Sitka Gear
Parting out elk
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
Keepitreal 11-May-24
elkmtngear 11-May-24
Paul@thefort 11-May-24
LUNG$HOT 11-May-24
Paul@thefort 11-May-24
cnelk 11-May-24
smarba 11-May-24
Keepitreal 11-May-24
Corax_latrans 11-May-24
Ron Niziolek 11-May-24
cnelk 11-May-24
Jaquomo 11-May-24
WapitiBob 11-May-24
badbull 11-May-24
Grey Ghost 11-May-24
IdyllwildArcher 11-May-24
Keepitreal 11-May-24
Willieboat 11-May-24
butcherboy 11-May-24
Stix 11-May-24
wyobullshooter 12-May-24
FORESTBOWS 12-May-24
FORESTBOWS 12-May-24
bohunr 12-May-24
BULELK1 12-May-24
Keepitreal 12-May-24
RonP 12-May-24
elkmtngear 12-May-24
Keepitreal 12-May-24
Knifeman 12-May-24
Keepitreal 12-May-24
Mule Power 12-May-24
Groundhunter 12-May-24
Keepitreal 12-May-24
Bowaddict 12-May-24
LUNG$HOT 12-May-24
LUNG$HOT 12-May-24
Groundhunter 12-May-24
Groundhunter 12-May-24
Rob in VT 12-May-24
Keepitreal 12-May-24
HDE 12-May-24
cnelk 12-May-24
cnelk 12-May-24
HDE 12-May-24
HDE 12-May-24
butcherboy 12-May-24
KsRancher 12-May-24
butcherboy 12-May-24
BOHNTR 12-May-24
soccern23ny 13-May-24
Keepitrural 13-May-24
Mt. man 13-May-24
wytex 13-May-24
Groundhunter 13-May-24
FORESTBOWS 13-May-24
Scoot 13-May-24
Keepitrural 13-May-24
Willieboat 13-May-24
From: Keepitreal
11-May-24
I know this is very subjective but curious to know in general how many elk get harvested that were able to get it out whole vs having to be broke down, quartered, parted out. Would also like to know how many debone vs leave bone in for pack out and reasons behind that.

From: elkmtngear
11-May-24
Out of the 16 elk I've harvested, I only took one out whole (we were able to drive right to it).

I usually leave bone in, because I like to hang it in my cold room for a week or so when I get it home, and it's easy to throw the quarters up on a hook so the air can circulate around them. But I have packed elk out off the bone as well.

*** I have had zero spoilage leaving on the bone meat hanging in a tree for up to 3 days***

I always get the meat away from the carcass at least 100 yds (because, bears), and in a place where it is completely shaded all day. Even with daytime highs up to 70 degrees or more, the quarters will be skinned over and cold to the touch when I retrieve them.

From: Paul@thefort
11-May-24

Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
being a solo hunter, and to save all of the meat, I have always deboned and bagged the elk meat, Getting the meat off the bone is critical to prevent meat spoilage. Temp above 35 degrees is the enemy.

From: LUNG$HOT
11-May-24
I’ve only taken one out whole. Was actually last December on a PLO hunt in New Mexico where we could drive to it. All the rest have been quartered and packed out. I prefer bone in so the meat isn’t in a big ball in the bottom of the sack. Your meat will cool faster on the bone rather than in a giant mass in the bottom of a game bag. When hot out on the rear quarters I usually try to cut through some of the seams down to the bone but leave it in tact if that makes sense.

From: Paul@thefort
11-May-24
I remember Larry Jones, bow hunter, in one of his videos, kill a good bull, gutted, skinned it and had to leave it over night., cool that night. Came back the next day and stuck a meat thermometer in the neck and the rear quarter down to the bone. The temp was 70 degrees near the bone. If you debone, place your cuts, ie, back straps, roasts, tenderloins in separate bags so they are not in one or two big bags. When I debone, I place the skinned off part, ie, rear quarter or front shoulder on a log to start the cooling off process. Then I cut the part into muscle groups to further continue the cooling process. I usually end up with 5-6 bags of meat. for easy hanging and packing out. I am not carrying out any bone. Again, I am solo hunting away from the truck and without other help so processing the meat in this way assures the meat will survive until I get in on ice and home. I do the same if I use a packer or by myself.

From: cnelk
11-May-24
Oh c’mon Paul - you hire a packer when you hunt the Flattops.

