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Thread: Solo Moose Butchering

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    Default Solo Moose Butchering

    This is the first year for me to do a completely solo wilderness moose hunt. All off my previous moose hunts have been with a partner and we shared the butchering job on all our bulls. I have no problem with understanding anything regarding how to completely butcher and bone out a moose. What I'm looking for here is actual tried-and-true advice from those who have done it all by themselves with zero help. I need to skin, disassemble and then bone out all the meat if I am successful. I'm mainly curious about 2 aspects of the job:

    1. How do you manage the quarters (lift, pry and control) while skinning and cutting them off the carcass?

    2. How do you flip the carcass after completing one entire side of butchering?

    Keep in mind that I will be severely limited by weight going in; Super Cub flight. That means no come-along, no big bundles of rope, no block & tackle and no serious tools. I'll be equipped about like you'd expect for a sheep hunter. I could use some knowledge if it is out there!

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    Quote Originally Posted by K Dill View Post
    This is the first year for me to do a completely solo wilderness moose hunt. All off my previous moose hunts have been with a partner and we shared the butchering job on all our bulls. I have no problem with understanding anything regarding how to completely butcher and bone out a moose. What I'm looking for here is actual tried-and-true advice from those who have done it all by themselves with zero help. I need to skin, disassemble and then bone out all the meat if I am successful. I'm mainly curious about 2 aspects of the job:

    1. How do you manage the quarters (lift, pry and control) while skinning and cutting them off the carcass?

    2. How do you flip the carcass after completing one entire side of butchering?

    Keep in mind that I will be severely limited by weight going in; Super Cub flight. That means no come-along, no big bundles of rope, no block & tackle and no serious tools. I'll be equipped about like you'd expect for a sheep hunter. I could use some knowledge if it is out there!
    might want to cut some of that weight. A come along isn't that heavy. 550 cord can be used in place of rope.
    A solo butcher job isn't easy.
    Though I haven't done a bull solo, I've helped a few friends after they started solo and I assisted a guy by watching as he did it solo (I was a new resident and he wanted me to watch).

    I suggest getting ting the bull on his back. Without ropes or come along that will be challenging.
    Tie the quarters off to tree or brush to simulate the pushing of your partner.

    Otherwise I will wait for the experts. As someone who has watched quite a few moose quartered I suggest cutting your weight and bringing something that will help. Unless you are more worried about the antlers than the meat (I'm assuming you don't since you are asking).

    I've hunted solo numerous times the past two seasons though not on a fly in. Advantage of living in the bush. I have already flown in.
    Mince you get that bull on his antlers you can get him in his back. A Native friend taught me this method. He also lets his bull sit on its back for an hour (after cutting its throat) before he begins the processing. He's normally by himself and this allows the body to become a little rigor mortus and makes handling a little easier.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    For removing the quarters, place the knee on your shoulders and squat it as you cut. As you extend your legs with your knife working like mad, it'll eventually fold over on top. This is best done with a tarp laid out on the other side. If weight/space doesn't allow, it's easy enough to clean things up. As for flipping it, I'd second the advice given above - a come along or rope along don't weigh that much. I'm a cub pilot as well. If a couple pounds were the difference between being able to land in an area or not, I would personally pass.

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    Are you a resident or non? Trophy hunting or meat hunting? I ask because on my solo hunts I'm looking to fill my freezer. Spike fork is much easier. Lol

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    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
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    In place of a come along go buy yourself a little mini chain winch. They have em at lowes and such. Probly 4-6 lbs. They are handy to have anyway.



    Release Lake Trout

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    I found a small block and tackle that isn't more than 25 feet of 3/8" rope and two pulleys. Maybe a pound total. Worth its weight in gold. Wouldn't solo moose hunt w/o it. I tie to front upper elbow, skin and remove that. Tie next to rear upper quarter, skin and remove that. Next I remove upper backstrap, ribs and tenderloins. Then I can roll him over, using block and tackle if necessary and repeat.
    Last edited by AndySinAK; 07-05-2016 at 14:46. Reason: typo

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    Been there and done that and I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. So much so that I probably would not purposely do it again. Bring a come-a-long. That was my only saving grace.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yukon Cornelius View Post
    Spike fork is much easier. Lol
    This. When I'm alone, spikes are a preferred target for sure!

