Big game hunting can be very rewarding. However, that reward can go downhill fast if you don’t have a way to preserve meat until you can get it to a freezer. Meat that isn’t preserved correctly isn’t just going to taste bad - it can be incredibly bad for you. Unfortunately, you probably don’t carry a deep freezer wherever you go. That’s why today, we’re going to look at how you can preserve big game meat in a Bison Cooler while you’re still in the field.
Making a Clean Kill
Believe it or not, the way you shoot an animal to bring it down can affect the way your meat tastes. An animal that’s excited before it dies - either through being wounded or fleeing - has higher levels of lactic acid in their system. This can change the way the meat tastes as well as its texture. A quick, clean kill isn’t only a good tenant of being a humane hunter, it’ll also help you preserve the flavor of your meat.
To make a clean cut, you’ll want to make sure you have the right equipment. Of course, you’ll want to invest in a good firearm but the optics that go with it are just as important. Most hunters spend half as much if not as much on their optics as their gun. These help to provide better accuracy when you take a shot through a clearer, closer view.
Using a Cooler
This seems like the most obvious choice on the list and, of course, it’s one of the most surefire ways to keep your meat as chilled as possible. A good cooler will go a long way in keeping your fresh meat fresh since it can offer a cool, controlled temperature. Just remember that a cooler isn’t naturally cold. It’s a good idea to put ice in it to chill it before you catch anything. That way, it’ll already be cold by the time you have meat to put in it. I recommend the Bison Coolers 75 QT or 125 QT ice chests for big game hunting.
Using the Tools At Your Disposal
Of course, the idea of preserving big game meat isn’t without its handy tool solutions. The handiest piece of gear that comes to mind right away for many is a big game bag. These help you carry meat back with you from your hunt. Your big game bag should be made of a breathable material to keep the meat cool while keeping flies and other pests at bay. Synthetic materials usually work better than
Another idea that many hunters fall back on is meat-preserving liquid. These liquids are usually based in citric acid and help to form a safe but protective crust on the meat. This lessens the threat that insects pose to your meat.
As for the amount of citric acid to use per piece of meat, the answer is to be fairly generous. You don’t have to worry about oversaturating the meat the same way you do if you were to cool it in the water - we’ll talk more about that technique in a minute. It’s best to use a mix of citric acid and water and spray the meat until you can see it running off while it’s hanging. You don’t need to use too much citric acid at once either - a ratio of 2 oz. of citric acid for every quart of water will do the trick.
Once you make a kill, you probably want to commemorate it with pictures. Then, you’ll need to field dress it. This should all happen within an hour as it’s important to try and cool your kill as quickly as possible. If it’s particularly warm that day or you’re hunting in a warmer climate, the time you have to dress your kill is even shorter.
On the other hand, if it’s cold - i.e. freezing temperatures - you have a little more time to work with. Still, it’s best to dress your kill as quickly as you can. It doesn’t take long for bacteria to start multiplying. If you aren’t sure exactly how to dress big game, the Alaska Department for Fish and Game offers a handy guide. Remember, the process of skinning an animal and removing the internal organs are the biggest steps in dispersing body heat.
Don’t Pack It Up Right Away
It’s important to remember that you aren’t starting with meat that’s cooled. For a time, it will still retain some of the body heat of the animal. This means that if you dress it and pack it up right away, some of that heat will be retained in your big game bag. It’s better to cut your meat and then lay it out to cool for a bit.
It’s also a good idea to clean your meat of any unwanted debris before packing it up. This could include dirt or leaves as well.
Use the Water Around You
One of the best ways to cool meat down quickly is to make use of a nearby stream when one is available. However, there’s a bit of a catch. Moisture is almost as bad as heat when it comes to ideal environments for bacteria.
To balance these effects, protect the meat from moisture when you submerge it. Many hunters choose to double-bag their meat to do this. By wrapping a piece of meat in a garbage bag and or a resealable plastic bag, you can use the low temperature of the water while avoiding excessive moisture exposure. After you pull them out of the water, take the meat out of the plastic bags.
If you do get any water on your meat while cooling it, it’s best to wipe it dry right away. Then, let it air dry for a bit to ensure all unnecessary moisture is gone.
Caring for and preserving your meat during your big game hunting is essential.
Not only does it keep everything tasty and rewarding, but it also helps to keep anyone who’s eating the game safe. You can use tips like these to ensure that the game you catch makes its way to the dinner table!