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Thread: Moose Meat Care Overnight

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    Default Moose Meat Care Overnight

    Personally, I do everything I can to ensure an animal is taken out as soon as possible after being harvested. But, if circumstances left a person to have to leave a moose carcass overnight to return at daylight...what things have you folks done to help keep the meat as prime as it can be. Please keep the ethics out of this one...I know where mine lie but want to know if poop hit the fan, how can a person maximize meat quality.

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Catch,

    I'm not sure if you're talking about leaving a "carcass" after you've butchered.

    Meat staying "prime" overnight really isn't much of an issue if you've completely butchered the moose. I'd try to get the bagged or unbagged meat a bit away from the carcass and gut pile, and also get the antlers away from there too. I've laid the meat out on the skin-side of the moose hide before, put the antlers in there upside down, then covered the whole thing with a tarp. Having the antlers in there keeps the tarp off the meat, allows for air to circulate. I've also only butchered half the moose before, and removed the entrails too, and finished butchering the next morn, and had no problems with meat staying good. I've not yet had a bear get to anything, and think that for most of Alaska the likelihood of a bear taking over your animal overnight is very slim.

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    If you have time, do as bushrat states, butcher it and hang it, if possible away from the carcass. If you can't hang it, he's got the best instructions around. If you can't butcher it, then you need to gut it and prop the chest cavity open to let it cool. You might also consider skinning out the neck area with is one of the first areas to go bad since the hide is usually thicker and retains the heat. Cooling is the key.

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    Thumbs up

    To "leave a moose carcass overnight and return the next morning", I'm assuming that it's just field dressed and laying there. I've only done this once and the main thing that I thought of was to: Of course remove all of the guts, split the brisket, shove a stick in there to spread the ribs for air circulation, remove as much standing blood as possible laying in the ribcage/pelvis area, orange flag the area good, propped a space blanket over it (cause it was raining), and head back to camp. Fortunately I didn't have any bear issues with it. The following morning when I returned, it was stiff, relatively cool and no worse for wear other then a camp robber having one helluva good breakfast.

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    Use a light game bag that will still allow the meat to cool. More just trying to keep the flys off. If there are trees around hang all the pieces off the branches. If no trees and no material to build a meat pole you could push over some willows and lay the bagged meat on that to still allow some air to the bottom.

    I have heard of people putting them in a creek but I am not sure of the logistics around that. I didn't think you were supposed to let it get wet.....

    My two cents..
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    Something I never heard of until I met my husband... we take black pepper with us & shake it all over the meat. His family does this & it helps the outside develop a crust & it also helps to keep the flies at bay.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Kill site meat care

    Catch,

    It's very common to spend two or three days getting meat moved from the kill site to camp, and it's always a bit nerve-wracking because of the concerns about bears. There are two schools of thought on this.

    1. MOVE THE MEAT
    Some hunters move the meat away from the kill site, with the understanding that it will reduce the chances of a bear getting it. If you go this route, consider that you are literally doubling your chances of a bear encounter. It's usually impractical to hang the meat high enough so a bear can't reach it, and if he runs into your meat cache before he finds the kill, I doubt he'll pass it up.

    2. LEAVE IT AT THE KILL SITE
    This is of course the easiest thing to do, and may reduce your chances of a hit by bears or other predators (wolverines, etc.).

    Having said that, I can tell you that it is rare for a bear to claim your kill right away. In my experience the average seems to be three or four days before a bear locates it and moves in. Of course, this could be luck of the draw. Bears are usually widely scattered, but if one is nearby and smells the kill, he will probably check it out. I think the reason for my experiences in this area is because it takes several days for the scent to spread out enough to draw one in. Perhaps.

    At any rate, bag all the meat in game bags, and positioned it to allow air circulation and protection from weather. I usually pile up brush and put my meat on top of that. This gives me good air flow beneath it. Then I may do as Mark suggests; place the antlers on top and place a tarp over that. As often as not, I'll just pile more brush on top though, because I'm concerned that the antler tines or the sharp bone edges on the skull cap may tear my meat bags. In some cases I have set up a meat pole, but I don't like to kill a live tree just to have a temporary pole to hang meat. Many of our pole-sized spruce trees are over a hundred years old.

    Avoid stacking meat on top of meat. Each bag should cool as rapidly as possible. You also want the meat to begin the drying process. The surface of the meat needs to be dry to the touch. This will not likely happen in the circumstances we're talking about, but good care at the kill site helps. Next, tarp it. Even on a clear, cold night, your game bags will collect dew or frost. If you're using cotton bags (most of us are), the material will absorb the moisture and become damp. Moisture on the surface of your meat is not a good idea. Finally, as was mentioned, provide good air circulation all around the meat. This means you have to keep that tarp off of the meat, and provide good ventilation from the sides and beneath.