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    I hear all of you loud and clear. I pretty much envisioned what Brian describes... where the leg rests across my shoulder and I exert upward pressure while cutting. I've done it before and it works, though it's darned hard to keep enough correct pressure and leverage while reaching down and in some cases cutting almost blind. As for a come-along or pulleys, all I can say is that every moose I've killed has died far from a substantial tree or brush clump. Pulling gear is no good without an anchor. Speaking of pulling gear: anyone familiar with or own a Hitchmaster device? I have a friend with these and he swears they are the real thing.

    http://www.akcooltools.com/hitchmaster.html

    I have given some thought to the possibility of cutting poles and creating a movable tripod which could be placed over the carcass. A length of decent rope and a Hitchmaster would allow hoisting as cutting continues. That doesn't address the issue of flipping a carcass, though. Another thought is that I may simply have to open the belly and gut him after doing side one...before the flip attempt.

  10. #10

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    A rope block and tackle will serve you well. If that's too heavy and you're willow country, you can get by with a couple of simple pulleys and 150-ft of rope (terrain dependent).

    The biggest challenge will be lifting those qtrs while you detach them. It aint fun, but it's doable if you stay focused and slow.

    Once you have the facing side done, depending on the bull's mass you might have to remove the entrails (150-200-lbs in most cases). From there the leverage provided by the remaining leg bones will help.

    The pulley will pay off to allow you to stretch the bull's legs upward so you can maximize your leverage. I try to pin the legs up with pulley leverage (or a 4'ft stick propped up and leveraged from the ground when pulleys aren't possible. I've used a boat paddle too, wedged into the Achilles faucet. That gives you the leverage point to roll that heavy sucker onto its other side.

    It ain't gonna be pretty. but enough sweat and grunting and you'll likely do fine.

    I wish I could see a video of you doing it, though.

    LB

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    Quote Originally Posted by K Dill View Post
    I hear all of you loud and clear. I pretty much envisioned what Brian describes... where the leg rests across my shoulder and I exert upward pressure while cutting. I've done it before and it works, though it's darned hard to keep enough correct pressure and leverage while reaching down and in some cases cutting almost blind. As for a come-along or pulleys, all I can say is that every moose I've killed has died far from a substantial tree or brush clump. Pulling gear is no good without an anchor. Speaking of pulling gear: anyone familiar with or own a Hitchmaster device? I have a friend with these and he swears they are the real thing.

    http://www.akcooltools.com/hitchmaster.html

    I have given some thought to the possibility of cutting poles and creating a movable tripod which could be placed over the carcass. A length of decent rope and a Hitchmaster would allow hoisting as cutting continues. That doesn't address the issue of flipping a carcass, though. Another thought is that I may simply have to open the belly and gut him after doing side one...before the flip attempt.
    I've had to do this solo before, and as the others said, it's a lot of work. It can be done, but you have to get creative. You identified the two hardest parts; removing the quarters and flipping the carcass. Here's a couple of tricks:

    REMOVING THE QUARTERS

    I like your tripod idea, but it may not be necessary. Rest the leg up on your shoulder as you work down inside the leg to skin it out. You'll lay it down and work the top side of it a few times, but you should be able to remove it fairly easily. I would start with the front shoulder, as that's the easiest one to remove. And as the others said, I would lay that tarp down by tucking it under the spine area and laying it above the backbone area, so you have a place to flop that skinned quarter over to. This keeps it nice and clean. It helps a lot if the animal is laying flat on its side, and there is no upslope above the spine area. The hindquarter is more tricky as you have to fillet the meat off the pelvis and you have to leave evidence of sex (nothing with hair on it, just 4" or so of the penis shaft left attached. And of course you have to get into that ball socket on the pelvis.

    The big challenge when you're flying solo on moose is getting that hindquarter into your pack by yourself. I use a Barney's Moose Pack, and a larger quarter barely fits inside the bag. Put the quarter inside a contractor trash bag, and it will slip down into that pack much easier.

    FLIPPING THE CARCASS

    Of course you will have one front and one hind quarter removed before you flip the animal, but you might also completely gut the carcass and remove the top-side rib slab completely before flipping. Then drive a long thick willow peg into the ground above the spine side of the carcass, and tie the front leg off on that, tightening your 550 cord as tight as you can get it. In other words, tie off your front leg around the hoof area, and run your line over the carcass in the direction you are flipping it, and cinch it down to the peg. Tie a loop in the line and cinch off of that to gain more leverage. You should be able to get that front leg at least vertical in relation to the ground, or maybe even a little more, if the ground is flat. At that point, you'll want to reposition the antlers so you're not fighting them (or better yet, just remove the head entirely). Finally, you should be able to leverage that hind leg over by hand, by grabbing the ankle area. If not, you could try a running line around the ankle and over the carcass to a tree or another peg. Tough to drive a peg deep enough to winch off of, though. The one on the front shoulder will hold the position until you can get the bulk of the hindquarter over manually.

    If the ground isn't flat, it's going to be really tough. The worst one I ever did was a larger bull that fell on its belly between two large hummocks. I never was able to roll that one, and instead just had to split him down along the spine. That was a rough job that took several hours. In those situations you might find that a sharp hatchet is a huge help. My favorite is an Estwing Camper's Axe.

