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Thread: TAG Bags Review

  1. #1
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default TAG Bags Review

    Hi folks,

    Recently I posted on my first experience using TAG Bags for bagging a moose we took on a hunt in Western Alaska. In that post I commented on how fast the bags dried; a huge factor for those of us who find it necessary to cool our meat in water (in large contractor trash bags) to prevent spoilage in warmer weather. We had warm temps on our moose hunt and opted to quick-cool our meat right off the kill. When we pulled the meat out of the trash bags it was soaked with condensation, but because the flies were out in force, we had to put the meat in game bags immediately. With cotton bags, the bags would have become soaked with moisture, requiring a change-out for clean dry bags back in camp. As I said, the TAG bags were ideal for the initial stages of our hunt, because the material is a synthetic and doesn't absorb moisture. The bags were immediately soaked, but within a day they were totally dry.

    Our meat has now arrived at the butcher shop (we do all our meat out at Indian Valley Meats), and when it arrived we were told that all the quarters had not glazed over and had become slick on the surface, creating an ideal environment for spoilage from surface bacteria. Some of the surface of the meat will have to be trimmed off to prevent spoilage. Needless to say, I was very surprised (and disappointed) to see that, as I assumed the meat would develop a hard glaze (crust) inside the TAG bags. Clearly, it did not.

    I just got off the phone with Doug Drum, owner of Indian Valley Meats, having called him to discuss his experiences with these bags so far. Being a relatively new product, I was curious whether other hunters have had similar experiences with them. Doug told me that he only knows of two orders that have come in so far where those bags were used, and both orders had the same issue; no hard crust on the meat and a serious risk of surface contamination from bacteria. His take is that the material is not breathable enough to allow a hard glaze to form consistently in wet and dry conditions. I've dealt with many thousands of pounds of meat in camp over the last twenty years or so of hunting here in Alaska, both as a hunting guide and as a sport hunter, and I believe the TAG bags would probably allow meat to glaze in dry weather... but now I have my doubts if the weather is damp.

    When TAG Bags first came out I saw them at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show in Anchorage. The material seemed kind of tight and my first reaction was to blow through it to see how good the air circulation was. I could not force air through the material. Shortly after that I was contacted with the news that the material had changed and was now breathable. The set of bags I purchased is certainly more breathable than the original stuff, but still very tight. Air flows much more freely through my heavy cotton bags than through the current TAG Bag material. Another negative is that virtually ALL of my TAG Bags were damaged during the back-haul from the field on Everts Air Cargo. This, despite the use of a poly overbag to prevent damage. In contrast, I have shipped game meat many times with nothing on it beyond a heavy cotton game bag, with little or no damage from the same handling process (raw meat in game bags shipped on a shrink-wrapped pallet). The bags are just not as rugged as cotton bags. But I think I could live with that if the material was more breathable. I'll just use the poly overbags; they only cost $1.25 or so at Alaska Mill and Feed, which is also where I get my game bags and salt. I'll post a photo of the poly bags below this post.

    So... I may be back to square one on this, unless the bag material is changed to address these issues.

    I would be very interested in your experiences with this bag in wet and dry weather, especially in damp, humid conditions. I like the concept of a synthetic bag that breathes well, but so far it appears that the TAG Bags have fallen short just a bit. I also like how compact the bags are. I routinely carry a full compliment of cotton bags in my pack at all times, so I don't have to go all the way back to camp for them once we get an animal down (we may be miles from camp). A compact bag is ideal for my hunting style.

    So how about it? I'm looking for hunters who have at least three or four Alaska hunts under their belt and have had experience with TAG Bags and cotton bags for hanging and hauling meat.

    I will be conducting a study of these bags compared to cotton, where we will actually be measuring the bacteria count over several days, to determine the breathability of these bags and their ability to mitigate the growth of spoilage-causing bacteria better than cotton. I will post the results of that study here when they become available. I think these bags are a huge leap in the right direction, but they may not be quite there yet. Doug Drum recommends NOT putting game meat in "plastic" (which is essentially what the TAG Bags are), but I think if the material breathes well, he might change his perspective. SEE HIS ARTICLE on the care of game meat for more details on this.

    I'm attaching an image of both cotton bags and TAG Bags on our meat pole, where our game meat remained hanging for the entire hunt. The hunter is holding a hind quarter in a TAG Bag, while the bag in the foreground (on the far left) is a cotton bag with a side of ribs in it. These are the bags I've used for years.

    -Mike
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    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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  2. #2
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Poly Overbag for transporting meat

    Here is a photo of the poly overbags I used this year for transporting meat in TAG Bags. With a little more work on my part, this could prevent some of the bag damage I saw this season.

