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Game Care Tips

Tip #1

Make absolutely sure your animal cools properly. All animal carcasses need to be cooled out within 3 to 6 hours after the kill. Following the guidelines below will greatly help to reduce or eliminate “soured” meat from an improperly chilled game animal.

a) Be positive you remove all of the Wind Pipe and Esophagus from the entire throat area. This is most easily done by saw splitting the brisket and cutting the hide along the throat. Also of equal importance is the careful and complete removal of the Bung and Bladder from the rear end. Saw cutting the pelvis (aitch) bone can make this easier.

b) If you must drag your animal on bare ground, don’t open them up anymore than necessary for proper gutting until you reach your vehicle. Then cut and spread them open as much as possible. Keep in mind the 3 to 6 hour carcass cooling factor in all instances.

c) After proper gutting, wash out the body cavity with water or snow. Always carry a 5 gal. water container in your vehicle for this purpose. It does little good to wash out an animal after they have cooled completely and the blood has glazed.

d) In warm weather on large animals such as elk and moose, it is mandatory to split the entire length of the spine for cooling unless you are less than 4 hours away from a processor’s cooler. Cutting these large animals in half cross ways (front quarters intact & hind quarters intact) does absolutely nothing in helping to cool out the carcass. The heavy and thick neck and shoulder area is the hardest to chill in the field and requires splitting of the spine. Pulling off the shoulder blades can release some body heat but not in the most critical area of the neck and top of the shoulders. Removing the blades opens the carcass for more unnecessary contamination and can do more harm than good. Splitting an animal with a buck saw, hatchet and hammer or 2 hatchets can be done still leaving the hide on the carcass for protection.

e) Skinning a large animal during warm weather will help cool only the exterior of the carcass. It will do little towards properly releasing the body heat from the internal critical areas of the neck and top of the shoulders. Skinning can do more harm than good do to the meat lost to contamination and drying.

f) If the animal is to be mounted don’t make any cuts in the throat area. The cape can be removed and the spine still split as described above for cooling. If capping is not an option, the shoulder and neck area can be split from the top of the neck and back from outside the carcass down the spine. This cut is made on the hide when capping anyway. Prop open this area for the best circulation of air and escape of body heat.

g) Even in cooler weather, souring can occur. Don’t leave a large animal lying directly on the ground overnight, even on snow. Get their back up over a log, etc. so that the cool air can circulate under them as well.

h) If completely boning a whole carcass is your only option for retrieval, take great care in trying to keep the primal muscles and trim meat clean! Take along a lightweight plastic tarp just for such purposes. Keep all muscles intact as possible. Make sure that all of the meat has cooled thoroughly before putting it in a backpack, panniers or any other enclosed container for transport. Meat can sour in these just as easily.

I) Don’t leave snow inside an animal for cooling purposes. Snow is a great insulator and will block the internal body heat from escaping. A couple blocks of ice inside an animal cavity are ok as long as there is still a circulation of air around them. Submerging an animal in a creek, pond or river is a controversial way of cooling a carcass. Water, like snow can also be an insulator. Both cool only the exterior surfaces that they are in contact with while the heat remains in the center of the thicker muscles & bones - especially in larger animals.

j) Never place a game animal in the back of your vehicle without first spreading them out on their back with their brisket and belly propped open wide. Make sure you have air circulating around them during transport. Leave windows open on truck toppers & utility vehicles. Taking along an old wooden pallet to lay them on helps air circulate under the animal as well. Do not confine a warm animal in a vehicle for any length of time without properly chilling them first.

k) Large animals such as elk and moose can just as easily sour in the process of trying to “drag” or retrieve them out of the field. In some instances it is wiser to properly chill a carcass in the cooler mountain setting first before trying to retrieve them. Time is always important in this case. Remember the 3 to 6 hour factor. The best coolant is lots of circulating air (obviously the cooler the better).

Tip #2

Take along black pepper if you think flies are going to be a problem. Sprinkle liberally on all exposed surfaces of meat. Cheese cloth game bags do little good in protecting a carcass from flies as they can lay eggs right through them.

Tip #3

Do not cut the hocks on the hind legs. If you are unsure of where and how to remove the lower legs either saw them off well below the joint or leave them on for an experienced person to remove.

Tip #4

Remove the inside tenderloins from the animal while they are fresh & clean before aging the rest of the carcass. This will prevent these valuable pieces of meat from drying out and deteriorating.

Tip #5

Don’t make your game animal into a “basket case” by cutting it into several smaller pieces. Sometimes this has to be done if the only way to retrieve an animal from the field is with a backpack. If possible, try to leave deer and antelope whole. Elk and moose can be whole or properly split and quartered (depending on the cooling factor).

Tip #6

Do not skin your game animal until it is time to cut it. The hide protects the meat from drying, insects and bacteria. For a maximum yield, leave the skin on your animal until just prior to processing. The idea about the hide “flavoring” the meat is a myth. The animal has lived with its hide on for its entire life so why would it flavor or contaminate the meat after the blood flow has stopped?

Tip #7

Always and foremost think game care before ever going hunting. Is the weather too hot? Can I properly take care of an animal should I be successful? If I am skillful and lucky enough to harvest a large animal like an elk or a moose, can I make sure the carcass gets chilled out in time? Do I have help from another person if I need it? Should I shoot an animal in a rugged area where I should of “brought along the frying pan”? Questions like these need to be answered before going into the field. All too many times archery and rifle hunters alike go out hunting with the attitude: “I’am not going to see or get anything anyway”, or “I’am just going out to take a look”. Guess what happens --- and they are too ill prepared with improper equipment and knowledge to suitably handle the circumstances. The result: The totally unnecessary waste of precious and valuable wild game meat.

Proper care of a game animal can turn into a lot of work but the trade-off is high quality safe to consume meat.