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Thread: Tips on skinning in Sub-Zero temps

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    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default Tips on skinning in Sub-Zero temps

    I had asked Mod elan a question in another thread about his hunt and it got me to think that we hadn't had a thread about this and it would be interesting to hear about some tips, tricks, and some stories of skinning in sub-zero temps.

    So what problems have you encountered while cleaning game in sub-zero temps? What special gear do you use? How long did it take you? How did you protect your fingers? Share some pictures. Tell a story of the situation. Offer some practial advice and save fellow members fingers!
    Semper Fi and God Bless

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    Member akgun&ammo's Avatar
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    Depends on where you are...

    If on the road system, I like to gut the animal and bring back whole. Then skin and quarter in a "friendlier" enveronment.

    I Know one person that sets up a shelter tent over the animal and lights a wood stove. (hunts the Tanana Flats)

    Chris

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    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    I’m also curious if “flash freezing” the carcass when you’re out there has any effect on the taste of the final product? That’s assuming the moose freezes rather quickly at -20* before you get it home. I could be way off here….never shot a moose at those temps.
    BK

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    The key is a good knife! I use a cutco do no sharpening required. That's the big one if you ask me. I use the disposable gloves as well, while skinning I use the heat of the animal to warm my hands. Last year at -44 we fired up our sleds to warm our hands. As I said before a good sharp knife the requires little sharpening...

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    Member polardds's Avatar
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    Waterproof gloves. Keeps your hands warmer allot longer. A real thin neoprene glove works good. Sharp knife and save the boning out for later.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Use your hands more than a knife.Keep sliding your hands between the hide and fat and pull apart where needed.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Member Ak Bird Brain's Avatar
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    Yep what they said. Sharp knife's and gloves to prevent skin contact are the big ones. If your hands get to cold slip them inside the body cavity for a minute to warm them up. If they get reallllly cold you can take off the gloves and put your hands in your pockets. Do the minimum amount of work outside you can and then find a nice warm garage to finish up in.
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    Premium Member denalihunter's Avatar
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    Been there a few times. My motto is GO FAST! Of course, safely. You should be on top of that animal skinning at about the same time it hits the ground from the shot. That's just what I do. Usually by the time you put on a stalk, and get the animal, your sweating, so at low temps, I try to get done as quick as possible, and back to the barn.
    Experience Real Alaska! www.alpinecreeklodge.com

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    Member Yellowknife's Avatar
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    I've only dealt with maybe 20 critters in the winter, so I'm not the expert the bush guys are. Most of the time the plan is to drop the guts ASAP, roll them in the sled and head for the cabin or truck. The winter coat on a caribou or moose will keep them from freezing for many hours and I like to skin someplace with better light if possible. As mentioned by several people, the body heat will keep your hands warm.

    I'm not always that lucky though. Last year I had to pack one of the caribou out of a creek bottom on snow shoes in the dark. Skinned and quartered that one by headlamp in about 3 ft of fluff. So my contribution to this thread is:

    1. Try not to loose your knife in the snow

    2. Carry a spare.

    I've managed to find every dropped knife so far, but it just a matter of time.

    Yk

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    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    The first moose I ever shot was @ -20F on December 3rd out of Ft. Yukon. There was so much heat coming off him that we had to take our coats off. I would not even think about skinning in the field though. Do not GUT!!! Remove the rear 1/4, remover the front, bone the up side neck, take the back strap off; then roll the animal over and repeat. Now break the last ttwo ribs near the spine and remove the loins. Decide if you want to bone the ribs, or cut them out now. Have all the meat away from the core, then the last thing to dois open the belly for the heart, liver, kidneys, etc.. Two guys can do this in a hour if you work together. Once you have the meat in a warm place, then consider skinning, or hanging the meat with the skin on to age. At -27F we had to haul the meat about 20 miles on sleds and snow machines, after returning for the sleds. All in all from the time I shot the moose until I had it home was about eight hours...the meat was getting firm, but was not frozen...and was easy to handle.
    Last edited by Roger45; 02-02-2012 at 10:08. Reason: finissh post
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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    All good points and tips from everyone.

