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Thread: Butchering in cold weather

  1. #1
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    Default Butchering in cold weather

    My antlerless moose tag is valid for October and March. I may wait until March to fill it but the weather could be much colder than the usual fall temps.

    How do most of you handle this? Meat freezing too quickly is not ideal.

    Using a snow machine could make recovery easier but deep snow may make butchering harder. Any tips?

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    In winter I just roll the guts out and recover as close as possible the whole animal...hide on. It takes a snow machine with a freight sled to do it with a moose I'd imagine. I've recovered a caribou on skis with a pulk but a moose would have been out of the question.

    In summer you want to get the hide off and quarter to cool it as fast as possible, in the winter you're trying to do the reverse- keep the hide on to keep it from freezing. "Cold Rendering", letting the meat freeze before rigor sets in and relaxes will yield some pretty tough meat.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    Member Yellowknife's Avatar
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    I've done 8-9 winter moose and quite a few caribou now. Key to avoiding cold shortening of the meat if it's really cold is to leave the hide on to retain heat. Opposite of fall hunts.

    I've got a good system now with a big sled. I do a quick field dress job and then roll them in and sled them out whole. When I get back to the truck, they get loaded up still strapped to the sled. Back up to a garage and slide the sled and moose inside. If the sled is big enough, you can skin inside it to contain the mess.

    How too guide here:

    http://www.rokslide.com/forums/moose...e-hunting.html

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Most of my animals have been taken in winter in negative temps and transported to the truck via freight sled. Sometimes the hide has stayed on, sometimes not depending on how miserable the field conditions were and how fast I needed to get moving. Several have been frozen solid by the time we made the 45 minute trip to the truck...in almost all cases I've hung them in the shed due to time constraints and butchered them next day or three in the garage as they partially thawed enough to work. I've never had issues with tough meat. Not saying "cold shortening" doesn't happen, just has never been a problem for me. Maybe I've been lucky, but I've never worried about it.
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    Thanks for the input.

    That is what I was thinking. Use a sled and a winch mounted on a tilt snow machine trailer. But for me it will likely take a day or two to get it into the garage. Therefore it will likely freeze and then need to thaw out in the heated garage. My guess is that as long is it does not freeze too quickly I will be in good shape?

    March weather can vary a lot. At what temp do you draw the line in terms of leaving the hide on?

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaENGR1 View Post
    March weather can vary a lot. At what temp do you draw the line in terms of leaving the hide on?
    For me, it has always been a function of working conditions and preventing my own frostbite, not a concern for whether the animal was going to freeze too quickly.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    For me, it has always been a function of working conditions and preventing my own frostbite, not a concern for whether the animal was going to freeze too quickly.
    A jeese......priorities, priorities.... What's a few fingers or toes if it means good eats for the freezer...???!!!.....lol
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Member Yellowknife's Avatar
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    I learned about "cold shortening" the hard way. Buddy shot a caribou down in a hole late in the day and we skinned, quartered, and snowshoed it out by headlamp. Got home late and it froze solid in subzero temps that night. Toughest caribou I've ever had the displeasure to chew on.

    As I understand it, the meat only has to stay thawed through the rigor cycle. Moose quarters hold a lot of heat, and if the temps are much above zero you are probably ok to skin it and bag it. The lower legs and ribs will eventually freeze, but that's mostly burger anyway.

    A few years ago I was out overnight with a caribou. It was pretty cold, so I tarpped the whole sled (with field dressed caribou) and shoveled snow over it for insulation. The meat was well chilled, but still thawed in the morning. Worked out well.



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    Thanks guys!

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    I killed a moose on Ft Rich in the middle of winter. Sub zero. Gutted it and got it whole into the back of my pickup. By the time I got home it was frozen solid. Don't remember the meat being tough.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    I learned the lesson through a buddy. He killed a caribou on New Year's Day at -30F. Skinned and quartered it in the field and it froze rock solid in the bed of his truck within a matter of a couple hours. Had to back the truck into the garage overnight to thaw it enough to get it out of the truck.

    That was one tough caribou. Cold rendering or shortening is not just the fact it freezes- but how fast it freezes. This one was frozen before rigor even set in, much less relaxed. As someone noted- moose are a fair bit bigger so they're probably a little more forgiving.

    Bartlett's video "Project Bloodtrail" has a bunch of good info on all kinds of field meat care.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    One tip is to get some neoprene gloves. The moisture can really take the heat from your hand and make them really cold. The freight sled is a good idea if you can do it. If you can't, set everything on a tarp. Your quarters will freeze to glare ice and be near impossible to pry off, you will have to chip them off. Don't lay them in the snow, the snow will melt to them and then freeze and make a heavy bloody mess. If you do let the quarters freeze just hang them a good long time when you get home to let them tenderize themselves. I used a freight sled for a Delta buffalo and flipped him right onto the sled after gutting him then drove straight into the trailer and was able to get him home to skin and hang in the garage. I had a Farewell buffalo that we had to quarter and let freeze. When the Crown Royal pours like syrup you know it is cold. Both buffalo were tender after appropriate hanging. Try not to stress the animal before shooting. Good luck!

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