From: smarba
11-May-24
All my elk (and other game for that matter) have been deboned and packed out on our backs. To address meat being in a hot wad at the bottom of a bag, you can greatly speed up the cooling process by not initially hanging the meat.

Debone, place in bag and lay in shade with the meat separated within the bags. This way each piece can begin cooling while you're still butchering. Even in NM during relatively hot weather, you can get the meat initially cooled from body temp to ~60D in the shade during the day. At night it will cool a lot more, or by then you may have the first load to camp/truck/cooler.

But I firmly believe the initial cool down makes a big difference.

From: Keepitreal
11-May-24
Longshot that makes sense. I've always thought the bone can act like a chimney to help the core of the mass dissipate heat. And I'm sure it's not Paul's first rodeo either. Deboning is beneficial to prevent bone sour in warmer night time temps beyond 3 days of hanging. Bacteria begins to multiply much faster above 45 degrees. I have used meat probes and discovered no matter when the elk is killed the core temp of a bone in quarter does not drop to ambient night time temperature until during the second night of hanging. This of course depends on the size of animal and the daytime temps. In shade of course. I have not been able to test how long it takes for a bag full of deboned meat yet, as I mainly pack out with horses. But I would imagine it would have a faster initial cool down. It would also depend on how much is placed in each bag. But that also can come with the price of some very dried out meat chunks.

11-May-24
Cooling is a matter of surface to volume ratio. A ball (sphere) has the lowest possible surface area; a film has the highest (think about a drop of oil vs a drop of oil floating on water). Everything else is somewhere in between.

Except for the very first one, my brother & I (and now with our nephew) have learned to hang quarters bone-in at some distance from the carcass and pack off the backstraps/tenderloins/organs, then come back and bone everything out before we start packing off the rest of the meat.

Elk bones are awfully heavy to carry any farther than you have to.

From: Ron Niziolek
11-May-24
Quartered and packed out bone in the majority of the time. I’ve never had one spoil on the bone. Occasionally in a real rough area, I’ll take the time to debone.

From: cnelk
11-May-24
In 35 years we’ve taken over 100 elk off the mountains. Never once was one whole.

I’ve used my horses, atv, sleds and mostly pack frames. Most times the elk are quartered with bone in. Rarely do we bone out.

Never had any loss.

Elk meat ain’t ice cream. It doesn’t melt

From: Jaquomo
11-May-24
I've been in on well over 100 elk kills and the only whole ones were a couple when I was guiding on a ranch and the outfitter had a "meat wagon". Otherwise quarter, pack out tobthe nearest vehicle access, hang bone in, sometimes in camp for a week on a shady north facing timber meat pole in the bottom of a creek valley. Cold at night, warming up a little during the day. If it is getting warmer than I like, I wrap an old sleeping bag around the quarters to insulate them. Never had any issues with spoilage, but YMMV.

From: WapitiBob
11-May-24
I've taken 3 out whole, one deboned, all the rest bone in quarters. I'll never debone again.

From: badbull
11-May-24
More Larry Jones advice that I have used is to use a live stream to cool meat. The tricky part of this is keeping the meat dry. When available a mule is invaluable when carrying out big portions of meat as I am pretty sure some on here can attest.

From: Grey Ghost
11-May-24
I was blessed to hunt private land locked BLM, with lots of 2-tracks. Out of the 40-ish bulls we killed, only 5-6 required packing out in pieces.

11-May-24
I process all my own animals myself, so i figure I need to do it anyways and mostly debone on site now, but I've quartered some. I've even boned out several whitetail that were 1/2 mile in, but I quarter out pretty much everything in the field bare minimum.

I think it's a pretty rare thing for an elk to come out whole. It would be a chore for two guys to even get one whole into the back of a truck.

It blows my mind how far guys will drag whitetail. I think it's just a local/traditional/custom sort of thing.

From: Keepitreal
11-May-24

Keepitreal's embedded Photo
Keepitreal's embedded Photo
Idyllwild I think you are on to something with the whitetail crowd. I for one would quarter any animal even if I could get my truck to it. I snapped the pics from a 60s era field and stream. I wasn't alive in that era, but I do think Marlboro gave you the choice of a tent or backpack when you bought a carton of cigarettes.

From: Willieboat
11-May-24
The first couple I ever got my truck to we loaded whole. What a pain in the ass when you go to deal with a whole elk.

