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Thread: Bone sour, or just big ol' strong rutting bull?

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Default Bone sour, or just big ol' strong rutting bull?

    Years ago I killed a heavy massed 58" bull moose. When we walked up to it laying there we could see, as well as smell, that he had just been in a waller hole. It was almost dark and starting to rain. Pretty much being a rookie moose hunter at the time having only killed one small bull previously, I could only go by what my father had taught me about taking care of deer....to always try and keep the meat dry. With that in mind, with it starting to rain and neither of us with any flashlights...(it was only supposed to be a quick walk before dark and I don't think we even had packs)...my buddy and I thought it would be best to gut the bull, prop him up on his backside, and put some sticks in the cavity to allow the heat to escape. I We didn't live far and would be back in the morning at first light.


    When we started to do up the bull I remember the first thing I noticed was that he was still very warm on his backside where he was against the ground. We did him up and packed him out and didn't think anything else about it. I can't remember what piece of meat we decided to cook up first but when it started cooking I could tell right away that something was up, as the smell permeated the air in the house. Not a terrible smell, but not like I was used to smelling when moose was being cooked either. Turned out that the bull was edible and we ate the whole thing, but it was, and still is, the strongest moose I've ever eaten.

    Since then, of course I "know" /slash/ have been told, that when a bull is rutting you can't get that hide off fast enough. I've also heard stories of whole moose that have been thrown out "because" they were so strong from being heavily in the rut. Now we all know that during the rut moose follow the cows and will start drinking their urine like caribou do and we all know what happens to caribou bull meat at this time.

    The question I have is: After learning about bone sour, was the strong meat caused by leaving the hide on the moose overnight and it not cooling down properly? Or was the strong meat caused by the amount of urine that the bull had ingested for a long period of time? Was it a bit of both?

    Since then I've killed many bulls bigger than that one, and probably just as heavy into the rut as that bull was. I've never tasted strong moose meat since then. But I can't help but wonder what actually caused the strong/er taste of the meat? I'm now tending to believe that actual bone sour was the reason with this bull, and some of the other stories I've heard, rather than just an old rutted up bull? Had we gotten that hide off right away would it have been different, or could it still have been as strong?

    What say you...???
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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    I would say it was just a rutty tasting bull, some taste better than others. I doubt you had bone sour issues from the way you described leaving the moose overnight, especially in the later season during the rut. I did a bull the same way as you last year, gutted and left overnight, best tasting moose I've ever had, cows included. It was an August moose though, that makes a big difference.

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    The meat that I have seen that was bone soured had a greenish color very near the bone and extended out into the meat from the bone. From the smell, there would be no eating it, so I would guess your bull's meat was off tasting because of many things, all adding up.

    I have never tasted a mature male animal of any species that tasted better than a female of younger animal.
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    I'd go with the first two replies. Could be a number of things. Could have been an old bull past his prime or maybe he didn't have a good winter or summer so that changed some hormones in his meat. I've propped rutting bulls open and left them for a night and haven't noticed it being a factor. The biggest factor is keeping meat dry and cool. One night propped open shouldn't be an issue but it may mean the meat might need an extra day or two of hanging in cooler temps to take some of the gamey flavor out. A September bull still has lots of fat and the meat has never smelled bad to me when opening them up. An Post rut bull is a different story but haven't ran into a September bull yet that had poor looking or smelly meat. When it comes time for processing if the meat got wet generally you have to do more trimming because some will sour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 33outdoorsman View Post
    ...Could have been an old bull past his prime or maybe he didn't have a good winter or summer so that changed some hormones in his meat....
    The bull was big and healthy with heavy massed antlers and well defined points. More massive than the 65" bull my buddy killed the same year up off the Yukon...

    Quote Originally Posted by 33outdoorsman View Post
    ... One night propped open shouldn't be an issue but it may mean the meat might need an extra day or two of hanging in cooler temps to take some of the gamey flavor out..
    Always hang meat as long as I can as I did this one...


    Quote Originally Posted by 33outdoorsman View Post
    ...A September bull still has lots of fat and the meat has never smelled bad to me when opening them up.
    It was Sept 14th and I never noticed any off smell to the meat once that hide was off it.

    The only other thing that might be a possibility is our hands cross contaminating the meat from skinning the hide which was extremely smelly. Like I said, it looked as if he had just gotten out of his waller when I popped him....wet with stink. But you really wouldn't have known anything out of the ordinary about the meat until you started to cook it. The other thing I remember was he had a spotted liver which I was told happens when they've stopped eating and have been drinking cow urine for awhile. Wonder if that's true?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    The bull was big and healthy with heavy massed antlers and well defined points. More massive than the 65" bull my buddy killed the same year up off the Yukon...



    Always hang meat as long as I can as I did this one...




    It was Sept 14th and I never noticed any off smell to the meat once that hide was off it.

    The only other thing that might be a possibility is our hands cross contaminating the meat from skinning the hide which was extremely smelly. Like I said, it looked as if he had just gotten out of his waller when I popped him....wet with stink. But you really wouldn't have known anything out of the ordinary about the meat until you started to cook it. The other thing I remember was he had a spotted liver which I was told happens when they've stopped eating and have been drinking cow urine for awhile. Wonder if that's true?

    I'd think that if a bull had ingested enough urine by Sept 14, one killed around the end of the season (9/20-9/25) would be totally inedible. And we all know that that isn't true. Cross contamination sounds like a real possibility, to me.

