View Full Version : Treatment of wild meat (elk)

September 23, 2001, 03:58 PM
I'm hoping someone can give me some advice quickly. I got my first elk (decent 6x6) yesterday with a bow. We got the quarters off and cooling (game bagged) pretty quickly. Finally forced out of the woods by darkness and exhaustion last night (packed out 2 of the quarters). Finished the job this morning. I didn't get the backstraps off till this morning (he was skinned and cooling). It's been a little warm here (45 or so last night but up to 80 during the day). What's the best way to save/salvage the straps? For small game I have fairly regularily soaked in salt water before freezing, but I have not tried this on big game. Any advice is much appreciated, I would sure hate to loose this meat; waisting any part of the animal really bothers me.

I think the quarters are fine, I had them setting on some downed logs (suspended) and they cooled pretty quickly. All of the animal is currently cooling in a couple of refridgerators.

Thanks in advance.


Robert the41MagFan
September 23, 2001, 10:19 PM
Don't worry about the weather conditions. Just package the straps in freezer paper and put them in the ice box. I've shot lots of animals late in the evening and not be able to find them till morning. Hunt early in the morning, shoot something and not dress'm till late afternoon. I don't take the skin off till I'm ready to butcher and instead insert ice in the chest cavity and lay the carcass on the cement floor in the garage for a few days to cool. Total opposite of the norm and have had no problems. Have my reasons, but that is another discussion. And if you have any doubt about whether those straps are spoiled or not, I'd be glad to drive the six hour to Coeur d'Alene and take them off your hands. :)


September 24, 2001, 12:05 AM
Thanks for the offer! I have them in the fridge in game bags, they have cooled pretty well. I plan to start butchering tomorrow, just to get the fridge emptied out. What's your take on washing the meat before going into freezer paper and into the freezer? I've heard that this promotes spoilage, but don't know for myself.


September 24, 2001, 12:17 AM
Easy, celebrate your victory, eat the straps tonight!

Seriously keeping everything cool is the first best step. You can only freeze it once.

September 24, 2001, 08:40 AM
Wash the meat off in tap water to make sure you get the hair, any dirt off, etc. - you want it clean.

I've never worried about any excess water before freezing but certainly don't have it awash. If it concerns you at all, you can always pat dry it before wrapping.

6X w/bow - great job, brianidaho! I know things don't always go as planned, but the straps & tenders are the first thing I take out & it goes back with me to camp post haste. Good stuff!

Bud Helms
September 24, 2001, 10:11 AM

Ditto labgrade. A question ... I stopped soaking my game meat in salt water because it toughened it up. If you feel the need to soak, have you tried a baking soda solution? I agree with just rinsing it off in tap water. It never spoiled any of my meat.

Also, last year I finally went out and bought a foodsaver (one of those vacuum packagers). Whoa! I like it. 'Minimizes freezer burn and the meat lasts longer in the freezer. Of course that's something you do after you get back home. The foodsaver also restores the shape of a leather holster to your favorite carry piece if left in the vacuum bag over night ... :)

September 24, 2001, 10:18 AM
Thanks for the advice and tips. The meat smelled a little strong coming out of the woods yesterday. Not "bad", just a little funny. It's been cooling in the fridge (put the game bag in the freezer for an hour or so to pull out some of the heat). I don't notice any bad smells now. Will be cleaning and butchering today.

This was the first bull I have had respond to a bugle. OK, he was the only one I even heard bugling this year. Sure is impressive when they get up close and personnal. Was thinking of bugging out till rifle season, the bow was feeling a little less than adequate at the time. Got the shot at about 15 yards, he bolted a few steps and stopped, finally dropped about 50 yards from where I shot. Double lung hit, may have gotten the heart as well from where he was hit. Didn't take the time to check. Arrow went clear through the chest cavity, was stopped under the hide on the far side. Supprised at how fast he dropped and how much damage an arrow does.


Robert the41MagFan
September 24, 2001, 11:26 AM
brianidaho, that strong odor that you are referring too. That's the smell of success and there is nothing like it. And if you think elk is strong, take a whiff of dead bear. That will really knock your socks off.

Lots of good advise here. Wash the meat and freeze. Vacuum packagers have become quite popular now and can save lots of time and trouble. There is almost an art to properly using freezer paper and most don't seem to get it right and get freezer burn over the long haul. I just got one and will be trying it out this year. Run to your local Fred's and take a look at one.

Congratulations on your harvest. I hit a six by six opening day and lost it. Was pretty disturbed about it and have lost confidence in my skills and equipment. Been hunting my entire life and it has never happened before. I'll have another shot in a few months. Missed a cow too, but I was laughing and could not control my glee. A gimme! At less than 20 feet.


September 24, 2001, 11:44 AM
Everybody's entitled to a bad day, Robert. Don't let it spook you.

But yoy lost one by laughing? That's one for the books! You should feel bad about that!


As to washing with baking soda - hmmm. Doubt it's a good idea. Bacteria generally like a base environment - that's why pickling preserves stuff. Vinegar is an acid.

