Author Topic: First Hunt Meat Care  (Read 592 times)

Offline gavin[j]

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First Hunt Meat Care
« on: October 09, 2020, 03:08:29 PM »
Hey all,

First time hunter here eagerly anticipating my first mule deer season. I have most of the pre-hunt details worked out--license, tags, proficient with rifle, scouting, gear acquired. I'm now (have been) thinking about what needs to happen if I'm successful in harvesting a deer. My hunting buddy and I are fit and eager to get far away form roads. We feel confident in field dressing and packing out the animal. This is where my anxieties increase. What's the best way to ensure I keep the meat properly (for taste and safety) from camp to freezer? I'd hate to waste meat or unintentionally get any friends or family sick.

Main questions/concerns:
- Is it imperative to get the quarters in a pre-chilled cooler(s) once back to the truck?
- Back at home how long can the meat sit out of the freezer? Should I place to meat directly in the fridge and take pieces out as I begin to process and butcher?
- Curing??? Needed?
- We're both excited to process and butcher the deer ourselves. I'd like to avoid a wild game processor--is that ignorant? 
 I just don't want to spoil any meat while trying to clean/butcher

Sorry for the long post. Any tips and tricks/advice from you seasoned vets out there would be much appreciated. I know some don't like to see new hunters but both my friend and I haven't taken the undertaking lightly and were excited at the prospect of meeting a new community and putting some meat in the freezer.


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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2020, 03:26:26 PM »
To keep it super simple (and it is, don't stress out about it)
1) Depends on the weather, if temps are cool at night (30s-40s) then the skinned out quarters and other meat can hang in the shade in a game bag for a few days if your still hunting, if the temps are not cool then in coolers on top of ice and not swimming in water.
2) Placing it in the fridge for a day or so and then cutting it up is fine (dont freeze the quarters)
3) Aging is a subject of much debate, some do some don't (i don't), up to you (personally no difference for me in taste, but again opinions vary)
4) Its not ignorant at all to care for your own meat, its really not hard and i will tell you youtube is your friend  :twocents:
My wife had never cut up a deer or seen it done so i had her watch some youtube vids and she did a quarter by herself while i was busy doing something else (i did not know she even started it) she claims she is better at it than me (she is)  :chuckle:

Good luck, have fun and don't over think it...
To hunt and butcher an animal is to recognize that meat is not some abstract form of protein that springs into existence tightly wrapped in cellophane and styrofoam.

Offline ganghis

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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2020, 04:32:25 PM »
main thing is to get the quarters and other meat cooled down as quickly as possible.  hanging them from a tree in game bags over night so that you get good air circulation is #1.  Usually not a problem to keep it hanging in the shade for several more days this time of year.

Plenty of people keep their meat on ice in a cooler for days after they're back home, w the cooler tipped up and its drain open so the melted ice/blood drains out.  In the fridge works too.  Then slowly cut off and package the roasts and stuff that you want, bagging scraps and less desirable cuts for sausage and burger.  I actually like to keep the real tendony pieces for braising (shanks, etc.), but to each their own.  If you don't have a meat grinder, try to borrow one and remember to partially freeze meat before putting it in - that makes it a lot easier, especially if you have a cheaper grinder.

Curing?  Not many people do that themselves that I know of, and it can be done after freezing it and thawing it again so I wouldn't worry about it until much later.  I freeze in a layer of saran wrap under a layer of freezer paper.  Some people are pretty exacting with getting silver and membranes off before freezing but I wait to do a lot of that until I'm ready to eat it.  I think it adds another layer of protection against freezer burn.

Offline Shawn Ryan

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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2020, 04:41:29 PM »
 :yeah: to both replies.

Pre-chilled cooler? I've never had that. Just keep the meat dry and as cool as possible with air circulation. If the meat/carcass is in a pickup bed prior to being in a cooler, elevate it a few inches to get it off the bed.

At home, I'll put pieces in the fridge or larger pieces in an ice bath cooler that is draining. I also put a small fan over the open cooler to circulate air.

I prefer to "age" the meat 5-7 days after the kill, but YMMV. I also like to trim all the fat, membrane, and tendons out as much as possible before wrapping.  I, too, wrap first in cellophane, then butcher paper.  The object is to seal the meat so there is no air or moisture exchange. In doing so, I've had meat last for years in the freezer and have never had freezer burn issues.

This year I canned bear meat. First time for me. I'm super happy with that method. Meat needs a pressure cooker, not water bath canning. All the cooking is already done and no freezer space needed. I'll likely can some deer meat this month.

Hope you get a chance to try out your skills at meat prep. :)

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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2020, 05:39:50 PM »
It's pretty simple, don't overthink it.  Assuming you are not taking it out whole, get the hide off and quarters into bags as quickly as possible.  Back at the truck, get plenty of ice on it as soon as you can.  Dump the liquid out once or twice as it melts, but there won't be much if you use plenty of ice.  From there, it can sit days in the cooler until ready to process and freeze.


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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2020, 07:25:07 PM »
I have two Coleman extreme large coolers and I freeze / bring 12 water filled milk jugs . One is good for deer , both hold a whole elk. They don't thaw and have your meat sitting in water . I think it's a perfect system for transport home, the meat is way cooled down after a couple of hours drive.

Offline Twispriver

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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2020, 06:17:30 PM »
If you follow the rule that says get the meat cool as fast as you can and then keep it cold until it's packaged and in the freezer you will have done what you can to have the best quality results. I've had to cut trips short of leave and come back to take care of the meat when the weather wasn't optimal so make a plan and then have backup contingencies. I also freeze water in gallon bottles to both have bigger, solid blocks of ice and at the same time contain the ice melt to eliminate bacteria breeding water from accumulating in the ice chest.

Offline gavin[j]

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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2020, 09:07:28 AM »
Thanks everyone for the great advice! We were successful in putting down a nice 3x2 in the Manson unit. Spent the day yesterday processing the deer. All went well.

Offline birddogdad

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Re: First Hunt Meat Care
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2020, 10:48:11 AM »
to me, most cut and wrap game WAY too soon. if you have the temp, leave it hang covered with socks ( for flys) and tarp (for rain) is key.. anything below **40F and you are good. i go 2 weeks at least.. dry aging is wonderful for flavor and meat texture of game...

disclosure , i am a rifle hunter and season temps permit this often .. early season you cant go with this and must cooler, cut up faster. i will hang a deer/elk (again if temp permits) shaded, covered tree at camp as long as possible. i have shot nasty tuff bull elk day 1 of season and pulled quarters down when camp was pulled day after season, gone home and hung in my cool garage another week. you will know if you can leave it or its time.. your nose will tell you all you know.. for a deer i hang by back legs and when your nose tells you (under front shoulder arm pits) its time, then process it. of course all this is with skin removed immediately and cooled down in initial processing / gutting as critical.. if its hot, you must adjust with coolers, or finish processing ASAP.

A side note, we have tarped and put dry ice in a bucket with thermometer to monitor as well when situation requires with great success. I know there are some fancy portable hanging coolers being sold out there now that i have so far not looked into but may suit your needs.

attacbed is a short article on beef aging to consider the 14-21 day process.

oh and if you like liver but have had issues with game tasting poorly, put in your refrigerator crisper for 5 days and let the enzymes break the bile down.. it becomes wonderful, completely loosing that "rank" flavor...
USN retired


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