    You can purchase these bags at Alaska Mill and Feed for under two bucks each. I use them for shipping my food and much of my gear to the field.

    -Mike
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    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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  3. #3

    Default Tag Bags

    We tried using these bags after reading about them on the forum.
    There was a lot of flies and we were very happy to have them. We took moose right down river to the truck. They glazed up well in the bed of the truck during the 250 mile drive from Nenana. We also found them to be fragile(mostly from bones tearing them) and had to sew up a couple of them. I liked them because of the flies not getting in. I'll try an outer bag to move them around.
    Riverlover.

  4. #4
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Another positive note

    I forgot to mention that when we washed the TAG Bags in the washing machine, they came out very clean. No blood stains at all. Not so with cotton bags. I used a lot of bleach with both types of bags.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
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  5. #5
    Member fullkurl's Avatar
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    Default hmmm. No win deal?

    Mike,
    If your moose meat was put into the bags moist (no crust) it would doubtless remain that way unless the meat was allowed to crust and then put into the bag. In my experience Tag bags have way too limited air flow and would doubtless cause your problem. I'm thinking it wasnt too windy for you guys?
    Given the flies you encountered, it seems it was a no win situation. Cheese cloth bags are regarded as anathema by many afield, but obviously they breathe better than any. The fly eggs with them are awful. I personally like them in sheep country. They are feather light and meat crusts really quickly, but I havent had the flies issues that others have had up high.

    Maybe a combination of bags would've worked in your moose camp.
    In your case, a little citric acid or lemon juice etc, and cheese cloth bag for a quick crust, and then into the "tags" for the long haul, nice and crusted and ready for Indian Meats,,,
    Thoughts?
    Frank

  6. #6
    Member M's Avatar
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    Default Game bags.

    Mike,
    I have used the TAG bags on a more than a few hunts, I also use the Alaska Game Bag, medium weight cotton game bag. I have had no problems with either brand, as far as meat spoiling. TAG Bags are a bit on the small side to fit a full quarters of Moose in, I found them to narrow to pull full front quarters in and just a bit short for the rear quarters. I'm talking about a Moose spilt in half at the second rib from the rear and then the two halves split down the spine with a meat saw, not quarters cut at the ball joints. TAG Bag size has been fine for all other game.

    I NEVER ever, put fresh warm meat in a bag to hang for extended periods of time though, I leave bags off until meat is crusted over. Once meat has a crust I do bag it with clean dry bags, to keep the flies off and keep meat clean. I try keep meat dry at all times. Kodiak, can eat your lunch with damp moist weather and horizontal rain, just qualifying the "try to keep dry", comment. This fall the flies were very bad, at least at our camp. We built a small green alder fire that produced large amounts of smoke under our meat tarp and it was hugely successful at keeping flies off the meat.

    I do find the TAG Bags much more durable than the Alaska Game Bags. Mike you mentioned you had some TAG Bags torn, putting meat on a pallet to be moved with a forklift, having some torn bags in that manner, is probably not a fair comment or comparison. Unless you were driving the forklift there is no way to know what happened.

    One use I dearly love the TAG bags for is shipping capes and skins as they are sewn tight enough so they don't loose salt. They are also great for shipping dried capes and skins to the Tannery, and yes the will send them back to you if you ask.
    I'm not ready to switch completely to one bag or the other, as both have ups and downs.
    Regards,
    Mark
    Picture is a full rear Moose quarter, with a good crust.
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  7. #7

    Default Tag Bag Sucess

    I have used these bags on Montague Island for deer and on Sheep in the Brooks Range. On Montague I sprayed all the deer with Citic Acid prior to putting them in the bags. The result was that the only meat I lost was from cutting off the crust layer. This was after 13 days hanging covered with a tarp...about 8 days of which it poured rain.

    Also had great results in the Brooks, but used no citric acid on that hunt. The bags are slightly prone to bone punctures but clean cuts reduce this greatly.

    I'll stick with mine for the forseeable future.

  8. #8
    Member jeff p's Avatar
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    Default tags

    I have used the cheesecloth & cotton bags for moose & bou w/ good success thought I would try tags last year in 05 for a moose, temps where in the 50's w/rain & i had the meat to the butcher in 3 days but I got to tell you it was not in the best of shape. I know there are a lot of varibles at play here but i did mt best at keeping it dry (as dry as you can floating in the rain) and it just would not dry w/the tags. I liked the weight of the bags and if you can dry it & just use the tags for initial transport then open the meat back up so it can dry & hang I think the would be ideal. its sure tough when its wet & warm out.
    On a side note I let a 50-55in walk this year just because it was warm out & I had 8 more days on the river after my poor experiance last year I just didnt want to have a boatload of rotten meat. Floatinig makes huntiing nice but really challenges meat carer when conditions arent ideal exspecially when you hunt alone its a lot of work.

