From the moment your game animal takes its last breath, the clock starts ticking on the viability of the meat and skins. Proper handling from here forth is critical. Skinning should be done as soon as possible to aid in the cooling process. Hides should be folded flesh side in to prevent drying. DO NOT SALT and keep it cold.
Proper handling of the game meat is essential to quality on the table and your game needs a core temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible. 38 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for storing and aging. Above 40 degrees Fahrenheit the meat will start to spoil within 24 hours.
- Do not let your game freeze before it is processed! Frozen, thawed and re-frozen meat will have a freezer taste.
- Ice can be used, however, meat should not sit in cooler water or its own blood.
- Meat not properly cooled and stored will have a gamey taste, or worse, spoil.
- Temperatures in the high country can plummet at night, giving a successful hunter a false sense of security about his quarters hanging in a tree, as temperatures can quickly soar during the next day.
- Nature simply does not produce the conditions necessary for storing and aging meat.
- The only proper field care for your meat or hides is to get them out of the field immediately and properly refrigerate until processed.
Okay, you have done it! Now the real work begins. Once you’ve gutted your animal, the first thing to do is carefully remove the tenderloins or fillets from inside the body cavity. There is one on each side of the spine that runs from where the rib ends, down to the pelvis. BE CAREFUL! Don’t hack these up. This is the very best cut in the entire animal.
If you do not intend to mount your kill
- If you do not intend to mount your kill but would like to tan the hide, continue your cut on the belly straight up the under side all the way to the bottom of the head.
- Cut the skin on the inside of the front and hind quarter and peel back the hide, exposing one side of the carcass.
- Remove the exposed front and hind quarters, placing them directly into a game bag. Do not roll them in the dirt first!
- You want to keep your meat as clean as possible.
- Remove the top back strap, neck meat and whatever else is clean enough to put in a game bag.
- Roll the carcass over back on to its own skin and repeat the process. This technique will help keep your meat clean
If you do intend to mount your head
- If you do intend to mount your head, do not cut into the brisket or arm pits after gutting.
- Make a center cut on the top side of the hide separating the front and back half of the animal.
- The back half can be skinned as before. On the front half, instead of cutting up the bottom, make a cut straight down the center of the back, starting at the base of the skull down to your center cut.
- Then proceed as before, removing all the meat from that side of the carcass, then pull the skin back over, roll and repeat.