prevents any more air from reaching the meat to cool but I could be wrong. Also, how long are you hanging the legs once removed? I am curious to learn more about bone sour if they are left for too long.

Backstraps, I wasn't going to freeze everything right away but when I was home working on the meat it was 93° at 10:30 am in the shade of my garage and I had flies attacking every scrap of exposed meat/puddle. I ended up moving the processing to my finished basement and using folding tables on stilts to raise them up to a better working surface height. I had hoped to get it all done but there was no way. I thought I could turn my freezer down to a low setting to use as a refrigerator but lost confidence in that idea so I just cranked it up and froze everything. Also, I don't have an extra fridge for meat...maybe something I can add in the future. (Between the regular fridge, two mini-fridges, the freezer and hoping to have a kegerator soon...another fridge is pushing it.)

Ermine, You have everything boned out and frozen, what is your plan from there; defrost everything and butcher all at once or bag by bag?

HockeyDad, I use Alaskan game bags that I was planning on washing but I gave up on that idea. I threw them all out and I'll replace. My son has his set for this next hunt and they are strong, unlike the cheap pieces of crap from Walmart. I had one rip through...it was my "extra" bag I threw in my kit and my son used it first. -Good advice on watching more gutless/bone-out methods. I don't know why it took so dang long. The position the bull was in sucked but we had access to everything...just being overly careful I guess? I hope to improve my speed this weekend with my son's elk!

From: HDE
20-Sep-17
Lark, as soon as the legs are removed from the carcass it starts to cool, infact, as soon as the hide is removed it begins to cool. Hanging meat overnight allows it to cool as much as it will. Putting in plastic first is about as good a barrier as you can get for cleanliness, the cloth overtop of that is a protective barrier for the plastic.

When packing out, the meat will usually never be bagged up more than two hours. If you have to leave it for a long period of time for another load, take out of the plastic and hang (or place) in the shade.

Bone sour happens when the animal is not cooled out within a reasonable timeframe. It doesn't happen once it has been cooled. I have seen elk with bone sour in Dec because they field dressed and put it in a snow bank thinking it would cool it better...

From: Glunt@work
20-Sep-17
If using trash bags at any point, lawn or contractor bags are best as they have no added scent or insecticide. I have used them to keep clean but not more than a couple hours getting quartered and packed out.

From: jordanathome
20-Sep-17
Meat with a high fat content benefits from aging.....elk is not a high fat content meat and but can benefit from aging more than several days and temp makes all the difference.

Below is borrowed, not mine:

The First 48 Hours After Your Harvest: This is when rigor mortis is going in, and then out again. When it’s in, the carcass that was once loosey-goosey is now as stiff as a board. If you let the carcass freeze now, your steaks and roasts will be tough – even if you started out with a tender, little forkhorn. And it doesn’t matter if it froze on the meat pole, by accident, or in your freezer. It’s what meat scientists call “thaw rigor.” It’s permanent, so no amount of moist cooking will cure it. So be patient. Let the rigor run its course. The animal will get stiff, then less stiff. Then you can freeze it.

The Next 48 hours: Rigor should be out now, and it’s time to make a decision. Cut a piece of shoulder steak off and cook it. If it’s not as tender as you’d like (and it didn’t suffer ‘thaw rigor’) now is the time to tenderize by aging.

Tenderize By Aging: But How Long? Temperature effects aging. At 80 degrees, it gallops. At 20 degrees, it crawls. In a perfect world, you’d age the meat at 33 to 36 degrees, until it’s as tender as it can get. We aged a tough, old elk tenderloin in the fridge one year to test time and temperature (a constant 36). Two to 3 days did almost nothing; 7-10 days saw a tremendous difference. After that, there was improvement, but it was minimal. It was time to put him in the freezer.

After Aging, How Can You Tell If Your Animal Is Tender Enough? Cut a steak from the shoulder, quick-fry it, or put it on the grill – but only to medium-rare, at most. (Dry-cooking steaks beyond medium-rare toughens them, too.)

