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How long can you keep kill in cooler?
Mule Deer
Contributors to this thread:
soccern23ny 07-Jul-21
Paul@thefort 07-Jul-21
Norseman 07-Jul-21
Rgiesey 07-Jul-21
PushCoArcher 07-Jul-21
Jaquomo 07-Jul-21
KsRancher 07-Jul-21
Jasper 07-Jul-21
RK 07-Jul-21
Get it done 07-Jul-21
Inshart 08-Jul-21
sticksender 08-Jul-21
Vonfoust 08-Jul-21
x-man 08-Jul-21
Brotsky 08-Jul-21
JohnMC 08-Jul-21
'Ike' (Phone) 09-Jul-21
JohnMC 09-Jul-21
Pop-r 09-Jul-21
nowheels 09-Jul-21
JSW 09-Jul-21
Pop-r 09-Jul-21
Al Dente Laptop 09-Jul-21
Scar Finga 09-Jul-21
DonVathome 10-Jul-21
TD 10-Jul-21
WVFarrier 10-Jul-21
butcherboy 10-Jul-21
Chuckster 10-Jul-21
Scooby-doo 13-Jul-21
Copperhead 14-Jul-21
From: soccern23ny
How long can a bone in or boned out deer keep in a cooler full of ice?

So I plan to hunt opening day(thursday). However, I have to leave the state on Saturday and won't arrive back until monday, maybe Tuesday. I cooler aged a deer last year for 2 days and had no issues. Curious what's the max I can go?

I have a 110qt cooler, so I can really load it with ice, pop the drain, put the meat in. But will it be close hitting that 5 day mark.... with no one attending to it?

Hints? Suggestions? (I already tried to get the person to reschedule the event ;)

From: Paul@thefort
If it was me and that was the time line and this situation, I would have no problem with boned out meat but I would place each cut or quarter (after the meat has cooled) in a plastic bag to prevent water saturation. I would then place an insulated cover, newpapers, over the ice to slow down melting and then close the lid. One might even tape the lid closed. Place the cooler in the shade. You might also add a few planks of wood to the bottom of the cooler and place the meat on it, to aid in drainage, water and blood. A few chunks of dry ice could be added to the mix but then do not tape the lid closed and keep the dry ice from contacting the meat.

From: Norseman
Paul Knows! X2

From: Rgiesey
We age our game in coolers

From: PushCoArcher
Dry ice is another option.

From: Jaquomo
Cover the cooler with an old sleeping bag and the ice retention will be much longer.

From: KsRancher
I age mine 10-14 days in a cooler on ice. I put in 2 big bags of ice, then put a black contractor bag over it. I put the meat on the bag to keep it from sitting in water. It's Nov-Dec when I do it, so fairly cold outside. I start with 20lbs of bag ice, and will have probably half left after 10-14 days. Meat is always so cold that it makes your hands hurt when processing. And I do quarters, only bone out the trimmings and lions

From: Jasper
I prop my cooler up where it drains and keep it in the shade. Quartered up meat with ice ages well and muscles break down to tenderize. I’ll leave it in a cooler 5 to 7 days.

From: RK
Take it to the ranch house. Put in freezer. Have a drink

From: Get it done
Don’t completely remove drain plug flies will go in and die. Prop one end up slightly so it drains . If you can have someone drive by and check or add ice no problems.

From: Inshart
If you use dry ice, when you pick it up DO NOT transport inside your vehicle, either remove the dry ice or put the cooler in the back of your truck.

From: sticksender
Venison is lean meat with very little interstitial fat, and is tough to spoil when kept on ice. If you keep the ice refreshed and totally surrounding the bagged meat, I've found that keeping it a week is no problem at all. Between 10-14 days, I've found that the surface of the meat will start to get slimy, although it will probably still be usable. Beyond 2 weeks is unknown territory for me, but I'd avoid that if at all possible.

From: Vonfoust
Are you planning on leaving the cooler behind for those days? Why not take the cooler with you and refresh ice as needed, then you've got no problem. I've done more than a week like that in a cheap cooler with no problems. Lots of variables. Outside temps, cooler quality, how fast was the meat in the cooler?

From: x-man
Don't ask me how I know but, you can't keep bones and trimmings in a large cooler for 6 months.......

From: Brotsky
I like to freeze water bottles for cooling down my meat. I have a RTIC cooler full of them when I head out, they last a LONG time if you don't open the lid. Kill your critter, then I layer bottles on the bottom, meat, and then layer of frozen bottles on top and sometimes in between depending on critter size. Works awesome and meat saturation is never a concern. Love this especially for antelope when it's HOT.

From: JohnMC
If you are going to hunt and can't attended to the meat properly after killing it. I'd suggest taking it to a processor having having them cut it for you. Or if you really want to do it, see if they would hang it for you for a fee. I would think most will have the space during archery season. If you are going to kill something you have a responsibility to care for the meat and leaving it in a cooler for close to a week and hope it is ok when you get back to town is not doing that.

JohnMC, a bunch of people just proved it works! They’re not irresponsible!