    HANGING THE QUARTERS

    Hanging moose quarters solo is no joke either. I use the "loop and toggle" method; a system we came up with a few years back for float hunts, but I use it on drop hunts too. Cut your 550 cord into four or five foot lengths, and tie a loop in each end. Use one loop as a cinch around the shank end of the quarter, toss the other end over your meat pole, and tuck the standing end of the line through the free-hanging loop and insert a willow toggle to keep it from slipping. Works great. My description is kind of convoluted, but I illustrated it in my float hunting book, "Float Hunting Alaska's Wild Rivers". The hardest part about doing this solo is going to be getting the quarters lifted high enough to hang while you're fiddling with the hanging ropes. One great way to do this is to tie your hanging rope to the shank end of the quarter while it's still in your pack, and on your back. Toss the other end of the rope over the meat pole and secure it while the quarter is still in your pack, then simply take your pack off. At that point it's a simple matter to remove the pack from the now-hanging quarter.

    ADDITIONAL TIPS

    You might have a look at our Meat Care Section on the main site for additional information that might prove helpful in your field care chores. I'm a staunch supporter of solid meat care practices in the field, and I believe more hunters have difficulty in this area than they should. Most of the time it's a lack of good information, however poor field conditions combined with poor judgment on the part of the hunter can play a huge role in ending up with insurmountable meat care issues. Moose quarters take a long time to cool, and if your daytime temps are in the mid-50's or higher, it will take even longer. We've had warming trends in Alaska the last few years, and a quick sampling of average temperatures around the state on September 10th for the last five years, showed a daytime temperature of 50 degrees pretty much everywhere north and west of Anchorage, up to the Brooks Range.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    There is some good info here. I'm glad the experts chimed in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by K Dill View Post
    As for a come-along or pulleys, all I can say is that every moose I've killed has died far from a substantial tree or brush clump. Pulling gear is no good without an anchor.
    Bring lots of rope and be creative. When I did it I wrapped a long rope several times around a willow bush to get an anchor. It ain't easy, but I can assure you it works and you may not have any other choice. Especially if the bull falls in a poor position. Like in my case when he layed down directly on top of his own legs. Giving me nothing to hang on to at all. I had to take off his whole head first and a front shoulder from the top down before I could even move one of his legs enough to get the rope attached to the come-a-long.

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    I use a small come-a-long, the pulls are short and I have to re-rig, but worth it. I have the rope system you linked and have used it to get my wheeler out so I believe it would work with the right rope.

    I use the come-a-long to hold up a front leg and either cut them, or to skin and remove the first side, I remove the neck meat from the up side and cut through the bone to remove the other side and head. Very hard to flip with the head attached solo. I remove the front, rear, neck, then entire rib down to back bone. Saw works, best but I have sacrificed a small axe, the bone chips the blade. The ribs are also hell on game bags, I try to use old bags to pad the edges. Use the hide, or a small tarp to protect the meat when you flip, I have used a pole lashed to both legs and then a rope to flip them over and keep it from trying to rotate in one direction instead of flipping over.



    Head, neck, ribs, backstrap, both loins, both legs removed. Remember to leave proof of sex on one leg.



    All that was left, backbone and pelvis, hide, and guts.



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  15. #15

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    Guys....I am more than impressed with the knowledgeable responses. This is exactly the type of advice I was hoping for...solid and experienced. My admitted lack of solo-butchering (moose) experience is why I'm here on this thread. Without addressing each response by name or quote, I can add a few of my own thoughts and experiences.

    Mike's instructional on tarp placement and using it to receive the skinned / disarticulated quarter is inline with my thinking. I usually have a nice piece of Tyvek with me to lay skinned meat / quarters on. The tough and slick nature of Tyvek makes it a pretty decent ground tarp during butchering; plus it can be used to sled a removed quarter a short distance from the carcass. I have given thought to trying the same with good silnylon made into a ground tarp, though I don't know if it would have the abrasion and puncture resistance I want.

    I will almost certainly be boning out all meat for the Super Cub. I suppose there is a 20% chance of bringing out quarters, but it would have much to do with my personal logistics and where the bull happens to fall in relation to the airstrip. One of the challenges of being a nonresident diy hunter (who values game meat as much as antler) is arranging for meat care after transport. Bone-in or out? To a processor or not? Box and freeze large chunks for shipment and later cut/wrap? Where is my meat going (town or village) after the Cub lands? It all figures into how I do things at the carcass. After many years of this and a number of bulls taken I have yet to bring out quarters or see anyone doing it via Cub. Boning meat at the carcass is laborious and so is packing those shapeless masses of muscle.