  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default TAG Bag quarter fits

    Quote Originally Posted by M View Post
    Mike,
    ...TAG Bags are a bit on the small side to fit a full quarters of Moose in, I found them to narrow to pull full front quarters in and just a bit short for the rear quarters. I'm talking about a Moose spilt in half at the second rib from the rear and then the two halves split down the spine with a meat saw, not quarters cut at the ball joints. TAG Bag size has been fine for all other game....Mark
    Picture is a full rear Moose quarter, with a good crust.
    Mark,

    You're probably better at this than I, as far as how you take the quarters off. My practice has been to take the hind quarter off at the ball joint and leave the top end with the backstrap piece. The reason I do this is because my butcher told me that there's a lot of fluid in that joint that can go sour, and could ruin the entire quarter (he called it "bone sour"). The front shoulder comes off at the seam, with no spine pieces attached. If you cut it this way, there is plenty of room for a quarter in a large TAG Bag, without the meat being jammed in and sticking to the bag. The average moose shoulder cut this way comes out at about 48 inches in length. The hind quarters are shorter and of course bigger in diameter, but even then I had no trouble getting the hind quarter in a large TAG Bag and having the bag fit loosely around the meat. I know there are much larger quarters out there from really large bulls, and I'd be curious how they would fit into these bags. In your situation, it may be a lost cause trying to fit quarters with ribs attached (or spine pieces). How do you make them fit?

    On a related note, the large cotton bags I've been using are a pretty tight fit for a moose front shoulder. I heard that Sportsman's Warehouse has some really big elk bags that may work though. I have to check that out.

    Thanks to all so far for the reports from actual use of both cotton and TAG Bags; my take is that this is a pretty good product, but it needs some more development yet.

    One thing I haven't mentioned in this thread (though I did in another) is the number of bags you get in the kits. This thread is probably a great place to include that info as well, so here goes. Keep in mind that we all have different ways of doing this. What follows is simply my preference in terms of numbers of bags / sizes for moose and caribou, and what I'd like to see in future TAG Bag kits:

    MOOSE

    1. Six Large (one for each quarter, and one for each side of ribs).
    2. Three Medium (one for backstrap and tenderloins, one for neck, one for cape).
    3. One Small (for brisket and trim).


    CARIBOU

    1. Seven Medium (one for each quarter, one for each side of ribs, and one for cape).
    2. Three Small (one for backstrap and tenderloins, one for neck, one for brisket and trim).


    That's just my take though. There are other ways, and other perspectives.

    -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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    Default

    I used TAG bags for the first time this year and had no problem with the meat crusting over. Also had not problems with flies and with the weather during the day, I was worried. However, it go down to 20 at night so we didn't have a problem with meat spoilage. I use 6 bags, five large caribou bags for the quarters and trim, I don't take the ribs whole and then a small bag for the backstrap and tenderloin. Experiences vary I guess.

  11. #11
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default T A G bags

    Hi folks,

    Apparently there have been some questions concerning my experiences with synthetic game bags this past fall. Evidently I have been invited to post on another forum concerning these experiences, however I barely have time for this one. Anyone who frequents both sites is welcome to forward the info if they like.

    Personal experiences are usually subjective to a degree, and hard conclusions are sometimes unreliable if they're based upon only upon one experience. On the other hand, only a fool would continue doing the same thing expecting different results. Right now I'm trying to decide how I will use these bags in the future. In my case, last year was my first experience with them, but I have since spoken with several others who have experienced results similar to mine. I have several theories as to why things worked out the way they did, which you can read in this thread. Additional information is available AT THIS LINK, where I posted information in my Blog that is not found in this thread.

    Note that I posted this thread right after I returned from my moose hunt last September, and the information on my website was posted some time ago as well. This information has been out there a while; I'm not sure why there has been a delayed reaction to it.

    I realize that there are personalities involved in this, so let's keep the discussion civil. I'm willing to offer additional insights as necessary if you need clarification on anything.

    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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  12. #12

    Default Why can't he respond

    You know I really don't see why Larry isn't allowed to come on and defend his product. This fight seems one sided. Mike you say you barely have time for this site but yet you logged on to Larry's for 26 minutes (he apparently has your IP). Maybe Larry should have 26 minutes on this site to have his say. It is his product after all. If your gonna make negative comments about it he should at least be able to respond. It's hard to take anyone seriously when we can't hear both sides. It seems strange other other product makers are allowed to come on here at talk about their products except him.