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    That's a thought for sure. What about the spotted liver.....have any of you seen this as well?
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    September Bulls often have white on their livers. Young bulls can still have good livers but older Bulls almost never have good livers after mid September. I think it has to do with their hormones changing and producing their stinky urine. Could be the start of not eating as well has something to do with it. I'm surprised your bull was so smelly September 14th. Usually just a hint of rut smell then not total stink. I would think that would indicate a bull in his breeding prime. The Meat could have had a stronger flavor from a bull focused on breeding rather than still eating some. I know some people will cut off the bell before skinning because that generally has the most piss on it. That might be a good thought to change gloves or wash hands between skinning a stinky bull and starting to quarter meat.

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    It sure sounds like a stinky old bull. Not really the same scale, but I've taken hard rut Whitetail bucks before that were darn near inedible. They weren't rotten from bone sour or cooling, but from just being totally rutted up. The worst one we ever had was left to cure in the barn at 30F for about a week, and we still couldn't get the stink out if it. I've also experienced the bone sour in warm 70f temps, but you sure would know if that was your case, for sure.

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    One thing that could have caused what you are describing that has not been questioned is the length of time that you tried to age it after it was dressed. Meat that has been hung too long develops a strong gamey flavor and odor when it is cooked and does not have the green color or foul smell when processed like bone sour would. I know that you said you hung it for as long as possible like you have other animals, however with this animal the initial cooling process was delayed by the decision to wait until the next day to break it down. It is possible that the aging period for that animal should have shorten from what you normally would have done. Do not get me wrong I age meat as well, but if it hangs too long it turns out exactly the way you are describing it.

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    how much moose hair got on the meat? was the moose bleed? Keeping contained hair off you meat is must. I have killed many moose in full rut and tasted fine, but I try not to let any hair get on my meat. with that being said I also use to head shoot most of my moose in my early days. some tasted good some did not. Now I only lung shoot them, this bleeds them. keeping the meat free of hair and bleeding them, I always have good meat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isnarewolves View Post
    how much moose hair got on the meat? was the moose bleed? Keeping contained hair off you meat is must. I have killed many moose in full rut and tasted fine, but I try not to let any hair get on my meat. with that being said I also use to head shoot most of my moose in my early days. some tasted good some did not. Now I only lung shoot them, this bleeds them. keeping the meat free of hair and bleeding them, I always have good meat.
    When you head shot them didn't you still bleed them immediately after they were down? If circumstances are correct and I am rifle hunting I am a head shooter because I feel that I get better quality meat by doing so. Skinning job is much cleaner with a head shot and the animal dies immediately thereby allowing me to get a better bleed than is accomplished when the animal is stressed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoss View Post
    When you head shot them didn't you still bleed them immediately after they were down? If circumstances are correct and I am rifle hunting I am a head shooter because I feel that I get better quality meat by doing so. Skinning job is much cleaner with a head shot and the animal dies immediately thereby allowing me to get a better bleed than is accomplished when the animal is stressed.
    No I wasn't smart enough, plus I always wanted to sell the cape. Now I pretty much use my bow and a good lung shot even bleeds my game even better. you can difinantly see the difference in the color of the meat form a rife shot vs. an arrow.

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    On a head shot you must bleed them while the heart is still pumping to get a good bleed and that is real hard to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schall53 View Post
    On a head shot you must bleed them while the heart is still pumping to get a good bleed and that is real hard to do.
    Hinging a animal from a tree is another way to bleed it and it makes skinning more fun.

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    Have never had a truly rutty, stinky one, but all of mine have died pre Sept. 15.

    I have had bone sour in a deer that laid overnight though, that meat near the femur smelled quite off the second I skinned it.....I'd say you just had a tangy ol bull that likely wasn't bled enough from shot or slitting a neck etc.

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    I have never had a moose spoil on me and I had never had one I could not eat. Yes I have and to open one or two up and recover them the next day. I have had a tuff eating bull. I usually get my bull the end of sept. to early oct. Yes they are stinky. I believe the rut had little to due with the taste of moose meat. I believe it is. get the blood out and keep the contaminated hair off the meat.

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    Bull moose neck meat swell up during heavy rut and has a strong smell. I put the meat in a bag with no other meat to prevent contamination. I also clean my knife when skinning before I cut any meat.

    When your skinning, hands get cover with stink put on clean glove before touching the meat.

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    I'd go with insufficient cooling. Happened to me and a buddy with our first elk. We got one each late in the day about a mile and a half off the road. We gutted them and opened them up and came back with a gang the next morning to get them out in one pack. It had frozen out that night but there was still steam coming off the carcasses, especially on the neck and shoulders which we hadn't skinned or even split open in our youthful ignorance. All we had ever dealt with before was deer, not something with the mass of an elk/moose. Warm blood doesn't take that long to start souring. While we savaged most of the meat, we lost a bit, especially under the mane of the neck. Some that we salvaged didn't smell horrible, but it definitely wasn't the best elk meat I've eaten.

    Lesson learned.......... After that we always skinned, quartered, and hung in a tree, large animals before leaving them for any length of time to enhance the cooling process. Never had a problem since.
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    I have found that some animals are just tougher and stink more than others no mater what you do.

    Years ago I killed a relatively young deer in the early season with a bow. Good shot and it immediately died. But just walking up on it a few minutes after it died the smell was strong! I ate it but it was not easy. Spicy pepperoni sticks all the way.

    Another time I killed an elk that was a nice 5 year old. Tasted great but boy was it tough. A friend of mine killed a 6 year old on the same trip and his was much better. Same exact meat care, same area but radically better meat quality in a slightly older animal.

    One more example. A giant old bison bull. I had all but the choice parts ground because I assumed it would be like rubber. The whole thing was like butter, and the best wild game I ever had. Why? Who knows but I regretted grinding him up. We enjoyed him tremendously, but some nice roasts and steaks would have been even better.

    So meat care definitely maters but I think there is some animal to animal variability. Probably diet and genetics plays a role.

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