Warm-Weather Care of Big Game

Early-season hunts are often accompanied by warmer temperatures, which makes caring for the meat in the field that much more critical. Following are some hints from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to help make sure your meat retains its quality and is safe for consumption.

  • The bone is what retains the heat and is the source of the problem and causes meat to ultimately sour in the event that it does. You need to expose the bone to ambient air as the bone transfers the heat to the muscle.
  • Split down the spine from the inside, through the spine and backbone to the hide. The carcass should be opened up all the way from the pelvis to the neck.
  • Open up the round area by cutting through the round into the bone, as that’s another place that is a significant problem for heat retention.
  • Have lots of ice available. Bring an extra cooler and put blocks or bags of ice in it. Ice stored in a cooler that’s left closed will last for days and be available when you need it in the field. Blocks last longer than bags. Water should be drained from the cooler to maintain the ice.
  • Skinning a carcass cools it fastest, but if you’re making a relatively short trip from the field to home or field to camp, you can fill the body cavity of an unskinned deer or elk with ice bags to help cool it. But be aware that body heat can remain in the thickest parts of the animal, such as the hindquarters, and stuffing with ice is only a temporary measure. Do not rely on ice in the body cavity to cool larger animals like elk and moose.
  • If it’s too warm to hang a deer or elk outside, skin and quarter it and put the meat on ice. A large cooler will hold most or all of a deer that’s been quartered, or an elk that has been cut into smaller pieces. Remember to leave evidence of sex, as per rules on page 15 of the 2016 deer, elk and antelope regulations.
  • Know where the nearest meat processing facilities are located and know their hours of operation. Do a little homework before your hunt so you will know where and when you can take your game to cool it quickly.