    I would also advise to consider cutting a couple of shooting lanes in to the kill area, and placing some flagging tape in a nearby tree. This enables you to see for sure where the kill is, and to determine if a bear is on it. Another thing you can do is to place a tripod of limbs on top of the kill, with flagging tape tied on top. If the limbs are down, you've got an animal there somewhere. A final consideration is to urinate on all trails approaching the kill. Not to be too descriptive, but I would ensure that the urine scent gets on the brush from ground level up to about four feet. This makes it more likely that an approaching bear will smell it. When I do this, I usually go out about thirty or forty yards from the kill. Hard to know whether it works or not, as I have only had one bear come in on a kill. I was packing off of the kill site for three days, and a bear hit it the night of day three. He took the bag with the neck in it, leaving the only other bag- a large bag with the ribs.

    Whenever you approach the kill for more meat, it helps to check your bags to make sure there are no rips or tears that can allow flies inside. It's also a good idea to turn the bags over to help hasten the drying process, but it's not always essential.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Black pepper

    Quote Originally Posted by Akboatchick View Post
    Something I never heard of until I met my husband... we take black pepper with us & shake it all over the meat. His family does this & it helps the outside develop a crust & it also helps to keep the flies at bay.
    Boat,

    Not to sound too contrary, but black pepper is a hold-over from the old days before good game bags were available. If the meat is bagged correctly there is no need for pepper. The meat will develop a "crust" on its own, if the bags offer proper air flow. I would suggest speaking with a good meat processor about this. The thinking these days is that black pepper just makes a huge mess for the butcher to have to trim out. It sounds like your husband's family has just sort of carried on the tradition.

    Again, no harm intended! It might be good to check into this though.

    Best regards!

    -Mike
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    Default Thanks

    I was largely wondering what to do if butchering was not an option that night (only safety would make me make such a decision...simple discomfort is part of the definition of moose hunting), what to do to the the complete carcass or what you can't take in one trip. I figure if I have time to cut it up,,,I'll hang it and hope, but have seen smaller animals that were not recovered until the next morning have some areas that went bad...and was curious how to avoid this with something as large as a moose, but the suggestions sound the same as a small animal...just requiring a hatchet instead of a leatherman.

    That, said, any special tricks are appreciated....even if it displays what NOT to do.

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    Catch,

    Thanks for the clarification. If you absolutely had to, you could quickly just remove the hide over the ribs/flank area, pull the ribs and flank off, and remove the organs and intestines til the next morn. Pull the gut pile away from the carcass ten feet or so. If you can't get the ribs off, or don't know how, it is possible to just cut the flank off and pull everything from there (very messy). Then you can butcher out the top ribs real quick (if you are in an area that doesn't require they be left on the bone) and provide some more air in there. BTW, all the ribs can be removed with just a knife too, along the backbone.

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    I'd be interested in the knife method, as of now I use a hatchet and they zip out pretty well, that's great advice to get the insides exposed, thanks.

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    Default Rib removal

    Quote Originally Posted by Catch It View Post
    I'd be interested in the knife method, as of now I use a hatchet and they zip out pretty well, that's great advice to get the insides exposed, thanks.
    Catch,

    All that connects the ribs to the spine and the brisket is cartilage. It is easily severed with a good knife.

    -Mike
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    Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say the ribs are "easily" severed <grin>. I've broken two knife tips now trying to remove ribs, and finally moved up to a beefier, sturdier knife. Frankly, it's kinda hard to figure it out cuz of the way the bones conjoin along the spine. Really helps to have someone pulling back on the ribs while you make the cuts to "pop" the joints. The older the moose, the harder it is too. If you pull or push too hard before you sever the cartilage you end up breaking the rib(s) and leave very sharp bone edges. Here's a pic below that might help. Give you an idea of things anyway. This is after you've popped all the joints and done some knife work to separate the cartilage. Problem with using an axe or hatchet of course is all the sharp bone edges it leaves. Saw is better than a hatchet and nearly as fast, just cut close to the spine and you're only left with very little still attached.


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    I had this exact situation with a caribou just last week. Put one down on Friday and had to leave it overnight. We took it apart, covered it with the hide and came back to retrieve the rest the next morning. We were more worried about the ravens that were around than we were about the bears.
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    Default Last week

    One of my hunting partners dropped his moose last week at 9:30 pm. We quartered and removed all meat my midnight. 1.5 mile pack to camp. Had to leave one quarter, ribs and neck plus rack until morning. We hung all the bagged meat up on a dead spruce. Didn't get back as early as we had liked since we didn't get back to camp until 2:30 am. The ravens only started getting to the gut pile 10:00 am. All the meat was still untouched and in perfect condition. We even used the hide to cover the eyes on the head so we could take pictures. Everthing worked out pefect.