Now even if I could drive my truck to them I would part the out first, way less hassle.

But most of the ride on my back bone in , if it’s a real shithole I will go ahead and nock the bone out of the quarters.

From: butcherboy
11-May-24

butcherboy's embedded Photo
butcherboy's embedded Photo
I like to quarter them first and hang it bone in on a game pole. I usually make one first before anything else. I let it cool and then come back the next day and debone the quarters as one whole piece of meat while it’s hanging. I leave with the backstraps and tenderloins the day of the kill.

From: Stix
11-May-24

Stix's embedded Photo
Stix's embedded Photo
Quartered, bone-in here.

12-May-24
Of the 50+ elk we’ve taken, 2 were taken out whole. By dumb luck, they happened to die less than 30 yds from a road. Loaded both of them into the bed of a pickup. Like Willieboat and Ike said, they were both a PITA. The rest have been taken out in quarters, bone in.

12-May-24

FORESTBOWS 's embedded Photo
FORESTBOWS 's embedded Photo
Even with mules we quarter with bone in. Sometimes we have to pack out to a place the mules can get to.

12-May-24

FORESTBOWS 's embedded Photo
FORESTBOWS 's embedded Photo

From: bohunr
12-May-24
Being a meat cutter and having specialized in boneless game cutting for many years, I nearly always bone out my elk.Also had a mobile slaughtering business for many years. I am able to skin,bone out, and bag the meat in about 45 minutes. (I use cotton pillow cases for game bags)When I get back to camp the meat is spread out and covered on the top of my truck in the shade and overnight to cool. Never lost any meat this way. Always seem to be by myself when I get one.

From: BULELK1
12-May-24
I bone mine off.

I can't remember the last time I got an elk out whole?

Good luck, Robb

From: Keepitreal
12-May-24

Keepitreal's embedded Photo
Keepitreal's embedded Photo
I've been using glad wrap for 20 years with no issues. And we've done this on hundreds of elk, deer, bear, moose, and even lions. I've comparison tested with meat probes and it cools at the same rate as any cloth bag. Just have to watch the outside temps and keep it out of the sun of course. I try not to leave it hanging wrapped more than 3 days if it's not dropping below 40 at night. Otherwise I've left them wrapped for two weeks at temps between freezing and 40 at night. Some call it wet aging. When you go to butcher it the quarters are fresh just like you took the hide off. If hanging for more than 3 days one other thing I do is make sure the blood can drain out from the bottom of the quarter by slitting the plastic wrap at the very bottom when hanging.

From: RonP
12-May-24
wow, that is a new one. never heard of anyone using glad wrap. i would think it would trap heat. learn something new every day, or try to.

From: elkmtngear
12-May-24
This is my lightweight game bag solution, been doing this for 20+ years.

From: Keepitreal
12-May-24

Keepitreal's embedded Photo
My Top Hand Tripod sure comes in handy
Keepitreal's embedded Photo
My Top Hand Tripod sure comes in handy
That's a pretty cool way with the ladies leggings. (Pun intended) I'll have to try that sometime.

I suppose the durability might become an issue. It can be with using the glad wrap too with all things considered. But if you layer it right it will take some abuse. I would probably have to just start the leggings before lifting the quarter with my quartering tripod.

I've just always liked how the meat is so fresh and not all dried out with absolutely now way any contaminates can get thru the wrap. I too have had the concern of the meat needing to breathe but there is actually less insulation value to a few layers of plastic wrap vs a layer of cotton or nylon. I never cover the bone and I do think the bone acts as a chimney if there is any concerns of the plastic holding heat in. One test was on and elk killed right at dark. I wrapped one rear in glad wrap and laid it on the ground under a low tree along with the fronts. I used a kuiu bag on the other rear and packed it off the hill to the trail and hung it in a tree. My client brought out the straps and loins. Went back the next morning and the temperature probes in both the rears were identical at 55 degrees. They both cooled the same during that day and we're both at ambient temperature that next night.

From: Knifeman
12-May-24
"It blows my mind how far guys will drag whitetail. I think it's just a local/traditional/custom sort of thing."

Speaking as whitetail hunter in WI, taking out the deer whole, driving it to a registration station with a least a leg being exposed, was the law until a few years ago. They were check stations or gas stations etc. Then they got a metal tag and it was your to process.

I celebrated the change to the new rules, but there a still plenty of guys who want to go back to that system.