    Hey Larry...I've got some great pulling gear I put together for uses like this. Without digging through my gear I know I've got some UL carabiners, pulley wheels and a locking pulley. All of it is Petzl or similar quality from REI. I hear you and the other voices on the need for some type of rigging and pulling if at all possible. I think I'll have to bite the bullet and bring it, even if I have to stuff it in my shorts. The actual hardware is light enough; it's the rope that quickly adds weight. When a guy is told there's an 80 pound total limit and NO exceptions, it hurts to bring ropes and other hardware at the expense of food or clothing....other gear.

    Steve: Always love your experience and problem-solving mind. When you mentioned bringing a come-along I wondered exactly what device you might be using. Good pictures. I especially noted the advantage of pulling that front leg up-and-over in the first picture. You've obviously got the advantage there with an elevated anchor to the tree. In an open setting I suppose a guy could anchor to a ground stake, then tie off to the front leg...and then position a couple 4'(+) poles in an inverted V-brace midway on the pull line to create an upward angle of pull, along with some added leverage. As long as some trees or poles are within reasonable distance I can see it working. Your mention of using a pole to lash the 2 legs and stiffen the package for flipping is something I will remember.

    As for ground anchors where nothing natural exists: I have several 24" and 30" aluminum conduit tipi stakes from Kifaru. They call them SST stakes or pins; for use in sand, snow and tundra. They are physically light in weight and would make a good, drivable anchor. I've also learned over the years that 2 ground anchors driven 3 to 5 feet apart (spread) make a much stronger point of anchorage. Think of a T configuration with the 2 anchors and a rope or line between them forming the top of the T. A carabiner and simple pulley...or a compounding set...can be snapped into the line between the anchors. The long leg of the T is the pull line going back to the animal. Using this method allows the pulley/carabiner to move laterally on the short line and equally distribute pressure on the 2 anchors. It's amazing what you can move with the right anchors and angles.

    Hanging heavy bags of meat is simply a pita every time period. I think the only decent way for a one-man crew is to keep the pole height reasonable and possibly employ a pulley rigged on a static parallel line so it hangs/travels above the meat pole.

    Getting a strategy together and knowing it's workable is important. I don't want to die from the effort of wasted hard work, OR from the stress of being unable to manage the meat recovery.

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    This small hand hook is worth the weight, allows you to use a rope and hook anywhere in the meat and have a solid grip. Easier on your hands, don't have to try to hold on to slick bloody meat.

    The black hose is just vacuum line to protect the hook point.

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    I've done a few. (Boned out) I learned by doing a bunch of deer, and then elk, in the field. Assuming you will be completely boning it out to fly it out in the super cub, that will make things easier. Skin one side and then just bone it. It isn't hard to remove the rear leg bones from the pelvis after the meat is off. Same for the front leg. Peel the meat from the ribs, and then the backstrap. Flop him over and repeat.
    Sure is easier on a large animal to have a buddy, and just quarter it up.
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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    I was a few minutes from solo butchering a bull last fall. However, things did not work out in the thick brush next to camp.

    I am essentially one armed/handed when it comes to heavy work due to a damaged left arm. Solo caribou on the tundra is a struggle but I get it done, but by the end my left arm is useless. A solo moose is all about the tools and the environment you are in. I would never solo a moose in scrub willow terrain, spruce/birch only as I would need a tripod no matter what.

    One of the tools I found a lot of use for is a CamJam XT. My plan was to hang it from a spruce tripod and use it to take up the slack as the legs/pieces freed up. Build the tripod high enough and you can strap the leg to the pack and climb in then release the cam lock. I experimented with all this in my yard before I left on the Tanana hunt and it worked well. Wished that little bull and I had better timing that morning.

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    What a lot of great info......from my limited experience, I'd just double down on a couple of points already raised:

    - for "ease" (using the term broadly) of handling, letting a bit of rigor set in really helps...have to balance all other conditions, but that little bit of stiffness can really help one's pulling effort turn into moose movement vs. slithering;
    - Had a buddy that for various reasons (including having survived a plane tumble in -30 for several days back in the day where building a big-***** fire was important) always (always!) carried a double-bitted axe with him, in both his C-180 and his -18. I won't get into the weight trade-offs, but there is much ease to be gained by being able to split/cut/remove bones and/or bone connections with a swing or two.
    - There are numerous rope pulley type gadgets that can really help. If one has an axe or saw (see point above) one can almost always jury-rig some sort of tie-off / anchor point as needed.

    Last moose I dressed was shot 200 yards from the ATV-accessible cabin (where there were wheelbarrows, running water, generators, lights, etc). Tends to spoil a guy.
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