If they are tender enough, wrap each skinned quarter in a layer of freezer paper, then let them sit in the freezer 6 to 8 hours. By then they’ll be firmed up and ready to cut.

Cutting while the carcass is pretty frozen is the easiest way to do that. Plus, frozen meat is much easier to control, so you can cut uniform pieces. Later you’ll find it’s easier to cook steaks to the exact temperature if they’re all the same thickness

From: APauls
20-Sep-17
Not sure what the chemical process is that happens, but I know that you never want to store meat on meat. What I mean by that is two separate pieces of meat that you've cut off should not be touching.

From: Sage Buffalo
20-Sep-17
You did the right thing because even if you rested you were going to pay for hiking in 80 degree temps with heavy loads. It was going to suck either way.

I am a firm believer in getting it gutted and in a ice chest ASAP. Then you have time to butcher it as long as you have ice in the chest.

Do not age wild game if it's over 2 1/2 yo as it really won't do much for it and if it's over 5+ years just plan on roasts and burgers. No 5+ yo wild animal is going to be tender - note that's not to say it won't be tasty as roasts/burger. Now some will argue they had tender steaks from a old bull - well I wouldn't trust their pallet. When beef is aged 99% of it is from 1 1/2- 2 1/2 yo animals.

From: HockeyDad
21-Sep-17

HockeyDad's embedded Photo
HockeyDad's embedded Photo
Tom, Ditch the Alaskan Game bags and go for a good quality game bag that can be reused. Caribou, TAG, or KUIU all offer good quality game bags. I have used all 3 with great results. as a matter of fact, in 2016 I had my elk quarters (in KUIU bags) hanging next to my friends in Alaskan Game Bags.... Hi allowed the flies to lay eggs on the meat ( not on the bag, but inside and on the meat!!!!). I know that was a side by side with KUIU and Alaskan, but I have used the Caribou and TAG in archery season warm weather and not had a fly problem as well. I have used the KUIU on 3 elk now, and the TAG on 3 elk and 2 deer. Caribou on one Elk. No major issues with any of the 3. Small nits are the TAG bags started to pull at the seam, so I moved to Caribou (even though a bit heavier - were talking grams here) then KUIU came out with their bags and I really like them. No seam issues and they attach to my pack really easily...

Attached a pic... Legs were cut off before the pack out, but it was about 80 degrees and needed to get it hung and cooling before worrying about hacking off some lower legs!

From: Elkwhisperer
21-Sep-17
Not sure how it could take 2 guys 4 hours to butcher an elk, even if they are rookies. Definitely watch a few videos on deboning an elk. I would never place meat in a plastic bag even if you are just trying to keep it clean. Plastic bags hold all the heat inside and doesn't allow it to cool. Game bags are definitely the way to go as they keep it clean as well as allow it to cool down. It'll keep it clean as long as you handle it carefully and aren't setting it on the ground too much. The biggest issue is to get the meat cooled down in the first 24 hours after the kill. Doesn't have to be a cooler just cooled down.

From: HDE
21-Sep-17
Let me clarify something: you ONLY put meat in plastic bags AFTER the meat is already COOLED out.

An extra barrier for packing out COOL meat is never a bad idea...

From: Lark Bunting
21-Sep-17
Elkwhisperer, I don't have a good answer as to why it took that long. I have watched hours of videos on field dressing and have done a deer before but we packed her out with the bones in, minus the knees down.

Granted, its position wasn't in the best spot being stuck in a small creek but we worked non-stop. One thing I'd do differently is remove the quarters and hang, then debone. We were deboning with everything on the animal. I will research more and be better prepared next time, that's for sure.

From: Ermine
22-Sep-17
Yea I plan to unthaw the meat and process it. I wouldn't have done that but it was hot out and I was busy so I chose to freeze.