    Since all my winter hunting has been via dogsled and snowshoes, I typically cannot bring all the meat back same day, whether to camp or home. Not really fond of flash freezing the quarters, so I usually will bury them in the snow so they don't freeze so fast. Usually have been alone too, so expect to be there for a few hours if a moose, less if caribou, depends how many you caught.

    Plan ahead if you think you may get cold, meaning if you are near wood you may want to get some cut and a fire going to warm up by occasionally. I find I can do most of the skinning and butchering with bare hands, animal has a lot of retained heat, use the gut cavity to warm hands up etc.

    If you do start to get cold or dehydrated you can always drink some warm blood, that really helps. Saved me once on a big moose at -35, as I was fairly out of it after 8 miles on foot when I finally got him, skinned out around the femoral artery and then cut and used it as a straw. Did not look good when I finally made it home in the dark that night, four miles later, freaked Lori out cuz it had dribbled all down my beard and parka and froze up <grin>. But truly that gave me the energy I needed to make it back, plus I gobbled down some raw meat chunks.

    Only could do half the moose that time too, so after I got one side completely done, I pulled guts and organs, draped hide back over the cavity, covered with snow, next day while the under side was darn chilled I could still deal with it with a knife, wasn't frozen and the meat was fine.

    With smallish caribou, I can fit one whole in the dogsled if I cut the head off, so I just gut it first, put in the sled then deal with the skinning and butchering back home or at camp. Any others shot same time I go ahead and butcher, bury the quarters and pick up next day.

    Yeppers on sharp knife, and while careful speed is warranted, just don't get carried away, last thing you want to do is cut yourself in winter conditions. I always have a little diamond sharpener on me and don't find it that big a deal to touch up every once in a while.

  12. #12

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    Only have worked on deer, goat, caribou, & Musk ox in below freezing tempretures. Also normally have an extra help around. If I can, I move the carcass whole to a more suitable location. Hopefully out of the wind or to a near by warming cabin. I do this by mechanical or manual means. My knives are sharp & the handles have colors that will stand out for the conditions I am working in. I pick out a designated spot to lay my knives down when not in use in order not to loose them or step on them. I use latex gloves even in -30 weather. I have seen guys use those cheap fuzzy working gloves & swear by them. I also fillet out the animial, never gut it. As all ready stated the body heat from skinning out the carcass keeps you pretty warm. I love buthcering in the snow, everything is "WAY" cleaner in the long run. You just lop off quaters & lay them out on the snow to cool off. I have not noticed a difference in the meat freezing & then having to thaw it back out to process into burger or steaks. Just move fast & as safely as you can. When I am done I use the snow to clean up my wrists or baby wipes. If I do start to feel the sharp bight of the cold on my hands I just put them on a newly skinned part of the carcass or near a muffler. If it is below -30 & with any wind behind it, white out, I STAY HOME!

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    Member Lone Wolf1's Avatar
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    Thw wife and I have done a few moose in sub-zero weather, and found that the black neoprene gloves work great to keep your hands warm and are also fairly "non-slip" when handling knives. Speaking of knives -- make sure you consciously keep track of them at all times. Even with the nice orange-handled Cutco knives it's easy to lay one down and lose it (or worse, kneel on it).

    I know it's not always possible to prevent freezing before the meat has gone through a rigor mortis cycle, but if that happens, it can make the meat tougher. Here are a few links to articles discussing this:

    http://meatblogger.org/2009/12/13/bi...chewy-venison/

    http://www.indianvalleymeats.com/field_care.htm

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmail View Post
    I’m also curious if “flash freezing” the carcass when you’re out there has any effect on the taste of the final product? That’s assuming the moose freezes rather quickly at -20* before you get it home. I could be way off here….never shot a moose at those temps.
    BK
    I haven't noticed it affecting the taste, but sure will affect the toughness of the meat, as noted by Lone Wolf1.
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    Usually no more problem than bringing extra gloves, and a towel to wipe everything dry, and a brigth additude in the cold when faced with lotsa work, little sun light and trying not to sweat.