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    Since I never hunt alone, my hunting partners and I never leave the meat behind regardless of how late at night. We use a small Honda generator with two or three spotlights to light the area, or several propane lanterns if we don't have the generator.

    In your case it may be much different in that you may indeed have to leave the meat behind, so following Mark's instructions seem feasible to me.

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    Default Success!

    Thanks for all the help folks, I just got back from a successful solo and though a little sore, I'm no worse for wear. I did indeed take bushrat's advice since I had to leave it overnight. I was heading back to camp with an hour and half of daylight due to miserable conditions and near hypothermia and being drenched but while walking across a huge tundra meadow about three quarter mile from camp and clacking and flashing my shoulder blade calls I spotted a small bull about 400 yards away and he was staring Hard at me(at least I think he was...hard to tell through sideways sheets of rain). So I flashed some more and clacked a little and he was nearly on a run comin dead at me. I scrambled to a windblown spruce tree for a rest realizing I was in the middle of a 300 acre parking lot but he came on just the same...at 100 yards I dropped the shoulder blades and got the gun up...at which point HE realized that he was in the middle of a parking lot. He turned to go for cover and I got a great broadside into his ribs and a second one to the shoulder to plant him. Used my new savage 116 in 338 with 250 grain nosler partitions and wow did they do a great job, I had the gun cut down to 20 inches from 24 and had sights put on plus removable scope mounts (see thread Cutting Rifle Barrels from last spring) awesome gun to carry, I love it. With waning daylight I hustled back to camp, got the lantern knives, tarp etc. and hustled back to the kill site in the twilight with a fresh breadcrumb in the gps (the weather was 200 yard visibility, fog and the last two hunded yards to camp is a jungle) and skinned the top half, pulled the quarters and ribs and neck meat and tenderlions and one strap and pulled the guts out. Tarped the meat I had cut and left the rest skin-on on the cool tundra for the night. Made it back to camp at 1:30 or so, slept soundly (once I dried out...yuck) and went back at 9 to find a wonderfully chilled bunch of meat, no bears and spent the next day (better weather thank god) cutting and packing using a plastic sled to get him 600 yards to the boat. Essentially I faced the same situation I posed in starting this thread in that I was in a situation where packing the thing at night and alone would have been perilous due to rotten visibility and my physical condition (the headlamp in the fog was nearly blinding and left me staring at the compass and GPS and praying I took the right heading going back to camp, and near hypothermia is a rotten condition to be in when slinging a knife in the dark.) So, thanks again for the suggestions and I hope all of you are amidst a safe and fun hunting season. I gotta go cut meat.

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    Near hypothermia and drenched. Maybe you need a little better rain gear?
    Another aid in finding ones way around between the river/trail/road and the moose kill is surveyors tape. Or some other kind of way to mark a trail, besides a GPS.
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    Default Yes and no

    What I needed to do was hike less (I unloaded my gun at two miles from camp that afternoon just to make sure I didn't get itchy) and should have called it quits when I was supremely miserable at 4:30 and just tried another day after a good dry out. I was strapped up with the best money can buy (all capilene and goretex and fleece) and stuff I use all season long...it was just supremely rough weather and as said, I had given up for the day when the angels sang and bullets rang. I did use surveyor's tape at key points from meadow to meadow and to mark where the best trail entered the jungle but in the fog and the dark and the fatigue...it all starts to look the same, so I just usually baby step it and take my time and I also had a compass bearing taken but the GPS helped me to use the nicest trail of the few available and helped avoid plenty of midnight bushwackin, but I supremely realize the dangers of depending on these little handheld wonders.

    The other thing I've learned from harvesting a lot of game at dark is that everything is harder at night. Including finding that best way with the sled to the boat. So, if I can save 2 to three hours of butchering and packing time by prepping it the way I did and returning soon after dawn, I figure I've only left the meat in the field 4 to 5 hours longer than I could have possibly done by working through the night and with guys talking of one to three day pack jobs...I figure that ain't too shabby.

    I had another little epiphany that night, early in the skinning job my knife slipped and I stuck the point into my shin...right into the bone, no major damage, but it hurt like hell and put a hole in my rather nice waders. What I realized was that had that knife slipped and hit something serious...I was in the middle of relatively nowhere with no backup and a trip plan filed that didn't have me expected for 36 hours. So, if waiting til daylight and decently rested to finish a one man butcher job will increase my safety and odds of doing things right but still preserving the quality of this lovely little meat bull, it was one of those "discretion is the better part of valor" decisions that come along now and again.

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