Game Meat: Keeping It Cool While Hunting
Few things are sweeter than reaping the benefits of arduous labor. Hunting is a popular sport enjoyed by over 15 million Americans. After a successful hunt, it’s a true pleasure to bring home a trophy with a little more use than the trophies associated with soccer or baseball tournaments.
Most people hunt for the possibility of bringing home fresh game to feed their friends and families. Whatever game you choose, it’s vital to know how to store and keep the meat fresh.
During the hunt, it may be stressful to think about how you are to carry, store, and transport the meat. We are here to help give you tips and tricks to ease your hunting experience and help you feel more prepared for your big hunt.
What Animals Are In Season?
Depending on the time of year and where you are hunting, certain animals are in “season.” Deer, turkey, and bear are the most popularly hunted wild game.
Check your local and federal regulations to ensure that you are on the right side of the law. Besides which animals are in season, some states have specific rules. For example, some allow year-round hunting of pests like wild boars, and others have particular rules like banning hunting on Sundays.
What Are the Different Types of Game?
The term big game is relatively self-explanatory. The larger animals, typically with hooves or paws, are considered to be “big game.” Deer, moose, elk, and bear, are just a few of the big game options available across the United States.
Depending on the region of the United States you are hunting from, wild boars, alligators, and larger species of deer (like Pronghorn, antelopes, or caribou) are also in the big game category.
The American West is known for being bountiful in big game, especially more unique species. The United States is a geographically diverse country, and with that comes a multitude of wild game options available for the beginner or for the veteran hunters.
Waterfowl, turkeys, and other game birds (and any non-domesticated animals under 40 pounds) are placed under the category of small game. Big game usually takes a higher focus, but with small game, accuracy and precision in the execution of your shot are extremely important.
It takes a special skill set to become a good small game hunter. To be equipped with the skill to shoot a small quail or pheasant and still be able to reap fresh meat from the animal is a notable accomplishment!
Being a hunter takes a certain focus, skill, and patience. It is no small feat to be able to shoot small animals. Every type of game is impressive to take home, big or small, and each can have great flavor and taste with the right care and handling.
Fresh Game on the Go
After you find your game of choice and succeed in your hunt, now is the time to cut and store. It is important to gather the proper tools and equipment before taking your shot.
A hunting knife, rope, plastic bags, and some clean rags are just a few of the necessary tools to field dress the animal. Keep note that field dressing includes skinning, taking out the organs, and bleeding the animal — so it’s not the prettiest sight, but it’s a part of the process to get that gamey meat.
Keys to Fresh Game Success
Preparation, patience, and persistence are keys to success when it comes to hunting, tracking, and cleaning your animal. Whether the animal is big or small, the carcass needs to be cooled during the transport period. Cooling ensures that your meat hasn’t spoiled by the time you’re ready to make your BBQ elk short ribs or venison stew.
Since the animal will be messy, and you don’t want to have to deal with a mess in your trunk or truck bed, a rotomolded hard cooler is a practical option to store your fresh game. A hard cooler is an easy way to ensure your meat will stay at an appropriate temperature till you can get it into a more climate-controlled environment.
Once you reach your post-hunt destination, there are air-drying methods to use in order to help the meat tenderize over a span of seven to 14 days. This is called the “aging period.” The temperature should be between 34-37 degrees Fahrenheit, so it may be best to have a large freezer or walk-in cooler available to store your meat.
If you don’t have a place to prepare your meat from a game animal, you can send it to a processor to have it prepared for you. This is an easy way to get ground meat patties, tenderloin steaks, and other fan-favorite menu items without too much hassle.
Food Safety Precautions
Free range wild game is a delicacy and rich in unique flavors. Wild game also tends to be very fatty, which people either tend to love or hate.
When in the field, it is vital not to cut off the fat content before you age the meat. The fat on the meat protects the meat from spoiling — even if you don’t have it in a cool environment for a couple of hours after it is skinned.
Once the meat is aged, you can pull out your cutting board and trim the fat. It’s crucial to store the meat in a fridge or freezer immediately after it is cut into its various styles based on your cooking method of choice. The proper storage in a fridge for thawed meat must be a water-tight plastic and eaten within two to three days.
When cooking your fresh game, be sure the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145-165 degrees. Otherwise, you are at a higher risk for a food-borne illness. After all the hard work and dedication, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
From the Woods to Your Table
Since we are blessed in North America with a broad selection of wild animals, there are many ways to prepare and cook fresh game. There’s something about it that’s immediately noticeable as different from the grocery store frozen aisle.
For example, venison is a delicious type of red meat to roast or toss into a stew. Marinate the meat in some red wine for a few hours, bake it in the oven for a couple more, and you are ready to enjoy a tender and tasty dinner. Plus, it tastes even better since you made it from start to finish.
Another great way to prepare and eat wild game is making your meat into burgers. This form of meat is especially delicious, made from elk, caribou, bison, and even bear. As mentioned before, the meat does tend to be a little more fatty and a bit more greasy than beef. However, it was caught, harvested, and processed by you, and that makes it all worth it.
Share Your Experiences
Hunting is a special time for many men and women. It is a time to get outside, go into the woods, and go back in time to truly appreciate the art of hunting and gathering.
Hunters are a driving force behind keeping nature wild; they’ve contributed more than $7.2 billion to state conservation efforts, support rural communities’ economies, and help curb dangerous animal populations like wild boars.
So, if you’re so inclined, grab your license, and gear, and we wish you the best in all of your adventures!
Safe Handling of Wild Game Meats | Home & Garden Information Center.
Hunting in the U.S. - statistics & facts | Statista
Hunting on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lands and Waters | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
AN ECONOMIC FORCE FOR CONSERVATION | USDA
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