    Blood will accumulate on the blade, but pressed to the warm carcass, it will sluff off quickly.
    My fatherinlaw, was born 1903, and as a youth he saw that many old men still carried small skinning knifes made of obsidian/flint to do their winter work, as blood did not stick to the blade, and still in use till the 30's, although steel knifes have been in use round here for at least 200 years.
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    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Tip 1.
    Don't get it too cold...




    Tip two... DONT DROP anything on it once its cold......

    i skin with out gloves... always. first frost bite ever.

    i did this the day after skinning my ox.. and was helping chips wife with hers the next day.. and it happened FAST!

    THEN!! while loading sled with ox 1/4's i wacked two together... and left finger inbetween while it was freezing... Month later still hurts
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

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  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    All good points and tips from everyone.

    Since all my winter hunting has been via dogsled and snowshoes, I typically cannot bring all the meat back same day, whether to camp or home. Not really fond of flash freezing the quarters, so I usually will bury them in the snow so they don't freeze so fast. Usually have been alone too, so expect to be there for a few hours if a moose, less if caribou, depends how many you caught.

    Plan ahead if you think you may get cold, meaning if you are near wood you may want to get some cut and a fire going to warm up by occasionally. I find I can do most of the skinning and butchering with bare hands, animal has a lot of retained heat, use the gut cavity to warm hands up etc.

    If you do start to get cold or dehydrated you can always drink some warm blood, that really helps. Saved me once on a big moose at -35, as I was fairly out of it after 8 miles on foot when I finally got him, skinned out around the femoral artery and then cut and used it as a straw. Did not look good when I finally made it home in the dark that night, four miles later, freaked Lori out cuz it had dribbled all down my beard and parka and froze up <grin>. But truly that gave me the energy I needed to make it back, plus I gobbled down some raw meat chunks.

    Only could do half the moose that time too, so after I got one side completely done, I pulled guts and organs, draped hide back over the cavity, covered with snow, next day while the under side was darn chilled I could still deal with it with a knife, wasn't frozen and the meat was fine.

    With smallish caribou, I can fit one whole in the dogsled if I cut the head off, so I just gut it first, put in the sled then deal with the skinning and butchering back home or at camp. Any others shot same time I go ahead and butcher, bury the quarters and pick up next day.

    Yeppers on sharp knife, and while careful speed is warranted, just don't get carried away, last thing you want to do is cut yourself in winter conditions. I always have a little diamond sharpener on me and don't find it that big a deal to touch up every once in a while.
    Great read Mark! I never thought about filming a 'winter' hunt for moose. I'm guessing you hit Units 20 (s) ? for that time of year and only being miles from your home, and cold WX -35 Brrrr. I think it would make a great episode for TV, show what it takes to take an beast animal like an Alaskan moose in those cold temps at that time of year, and how to best prepare for it, and handle meat. Any advise?
    Alaska Outdoors Television ~ Outdoor Channel

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    Default second the neoprene gloves

    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf1 View Post
    black neoprene gloves work great to keep your hands warm and are also fairly "non-slip" when handling knives.
    Second on the neoprene gloves; +1, Wolf. Like the kind scuba divers or dipnetters might wear. Plenty water (blood) -proof, and along with all the work your hands are doing, you won't get cold at 10 below at least; I used those on a moose a month ago at this temp. Good non-slip grip to handle your knife, not bulky/awkward, and decent protection against cutting oneself unless you do it with the tip of the knife, which isn't likely.

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    My problem when skinning game in real cold weather is that I can't wear gloves, at least no glows I have, as they are rather leather or mittens, and that just doesn't work for detailed cuts around the guts and such things. I always get a fire doing and cook some meat while we are doing it. I've never done a game animal other than grouse and rabbits in real cold weather but I've done cows and pigs and chickens and we just stick it out till were done.
    Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Tim, all my winter hunts have been in 25B, we have a December season for moose, Porcupine herd used to come down this way in small bands, but not for a long time now. I think what mod elan and the guys did (in the other thread) would make for a great episode, not sure how the camera does in the deep cold.
    Best,

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