How To Properly Care For Your Meat In The Field
Getting the meat cooled is priority number one when processing your animal. Depending on outside circumstances, this is easier said than done. If it is 70+ degrees outside you may have a mere hour or two before your meat begins the spoiling process.
The “Gutting” Method – Old School?
There are varying practices and degrees of effectiveness in which you can process your harvest. The most popular, and in my opinion the least effective, is gutting your animal. Yes, pulling the guts out does aid in cooling down the meat, but it is a slow process. Gutting your animal also becomes irrelevant if you pull the guts and then toss the carcass in the back of your truck for several hours before you get home to hang it or take it to a processor. This is especially true if it is 60+ degrees outside. The hide is not only trapping in heat, but the side of the animal touching the bed of your truck has zero ventilation. If you do decide to gut your animal, try and place the carcass over a log or something similar so air is circulating around it completely. When possible, place a stick between the two hind legs propping them open, this allows air to circulate inside the body cavity.
The “Gutless” Method
The best option for dissipating heat quickly is to do what is commonly referred to as the gutless method. There are various “how-to” videos on YouTube that you can refer to on how this is done. The gist is you pull all four quarters, the backstraps, and tenderloins off the carcass without having to gut your animal. The gutless method is superior to gutting your animal for three reasons. First, getting the hide off the meat allows for it to cool much quicker. Second, you do not have a carcass to dispose of when you get home and you will end up quartering your animal in the end anyways. Third, because the meat is in pieces, you have the ability to put your meat right into a cooler full of ice. The gutless method will also save your back as you will be able to haul the meat out in pieces as opposed to the arduous and often back breaking task of dragging your animal.
Keep it CLEAN
When pulling the meat off the carcass be diligent in keeping the meat clean. Pluck what hair you can off the meat and avoid the meat touching the dirt when possible. Also be careful when cutting around the guts. You do not want to puncture the guts and spill its contents onto your meat. If you do, clean it off quickly including trimming the part of the meat off that the stomach contents touched. The contents in the stomach contain bacteria that will speed up the spoiling process and taint your meat with an unpleasant smell and taste. Side note: if you take meat into a professional butcher, they often will not accept meat with a large amount of hair and dirt on it, so keep it clean!
Air Circulation is Key
After pulling a quarter, put the meat in a breathable game bag so it stays clean and immediately hang it in a tree or place over a bush (believe it or not, there are game bags that do not breathe and will aid in spoiling your meat). This will allow air to completely circulate around the chunk of meat. Even when it is warm outside, you will be thoroughly surprised how quickly your meat will cool once it is pulled off the carcass and air circulates around it. Also, when possible, hang your meat in the shade. Doing so will drastically speed up the cooling process.
Debone Your Meat
Once you have pulled all edible portions of meat from the carcass you have a decision to make. If you are deep in the backcountry, and won’t be back to the truck for a day or two, there are a couple of tricks you can employ that will keep your meat from spoiling. First, you will need to pull the meat off the bone. The bones, especially the femur in the hind quarters, hold a lot of heat. If not cooled quickly or taken out, bones can begin to spoil your meat from the inside out. Once the meat is deboned, hang in a tree where you will have shade all day. When possible, hang in the bottom of a canyon near running water—the air is cooler and you should have a constant breeze. Keep in mind if it is not getting below 50 degrees at night, you need to get that meat off the mountain and into a cooler of ice as quickly as possible.
Keep Your Meat Dry
Keeping the meat dry is also essential. When you get the meat to ice, place in a plastic sack if the meat is completely cooled. This allows the meat to stay out of standing water. Be cautious when placing meat in a plastic sack if not completely cooled. There is no ventilation in plastic, thus trapping in any heat that might still be in the meat. Preferably, freeze several one gallon milk jugs before the hunt. That way the moisture is trapped in the bottles and you not have to place meat in a plastic bag at all. Another trick is to place ice, loose or blocks, at the bottom of the cooler and create a rack above the ice. You can create a rack with logs and sticks or find some other sort of metal rack to fit inside. This way your meat continues to cool but stays free of the melting ice.
Hunting Gear Checklist
Now as another hunting season is within grasp, we hope all BaseMap users make new memories and the most of this time of year. Hunting season is far too precious and opportunities too few and far between for mental errors and mistakes.
Some hunters have a meticulous strategy for packing their hunting gear, while others have been known to be forgetful and scatterbrained. BaseMap wants every user to set foot in the woods on opening morning as prepared as possible and with every piece of gear they need.
To ensure this, we have created a list of all the most important gear in our packs we cannot hunt without. We have included gear we personally always make sure is loaded and ready to go on opening day. But because all hunters are not the same, we also left some blank spots for you to add in any important gear you don’t see on the list. Enjoy!