From: Keepitreal
12-May-24
Knifeman is right. In a lot of states you couldn't legally part out a deer and pack it out until a few years ago. Now I see the state of Pennsylvania game commission has a YouTube video showing how to do the no gut method on your deer. It is a trend we will only see continue to gain momentum.

From: Mule Power
12-May-24
I’ve packed out a hundred or so. Not one was whole. This is definitely based on my own personal preferences but when I see a guy at a processor with a whole elk in the truck I feel like he didn’t have as good of a hunt as I did in places nearly as beautiful.

I prefer to minimize exposing any surfaces to dirt debris and bacteria. Bone in for me. I would like to hear the opinions of guys who have professionally processed meat on working with whole quarters versus bags of boned out meat. . More work to trim and clean almost certainly resulting in more meat loss. I would educate myself on cooling meat before I boned it out. I’ll deal with the weight of a bone before I go that route.

From: Groundhunter
12-May-24
I don't know, but the Wis DNR, has their regs set up, because of their worry on CWD. The first year quartering a deer into 5 parts was allowed, registration was still required, by taking it to a legal station. Upon doing so, they refused to register it, because I parted it out. They called a game warden. He told them it was legal, but he was in area, and stopped by. He gave me a written warning for leaving lower legs in the woods, it all has to come out..... Now fast forward a few years, we have call in registration, which is great. Although suggested in this year's spring hearings, I don't think going gutless will happen, again because of their CWD concerns.

From: Keepitreal
12-May-24
Groundhunter - So they allow you to break down the deer but make you pack out the spine and even the lower legs? How did you handle the spine in that situation? What about the hide?

From: Bowaddict
12-May-24
Never brought any out whole, and only left bone in quarters on my first bull. Most of the time I’m bringing it out by myself, taking bones out saves quite a bit of weight on my aging back. After you bone out quarters a few times it goes fairly quick.

From: LUNG$HOT
12-May-24
Wow, I’m in the “never seen that before” crowd with the glad wrap. Interesting concept for sure. I’ve always been taught to let the meat breath to mitigate spoilage but sounds like you’ve time tested your method with no issues.

From: LUNG$HOT
12-May-24
Another “controversial” topic with meat care is rinsing off your quarters with water before cutting. I’ve never understood why folks think it’s so bad to give it a rinse then process. I’ve always hung my quarters in the backyard and sprayed off any hair, dirt, pine needles etc. The argument is that moisture produces bacteria and I understand that but there’s tons of moisture in the meat itself which will over time cause decay but hell, I’m not letting it sit out for days on end un-refrigerated.

From: Groundhunter
12-May-24
Keepitreal... I will send you a PM.

From: Groundhunter
12-May-24
Doesn't work. So this was the deal. It was 8 below zero, ML season. Saw him cross a logging road, fresh snow. Easy tracking, shot in the neck while in his bed. 20 min from truck. Went back and got a sled. I simply quarter off front legs and rear quarters, hide on. Cut lower legs at joint, load sled. Went back for now the head to rear , loaded that into sled. Got back to cabin, have a heated shed, so skinned and boned out on table.. worked well. If you cut properly you will only get a little hair on quarters exposed meat, which wipes off easily with a clean cloth and warm water. The hide protects the meat, but in this case, with snow, it would not matter. I have in the past in another state simply cut the body in half, with hide on. Simply cut carefully and clean dividing the back straps, then with one swipe, the spin is cut in half. For that chore, I use my all around cleaver, made by Knives of Alaska. I used it on a moose, and my guide was impressed with that tool.

From: Rob in VT
12-May-24
I have been part of 15 elk kills. Of those, only two came out whole that we could get a truck or side by side to. All the others were packed out on the bone.

From: Keepitreal
12-May-24
Yeah my thoughts with quartering a deer on the back 40 in sub zero temps lean towards the heated shop and is probably a major reason why most WT hunters drag deer out, and in doing so get nice and warm themselves.

But I like to be adventurous. Build a fire and enjoy the moment. You also have a nice warm animal to keep the hands toasty while breaking it down. I've never enjoyed skinning and quartering a cold half froze elk. I'd much rather take the time to part it out fresh if the circumstance warrants it.

Never been a big fan of hair on the meat. Or fly larvae which is almost instantaneous in most elk country in September. But I have noticed that hanging the quarters right away seems to somehow deter the flies. Even just 3 feet off the ground I notice a big difference as to just laying them on the ground.