Not that I recommend pickled elk. :barf:

September 24, 2001, 03:53 PM

I was out this morning doing some running around and picking up materials for butchering. Of course I had to stop by work and show off a little!

Just got home and cut up some of the back-strap, soaked it in Itallian dressing and fried it up. Dang that's good eating!!! Meat seems fine, looks good and doesn't smell at all now. I was pretty worried that I wasted the best part of the elk for a while. Course we'll see if I keel over and die in the next couple of hours. Will keep you posted. The fish and game guy I talked with recommended washing the outside with vinigar/water solution, am doing so.

Robert, sorry to hear of your lost bull, that can be heartbreaking. I feel lucky with this one, the shot placement was perfect, but I am not taking credit for that. Lots of grey to shoot at, and probably got a little lucky. I blew badly a couple of shots at deer a couple of weeks ago. Have been practicing pretty heavily, just got excited and screwed up. At least those were clean misses. On this guy I just kept telling myself to stay loose and do it just like at a target. Was happy to see how quickly an arrow will bring one down.


Bud Helms
September 24, 2001, 07:05 PM
I use the baking soda just before cooking, while thawing. Doubt away.

September 24, 2001, 09:29 PM
Best thing if using butcher paper is to do a double wrap. Lay out the first piece, slap the meat on it, fold over the top till it's sqwishin' (yes - a technical term) the meat good & fold the edges up & tape. Get all the air you can out. Do the same thing again. For extra measure, I then stick all that into a zip-lock freezer bag.

have had deer/elk last well over a 1-1/2 with zero sign of freezer burn.

Keith Rogan
September 25, 2001, 01:54 PM
That bad smell comes from the hide, not the meat. Animals have oil in their hair to repel water and it smells "funny". Later on in the rut the the males will put out even worse smells and even roll in their own urine to attract females. Even this is only limited to the hide and if you are careful not to transfer it from hide to meat via knife and hands, your meat will stay pretty tastey.

It's traditional in some quarters to leave the hide on the animal while it hangs. That practice allows the oils to get transferred into the meat and can give it a strong flavor. It may seem like a lot of trouble but if you skin and bone the animal in the field and pack it out in game bags you'll have better tasting meat. You'll find that the hide comes off very easily when removed while the animal is still warm and that it is actually much easier than if done later.
The other advantage to this is that the meat bleeds out much more thoroughly while you pack it (you put the game bag inside a plastic bag while packing), and this takes out even more "gamey" flavor. The blood leaves a "crust" on the outside of the bag that protects it to some degree.

September 27, 2001, 09:12 AM
I'll try to attach the pic, sorry if it comes in real big, I havn't figured out how to shrink the image. Borrowed the camera and don't have any photoediting software.



September 27, 2001, 10:01 PM
Congrats on the nice elk. I've wrapped my own venison for years. Firsts wash the meat and pat it dry. Next, wrap in clear plastic wrap. The plastic wrap fits much tighter than freezer paper and prevents freezer burn. Finally wrap the cut in heavy duty freezer paper and freeze as fast as possible. I've kept vension cuts for over a year and they were perfect when thawed. Good luck, Weagle

Jay Baker
October 1, 2001, 10:24 PM
BrianIdaho, congratulations on your 7x6. Magnificent elk! I hope I'm fortunate enough to get an elk soon, hunting in the Sawtooth Zone, Oct. 15th.

I use the double wrapping with freezer paper method, and have never had any freezer burn. I agree with Keith Rogan about getting that skin off the animal, as soon as possible. I've found that the meat tastes better using that method.

Any luck on whitetails, up your way???


October 4, 2001, 12:14 AM
"Any luck on whitetails, up your way??? "

I've seen a few and blew shots at a couple. Am now waiting for rifle season to get out again. I'm hoping to find time to look into mulie country around here. Here's an odd one-while the elk and I were bugling back and forth a whitetail stopped about 20 yards in front of me, tail up! I think he was looking for quieter country.

I went out this past weekend to look for bear, thought I'd see if any had been around the carcus. No go, but there were still some bulls bugling. I did manage to bugle in another bow hunter before the morning was over!

Jay, good luck with your hunt in the Sawtooths. Coming up quickly.


Long Path
October 7, 2001, 05:09 PM
"Treatment of wild meat (elk)"

May I suggest fire? ;)

Not too much. And don't over-prep it before cooking.

As for prepping it for freezing, I am utterly sold on the Food Saver vacu-sealers for putting up your meat in the freezer. Look-- you spent a lot on your bow, or rifle, or whatever. You hunted hard, used your vacation days, spent money on a tag and possibly hunting rights-- the cost of a piddlin' $120 professional-style vacu-sealer is CHEAP, inasmuch as it keeps the meat fresh. We wash it and seal it the same day, if possible. We've taken to bringing the sealer with us on the trips. No electricity available? Use a power inverter off your car cigarette lighter, and do it in the field. The important thing is is that it gets the oxygen off the meat, and keeps out contaminants, while protecting against freezer burn. I'm totally sold on the quality of these buggers.

Decently-stored and prepped elk is better than the finest steak at the local steakhouse, in my book. Don't waste it. Get it cooled, cleaned, and sealed, soonest.