Welcome to Episode #5 of the do-it-yourself Alaska hunting series. In this blog article, we’ll take a look at the topic of meat and trophy care of your harvested animal. Depending on what you’re going to hunt, you can end up with a heck of a lot of meat and a huge, heavy set of antlers and/or hide to deal with. Thus, you’ll need to have a plan in place well ahead of time for how you’re going to care of it all in the field as well as how to get it home.
The Work Begins!
As any experienced big-game hunter will tell you, once your animal is down, much of the initial fun and excitement of your trip pretty well stops, as you’ve now got a HUGE responsibility on your hands in the way of meat care and maintenance. For starters, after your animal is field dressed, which can take several hours and generally consists of skinning, quartering, and removing all edible portions of meat, you’ll need to be able to pack all the meat from the kill site back to your camp or a holding area. And, depending on the size of the animal and where you harvest it, packing meat back to camp can be a MONUMENTAL chore! More than a few hunters have dropped dead of heart attacks while in the process of packing out their animal, so once again, you need to be healthy and in good enough shape to handle such a demanding task.
Game Meat Maintenance
Once you get all the meat back to camp, as well as the hide and antlers if applicable, you’ll then need to perform ongoing meat maintenance, which essentially is a matter of babysitting it all for the rest of your trip to ensure that the meat stays cool, clean, and dry. Of course, you also need to be aware of any predators, such as bears, that may be around which will no doubt be attracted to your game meat. Knowing how to keep a clean, safe camp as well as how to effectively and legally deter predators from taking off with your hard-earned venison and trophy items is yet another topic to be well-educated about, which perhaps I’ll make a future video about, so stay tuned.
Getting Your Animal Home
Along with having a plan for proper field care of your game meat, you’ll also need to have a plan in place to eventually get it all back to town, and later, back home. There are several options for how to handle processing and shipping. The first and easiest option is to take all the meat to a professional processor in whatever Alaska town is closest to your hunt area and have it all prepared and shipped home, which will be rather expensive. A much more economical option is to do the processing yourself. This consists of deboning the meat, cutting it into the manageable portions that you can fit in coolers or fish boxes, freezing it, shipping it or taking it back on the plane with you, and then doing more detailed and customized processing when you get home.
Waxed freezer boxes that are commonly used for shipping fish and meat home can be found in stores all over Alaska and many local fish and game processors can freeze and hold meat for you until you’re ready to take it home. Some hotels and other places of business likewise have big walk-in freezers for guests to store fish and meat in, so be sure to check out the options in the towns closest to your particular hunting area. After freezing your meat (as well as any hides) and packing it all up in coolers or boxes, you can then either take the meat/hide/antlers on the plane back home with you as check-on baggage, or, have it all shipped cargo, which is still much cheaper than shipping it Fed EX, which is what most professional meat processors do. If your game meat is completely frozen and packaged well, and your travel time isn’t more than 48 hours or so, everything should arrive home in great shape.
If you get in over your head with the amount of meat you have to deal with or run out of time to properly care for it, another possibility is to donate some or all of the meat to a local charity to lighten your load as well as a means of sharing your harvest with those in need…as there is a great deal of poverty in Alaska, especially the more remote areas. If using an air taxi or boat charter service, your pilot or captain will most likely have some suggestions for meat donation. If you’re on your own, you’ll have to research options for yourself. Whatever the choice, it’s important to plan for and work out the details of your preferred method of processing and shipping meat and antlers well in advance.
DO NOT WASTE!
On a final note, keep in mind that Alaska authorities are deadly serious about wasting game meat! Taking optimal care of the animal you harvest is priority #1. In fact, you’re only allowed to pack out antlers, hide, and other “trophy” portions of a game animal after the meat is packed out and properly secured, so be well prepared and informed about what you need to do for your particular animal in your particular hunting area. Also, study up and work on your field dressing and game processing skills well in advance too. The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game has a fantastic video on this topic that I highly recommend, which you can check out here. In the next episode in this series, we’ll take a look at the topic of getting in shape and training for your hunt, so be sure to subscribe to this channel so you don’t miss out. Watch the video below to see more…
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