From: HDE
12-May-24
Have taken them out whole, quartered, and boned out.

Depends on where they're shot. I will never pack out a quarter with bone in [again] on my back.

From: cnelk
12-May-24

cnelk's embedded Photo
cnelk's embedded Photo
I looked up a thread I made on another forum back in 2017.

*** I thought it would be a good idea to weigh the quarters, as there are several threads discussing that

Here are the weights - bone in/leg cut off at knee

Loose meat [backstraps/tenderloins] - 23lbs

Front shoulder - 34 lbs each

Hind quarter - 51lbs each

Total = 193lbs

The meat is fresh and cool. Less than 24hrs from field to home***

From: cnelk
12-May-24
*** Four quarters all boned out

Total weight = 23lbs [bones only]

Im not going to quibble over a pound here or there, what meat should be or shouldnt be taken, as long as its all within the law.****

From: HDE
12-May-24

HDE's embedded Photo
HDE's embedded Photo
HDE's embedded Photo
HDE's embedded Photo
Sometimes whole...much cleaner, especially when you can skin and clean them in a shop.

From: HDE
12-May-24

HDE's embedded Photo
HDE's embedded Photo
And sometimes boned. One solid piece of meat is no different to keep clean than keeping the bone in, minus the extra weight that does add up.

From: butcherboy
12-May-24
^^^ I’m not sure but something about that shop looks familiar! ;)

From: KsRancher
12-May-24
Never seen a shop with rails :)

From: butcherboy
12-May-24
You will in a meat processing shop/plant.

From: BOHNTR
12-May-24

BOHNTR's embedded Photo
BOHNTR's embedded Photo
AZ style

From: soccern23ny
13-May-24
Only 2 elk. Both quartered and bone in. Killed when it was below 32deg.

I don't think I'd ever bone out. Sure it would save weight but that's more time spent cutting meat in the dirty field while trying to keep stuff clean.

From: Keepitrural
13-May-24
Bohntr. That's a great example, and a nice bull. I realize you get more yield by taking the whole carcass out. But I'll say this with gentle effect, that looks like more work in the long run.

From: Mt. man
13-May-24
Been in on a few......LOL 1. 1 boned out and I hope to never do that again. Did not care for the process at all. The taste was way OFF as well. Setup on the bone, way better. 2. A doz. took out in 1/2 or whole (mostly extra cow meat tags on private land) 3. Preferrred by far is 1/4 with bone in. Hang in walk-in cooler for 7+ days. I am my own processor/burger maker. So the meat set up on the bone is best. My whole family gets in on processing our Elk. Probably been in on processing over 80 Elk over the years this way. The DeWalt sawzall is a welcome addition to our quarting method. I throw that sucker in my pack when heading in for a pack job. Zoom Zoom The new compact one does great!

From: wytex
13-May-24

wytex's embedded Photo
wytex's embedded Photo
Gutless and quartered out. Remove lower leg bones to save some weight. Heck, quarters put on top of a sage bush in 60 degree weather will get those quarters cooling off fast, air movement does it even when warm out.

Wyoming way with quartered elk. We had 2 up on the atv with the elk for about a 2 mile ride out.

From: Groundhunter
13-May-24
I have shot 5 elk. Now only go on cow hunts. All my elk came out. With ATV or saddle mule. After my first solo elk hunt, I had one down in 2 hours. After that, I said not again. Met local wrangler who packed out for me. After 2 years of learning the ropes and care, he rented them to me. I liked them.mules

13-May-24

FORESTBOWS 's embedded Photo
FORESTBOWS 's embedded Photo
Yes sir

From: Scoot
13-May-24
I've done a few bone in. 90% deboned and much prefer it that way.

From: Keepitrural
13-May-24
So I'm getting about 50/50 bone in vs debone. And probably 95% archery elk harvests need to be broken down to get them out.

And some nice scenery from Forest.

I would think the percentage of whole elk would be a bit more in the rifle seasons. But probably not much more than 30% total. Private lands will always have better access with vehicle, ATV or tractor. If we were to factor in the story behind the hunt I would likely switch the channel as soon as the motorized equipment chapter is opened.

From: Willieboat
13-May-24

Willieboat's embedded Photo
Willieboat's embedded Photo
Pack a load drink a beer rinse and repeat

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