Interesting on the let 48 hours pass and rigor run its course before freezing. I killed the bull. Deboned it and then put it in a freezer. So probably made it tough but gonna grind it up so might not matter

From: butcherboy
23-Sep-17

butcherboy's embedded Photo
hanging to allow meat to cool
butcherboy's embedded Photo
hanging to allow meat to cool

From: butcherboy
23-Sep-17

butcherboy's embedded Photo
processed and ready to go in the freezer
butcherboy's embedded Photo
processed and ready to go in the freezer

From: trackman
23-Sep-17
Why do you pack out the hoof ??

From: HDE
23-Sep-17

HDE's embedded Photo
HDE's embedded Photo
It's not...

From: DonVathome
23-Sep-17
Just the fact you thought this much about tells me you are on the right track! Cooling quickly is important. Contractor garbage bags submerged in a creek works great! Branches over a creek seems like a good idea, I have done it, but not a lot better then in cold air at night then covering during the day. Invest in a $5-$10 thermal temp reader. NICE!

From: TD
23-Sep-17
Some places you aren't going to be able to hang bare meat out like that in the daytime. Flies and wasps are going to be all over it. It is a great way to debone though. We will hang one at a time and debone that, falls right into a game bag. Then hang it. Leave plenty of room in the bag so you can "shuffle" the deboned meat inside so all pieces can be exposed to the air at one point. The bags will absorb some moisture as well, as they dry out the evaporation helps cool things too. If plenty of water is handy it helps to moisten the bag a bit to help with cooling when it's real hot out. If not real hot the meat will cool out just fine all by itself. Like they said above.... main thing is get the hide off the meat and the meat off the animal.

Packing out? It sucks no matter when you do it or how. If a good trail I kinda like at night when it's hot. If you're in a pick-up-sticks piles of blowdown I like to do that in the daytime so you can see your route better. You'll want smaller loads in that stuff too.

From: HDE
23-Sep-17
The pic(s) I posted above were from SE Utah, where the overnight temp was in the low 50's and daytime temps in the mid to upper 70's, the Tues after Labor Day. The elk was shot around 8 A.M. and hung by 10.

The boned out pic was taken by 8 A.M., 24 hrs later. Most of the time in the early morning, the yellowjackets aren't around much and most of the flies will hang around the carcass a few feet away (more heat).

I can see how lower elevations could create a problem. I suppose one could place the "cheaper" game bags on it as the quarters cool.

What is done in the first few hours is crucial to the outcome of what kind of table fare it will be.

From: HDE
23-Sep-17
One more thing, fly eggs will be in the moist parts such as wound channels and folds. Look at those places when boning/packing later that day or the next day - trim them out and you'll be fine.

Expect it, don't freak out about it. They won't be maggots for a few more days, if any, as the heat really isn't there anymore.

From: TD
23-Sep-17
Those AK game bags are OK if the meat is hung bone in and then the bag slid over, draped around it and tied off. They will keep flies off the meat as the bag touches the meat very little, it will air out well. But they do not hold weight very well. Putting boned out meat in them and then hanging by the bag is asking for trouble. The fabric stretches really bad, the small mesh becomes larger mesh and they lay eggs right though it.

Really like the Caribou bags. Those things are tough, don't dry rot like cotton and wash up really nice.

From: butcherboy
24-Sep-17
Flies and bees will be on it at first but once the outside dries the flies don't hang around. I make sure and make my meat pile at least 15-20 feet away from the carcass and the flies will be attracted to it more. Once the meat cools out overnight the bees won't bother it much either. Any fly eggs won't hatch on the dried meat in the exposed air but can inside a game bag if they laid eggs in a moist part or in a fold of the meat.

We have been cooling meat out overnight for years and it works great.

From: butcherboy
24-Sep-17

butcherboy's embedded Photo
One side done and ready to roll over. Notice all the rib meat is cut off in one big piece
butcherboy's embedded Photo
One side done and ready to roll over. Notice all the rib meat is cut off in one big piece

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