Methods of Cooling Meat in the Field

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After putting forth the effort and expense necessary to harvest a whitetail, the last thing you want to do is lose the meat to something avoidable. Unfortunately there are some obstacles when it comes to keeping meat safe in the field if you are a few days from being able to bring it home or to a processor. In order to retain edible meat at the end of a hunting trip, it is important to know proper meat handling techniques as well as how to keep your future dinners safe from being the dinner of a scavenger before you can ever get it home.

A major obstacle a hunter must overcome is the body heat of the animal harvested. Once an animal dies, you might expect the body to begin to cool, but the opposite is actually true. After death, muscles continue to generate heat, especially in the case of an animal that was physically exerting itself prior to its death. While alive, the circulatory system does the work of cooling down the body, but that component is removed after death occurs, leaving building heat trapped in the muscles. Unless you are able to manually cool the meat via rapid means, the possibility of spoilage exists and your harvest could be a loss.

In order to cool meat quickly, there are several steps you should take. First and foremost, all deer that are harvested in weather that is above 40 degrees should be skinned as this jumpstarts the meat cooling process. To continue cooling as well as lighten the load, boning a carcass is an option. Not only will it reduce the burden you have to carry, but boning also helps with cooling by allowing air to reach more areas of exposed meat. Of course this then increases the work you must do as boned meat is more prone to drying and contact with dirt, but these are problems easily solved by bagging.

Methods of Cooling Meat in the Field - GPS1504 - bowsite-197.jpg
Photo: Bowsite

Once meat is bagged, that makes it easier to hang, which is also useful for cooling meat as well as keeping it cool for long periods of time. Additionally, meat that is hung is less susceptible to scavengers looking for an easy meal. A good option for hanging meat is through the use of a meat pole. Having meat exposed to airflow from all sides is very helpful it terms of cooling, but it is imperative that you use a suitable location. This means opting for shade, taking into consideration sunrise and sunset if you're going to hang it for an extended period of time. Utilizing an area where flowing water is present as well because that in itself creates air movement that will help cool your meat. Beyond that, an area where a couple of sturdy trees are present is necessary. You will need two that are reasonably close together as well as a pole to span the distance between the two which you can then secure with paracord as in shown in the video below.

Since scavengers are a concern, you want to be able to hang your meat out of their reach. Animals such as coyotes will be unable to access meat that is high enough off the ground, but this can be easier said than done in bear country. If bears are a problem in your hunting area, hanging meat is not going to be a deterring obstacle for them. Since bears can climb trees, there's not a lot you can do when it comes to reaching meat that will stop them. However, meat can be placed in low lying areas that are rich with shade and get little to no breeze that will spread the smell around. You can then use the gut pile as a distraction, drawing bear attention to an area away from where your meat is stored.

Knowing meat preservation tactics is essential to a successful hunt. Even if you plan to come back after a harvest, sometimes things happen to delay us unexpectedly. It is during times like this that it is useful to have knowledge on your side, such as how to cool meat quickly and how to build a meat pole when needed.

Have you utilized a meat pole in the past? What are your tips for building and using one? Let us know in the comments.


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