    I think this is a good lesson for us readers. Don't take advice from internet forums. You never know what the motives are behind the comments.

    P.S. Mike I liked in your Blog how you mentioned a "guy from fairbanks" as if you don't know his name. That was classic.

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    Member BucknRut's Avatar
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    Default There are some "fine points" there BearMan

    Quote Originally Posted by BearMan View Post
    ...I think this is a good lesson for us readers. Don't take advice from internet forums. You never know what the motives are behind the comments.....
    I am not in anyway affiliated with any game bags and would rather not get involved with this thread, but I have got to respectfully disagree with you, to a certain degree, on this "advice" you are spreading BearMan. I have never been to Alaska and I am planning to move there in less than 2 months, if it were not for these "Internet forums," I would be miles behind in my preperation. There are hunters, fishers, trappers, photographers, boaters, etc. that religiously resort to "Internet forums" for "advice." IMO there is a common sense approach to accepting any advice from anyone, anywhere. There will forever be people who have and state opinions. It is the responsibility of the reader/listener to decide whether you agree with the opinions (which is ultimately advice). I try to get as many opinions as possible. I try to know the source of these opinions. I either accept the opinion and research it further or I dismiss it and move on. To say that one should take no advice from anyone on any forum is ludicrous. Seriously think about what these "Internet forums" would be and who would be here if we "Don't take advice from internet forums." I thank all of you fine folks for your many opinions and advice that I have gained by frequenting this site.

    Respectfully,
    Joshua

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    Default

    " This information has been out there a while; I'm not sure why there has been a delayed reaction to it."

    Mike,
    This isn't a delayed reaction, the gist of what I understand is it has to do with comments you made towards the TAG bags during your seminars at the sportsmans show this past week. I wasn't at the show and I have no first hand knowledge of what was said, so I'm not going to comment about any of that. Just trying to clear up what brought this issue up again.

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    Default Level The Playing Field

    Mike, you are accused of speaking negatively about the TAG Bags developed by Larry Bartlett. This supposedly occured during th sportsman's show in Anchorage. If this is not true, then set the record straight and all the hoopla can cease. Whatever happened, set the record straight. As Larry is not allowed to respond here, why don't you, when you are surfing the PV Forum, outline what you said at the seminar and why you feel the way you do. You have every right to your opinion and I,for one, will defend your right to express it even if I disagree. You won't have to resopnd to the comments over there, but at least the air can be cleared.

  16. #16
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default An answer for Anthony, et al-

    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
    Mike, you are accused of speaking negatively about the TAG Bags developed by Larry Bartlett. This supposedly occured during th sportsman's show in Anchorage. If this is not true, then set the record straight and all the hoopla can cease. Whatever happened, set the record straight. As Larry is not allowed to respond here, why don't you, when you are surfing the PV Forum, outline what you said at the seminar and why you feel the way you do. You have every right to your opinion and I,for one, will defend your right to express it even if I disagree. You won't have to resopnd to the comments over there, but at least the air can be cleared.
    Hello Anthony,

    There are a number of interrelated issues here, but my focus in this thread is game bags. What I wrote in this thread, including what I posted back in September when I started this thread, and what I posted on my blog is identical to what I shared at the Sportsman Show. Regrettably, an interpretation was made of what I said at the show, that missed several key points and falsely concluded that I was not recommending the bags. In fact, I said that I planned on continuing to use the bags in some situations, namely getting the meat bagged on the kill site and packed to camp. At that point my preference so far is to change out to cotton because of the absorbency issue. Last year we nearly lost some of our meat as a result of it not glazing over properly in the synthetic bags. A major point that has been missed, though I have posted this information three times already (in addition to mentioning it in two meat care seminars at the show), is that the meat in the synthetic bags was hanging on the same meat pole next to meat that was in cotton bags. Yet the meat in the cotton bags was fine and the other was developing a slick surface (often a precursor to spoilage). I have some ideas as to why that took place, which I have posted on my blog. As I said there, and will reiterate here, I don't take my one experience as exact science, and my conclusions are, at this point, tentative.

    My capability of judging meat spoilage has been called into question elsewhere, and to that I can only say that I have been at this for over two decades here in Alaska, and have never lost meat to spoilage in the field. I have been an advocate for proper meat care for many years and am well known in this field as a strong advocate for this issue. If that is not enough for some, perhaps the testimony of Doug Drum, owner of Indian Valley Meats, is. He reported the exact same issues we experienced with our moose meat last fall, with three other batches where the same bags were involved. In fact, he told me that the limited experiences he'd personally had with the bags were all negative. That's a factoid that I did not share in my seminars. If I were simply interested in bashing a product, why would I have not mentioned that?