From: JohnMC
But they stay around to keep a eye one. They don’t leave town for better part of a week the first time they try it. That is my point.

From: Pop-r
In a "cooler full of ice" I'd bet it'd last close to 20 days if it was chilled fairly quickly after the kill. For sure 15.

From: nowheels
You shouldn’t have a problem, especially if you can get it initially chilled. I usually age mine 5-7 days in a cooler before processing and the meat is so cold, I have to be careful to keep my fingers from getting too cold and going numb.

As several have said, get it cool, keep the meat from contacting any water, set it up so it can drain and keep the cooler in a cool location out of the sun and you should be fine.

From: JSW
I've aged well over 100 game animals in a cooler with ice. I've never had a single issue.

If the meat is warm, the ice will melt fairly quickly but once cooled, which you can tell because the ice doesn't melt anymore, it will stay a constant 35 degrees for days, probably weeks. If there is ice in the cooler, the meat is still cold.

If it's not really warm, I will use frozen milk jugs so the meat stays dry. If it's normal August or September weather, I just use whatever ice I can get. I poke a digital thermometer in the meat and check it now and then. Under 40 and all is good.

You can get by for several days with the meat as high as 55 degrees. The key is to get it cooling ASAP.

How long can you keep it in a cooler at 35 degrees? I haven't had the guts to test that. I generally let it age for 7 days. A digital thermometer is a big help and adds to the comfort level.

From: Pop-r
The most popular steak house in my area ages his steaks 28 days as a whole ribeye.

You can make your own blocks of brine, which will last longer than regular ice. Fill gallon jugs within an inch of the top, add in 1/4 cup kosher salt and shake until dissolves. freeze until solid. Use them and bagged ice and you should not have a problem at all. I have used Coleman Extreme coolers and have had ice in them for 8 days, during August. Keep the lid closed and in the shade. Good luck and enjoy your hunt.

From: Scar Finga
I have had meat in the cooler for 10 days, No Problem. Kept it very cold with ice and drained as necessary. I haven't had any problems at all!

From: DonVathome
If you cool meat off quickly a solid week with ice, minimum. Get it cool FAST and keep it cool. 10-12 days is a good guess for where further is iffy.

From: TD
The issue isn't how long you can keep meat on ice. That's an easy week, 10 days, we've done 2 weeks. The issue unattended is how long will your ice hold up. "5 day" coolers are like "0 degree" sleeping bags that weigh 3 pounds.

If you leave the drain open, like stated above, just crack it open enough to drain. Don't take the cap off and leave it. As stated, flies and insects but also the coldest air in the cooler will just flow out like it was water. (watch it with a thermal imager, eye opening....) Make sure meat doesn't slide up and block the drain, that happens too.

Another trick is we use "Hawaiian salt" or rock salt and sprinkle on top and between layers, helps a bit IMO, especially if you aren't going to be able to "rotate" meat and check it. Get a grate or dunnage of some sort to keep it off the bottom. That was a good idea above to bag the meat and should help. I like to put some plastic on top of the meat and then pile the ice thick on top of it. As it melts it runs off the plastic and not down through the meat. You aren't going to keep it "dry" but I don't like it soaking in water either.

Shade, cover it with whatever you can, stash it in a low spot, etc. Again your issue is going to be keeping ice for 5 days, not that iced down meat will keep for 5 days.

From: WVFarrier
I let mine age 4-5 days in a cooler of gas station ice. I put a few small rocks in the bottom then a layer of cardboard and then a layer of plastic. The rocks allow melted ice and blood to collect at the bottom. I also made a small screen to cover the open drain cock

Never had a problem

From: butcherboy
I rarely use bags of ice. I like frozen water bottles, 1/2 gallon milk jugs. Even better is to cut some 2” pvc to fit your cooler for the width and height. Glue a cap on one end, fill with water leaving a space for expansion, glue another cap on and freeze. Just load your cooler up with them and bring a second, or third empty cooler. When you put your meat in an empty cooler you can lay sticks on the bottom, then meat. Shove sticks in all over and around the meat or even a layer on top. No water to mess with. When your done you can leave them in a box ready to regress before your next hunt.

From: Chuckster
Do you guys put the meat in bags or pillow cases or do you just stack the meat inside the cooler? I have a 165qt cooler that keeps ice for 7 days. I built a wooden rack for the bottom that leaves about 5" for ice so it doesn't touch the meat. I put one of my thermometers from the trailer fridge in the cooler. It was 36 degrees inside when I left Kaibab and 42 degrees when I got it to the processor in Phoenix in August about 7 hours later.

From: Scooby-doo
I would do as Paul said but I would add this. Ice the meat for a few hours first to get it totally cooled down than toss that ice and start the process as Paul stated! Shawn

From: Copperhead
I always use jugs of ice. My freezer on the mud porch is full of jugs of ice. As stated above, get that meat cooled down as quickly as you can. If it's cool before you put it in the cooler then you have a much better chance of the ice lasting 5 days with no attention. I also liked all the ideas of extra insulation and shade plus you can put some cloth over the drain to prevent the bugs from getting in there.

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