    I am also encountering other hunters, including some who wrote me just today, who are having experiences similar to mine. Those are also just opinions, however if this sort of thing continues, perhaps conclusions can be made from it.

    Having said all that, I would offer a limited recommendation at this time, provided hunters were well educated on proper meat care methods and used best practices in the field.

    Hope this clears things up a bit. If not, I really don't know what else to say that I haven't already said. I respectfully disagree that any attempt on my part to "set the record straight" will result in a general reduction of hoopla. It's cabin fever season, gentlemen. Some among us need to get out of the house.

    Finally, it appears that a number of folks are wondering why Mr. B artlet is not posting on this website concerning his products. I know the answer to that question, however it would be best to take that up with him; I was told he already answered it on his website some time ago. It is a result of his own decisions, not mine.

    Regards,

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  17. #17
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    Default Gentlemen...

    This is a good subject for discussion. Meat care is of vital concern to all hunters.

    Kindly leave the personalities out of it. If you have had good experiences with the bags, say so. If you have had negative experiences, say that. Elaborate for us on conditions, etc.

    Posts that become personal in a negative way will be deleted.

    David

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    Default Temperature

    I'm not convinced that a "crust" or "glazing over" is the be-all and end-all of meat care. Yes, it's optimal to hang quarters or whole carcasses in dry, breezy, sub-35-degree weather. Sometimes that's not an option. Temperature AND moisture are key. How will a cotton bag behave in continuous 55-degree wet weather vs synthetic? I would guess no better than synthetic. Meat has tremendous thermal mass, and a given clump of meat cooled to sub-40 degrees will tend to stay that way for a while, if not subject to direct heat. Maybe if it's moist AND overly warm out, a post-float temperature contingency plan must be made to protect that meat on the outside of the cold clump. But if it's 50+ out, wet, and you can no longer give the meat the trashbag river bath, and your meat is sitting on a pallet, shrink wrapped, awaiting flight, you just might have to contend with a bit of surface spoilage. No cotton bag is going to facilitate or maintain the "crust" under those conditions.

    After a week's time at a given temperature, I'd rather be cutting up moist meat at sub-40 degrees than dry meat at 50. Hate to disagree with you, Mike, as your posts have been helpful, but you may have just been faced with a near-impossible meat maintenance circumstances, and after years of successful meat care, your number was called. No flies on that (pardon the pun).

    It would be helpful to quantify the amount of meat lost.

    Also, just thinking out loud here, and it may be a bit counter-intuitive (wanting to keep air on it and all), but you may consider trying to insulate your meat after your last chilly overnight air-out or river dunk. An uninsulated clump of 40-degree meat will show a warmer surface temperature in 55-degree weather than an insulated clump of 40-degree meat...the insulated meat's temperature will be uniformly cold, all the way out to the surface. Moist or not, you won't see fast growth of fur at 40-degrees. If your sleeping bag is already stanky and you're waiting on the airstrip in the sun...

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    Default Let's be Fair

    David,

    These are just the facts. You allow Michael Strahan to say what he wants to say about anything that is hunt related. This includes reviews about hunting products and books.

    Larry Bartlett has written books titled "Caribou Hunting" and "Float Hunting Alaska". Larry Bartlett has designed and marketed an inflateable canoe, the Pro Pioneer. Larry Bartlett has designed a new game bag that is not made of cotton.

    Michael Strahan recently made comments that were negative about Larry Batrlett's game bags. Larry Bartlett is not allowed to rebut Michael Strahan's comments on this forum because he is banned from doing so by you.

    There seems to be a problem.

    John

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    Default TAG Bags

    This last year I took my boy moose hunting and he got his first moose. I always take the best care of the meat as possible. Just my observations but, this is what I found. I had half of the meat in cotton game bags and half in tag bags, because I could not afford two sets of TAG game bags. 1st everyone knows that it takes a while for meat to crust and that normally you need to change the bags, to allow for drainage. 2nd after switching bags the cotton held more moisture and I only had very little fly larvae on the meat after 3 days. On the tag bags I had none and the meat crusted faster. This hunt was up near delta and the moose was shot of the 1st of Sept. It was warm and rainy, but with proper care I say the tag bags worked alot better, and have since bought more. Honestly, I have seen alot of reviews on this site, some that i agreed with and some I have not. We all have different experiences, and it will effect the outcome of opinions, but the problem I have is alot of it seems to do with a couple of peoples ego's. I value both of their opinions but lets just use the facts.

    Terry

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