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Old November 8, 2011, 05:02 PM   #1
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Meat handling in the field (Whitetail)

For those of you that process/debone your own deer in the field:

When you're harvesting your shoulders, back straps, hams, etc.. do you put that in a cooler packed with ice (direct contact with ice), or do you bag it first, thus preventing contact with water?

My first deer hunt will be Saturday, and it'll also be my first time gutting/skinning/deboning. It's not going to be very cold here, and I've got at least 3 hours before I'll be getting anything to refrigeration. I'm really confident that I won't have any problems (as long as bambi's mom actually shows herself), but I'm curious what you guys do. Maybe a dumb question... but.. Ignorance is bliss and here lately I've been pretty happy.

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Old November 8, 2011, 05:30 PM   #2
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I just retired as a health inspector for restaurants, etc. Using a clean plastic bag will prevent cross contamination between the meat and the cooler and actually protects both by preventing spread of bacteria between cooler and meat.

Its important to seal bag to keep out water from ice. Ideally, you would wash off the meat and place it in the bag and avoid contamination from unclean hands. Food science research shows that raw meat or cut vegetables require disposal if left above 41 degrees F for 4 hours or more. Remember that the venison is body temp when you start so hurry. Above 41F is danger zone , but between 70 and 100F is really bad--rapid bacterial growth. 135 or above is correct hot hold temp for items on food line--so danger zone goes from 42 to 134F.
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Old November 8, 2011, 07:04 PM   #3
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nogo, by those rules virtually every elk that is not shot on the road would need to be thrown away. I can see those rules for restaurants but it makes little sense in the field.
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Old November 8, 2011, 08:01 PM   #4
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AW Heck

Here in East Texas its rarely below freezing. We quarter our Deer, then ice the meat down in a cooler, and drain the blood and ice off every day for a couple of days then de bone and process it. Im 39 years old and have never been food poisened by Venison that I know of. Good luck on Your Hunt.
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Old November 8, 2011, 08:37 PM   #5
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In Wisconsin rifle hunting (in a week) it's usually "refrigerator temperature"... rarely above 50º F. Many times it's below freezing. We gut the deer out right away and lay it on it's belly for the blood to drain. If it's not warm it sits there a few hours. Just get it field dressed asap to let it start cooling down.

If it's unseasonably warm we'll get it into a cooler as soon as we can.
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Old November 8, 2011, 09:04 PM   #6
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If it doesn't go into a walk in cooler we put the meat directly on ice to bleed out for a few days before processing. Drain the water and add ice daily. The meat will get a little white on the outside but that's ok. Some people I know add a little non-iodized rock salt to the ice to help the ice last longer.
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Old November 8, 2011, 10:02 PM   #7
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The salt also helps to leech out some of the gamey taste.
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Old November 8, 2011, 10:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by WWWJD
Ignorance is bliss and here lately I've been pretty happy.
LOL, love that quote. I'm gonna use that one.

I'm pretty much with Warbirdlover. Field dress, and flip it over to let the carcass drain, although I leave it only 10-15 minutes. Bag up the heart and liver (if desired) to carry it out.

I cut out the tenderloins before hanging the deer. When hanging the deer, hang it by the hind legs as soon as possible to drain the blood out of the loins. If temps permit (< 50 degrees), I will let it hang at 2-4 days before skinning and processing
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Old November 8, 2011, 11:17 PM   #9
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Thanks guys. Doesn't sound like I have too much to worry about.

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Old November 8, 2011, 11:23 PM   #10
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not this year, but......

Bow season and even early gun season, can be warm here.......heck it was 75F yesterday. I quarter and get the meat on ice, in a big cooler, ASAP, but it still can be a couple of hours till you recover, quarter and get in all done. No problems........., but cooler weather always better.

Don't worry about bags, etc, I do use salt. Have always been picky about, hair, dirt, entrails and care of the meat in the prep process.

Good luck
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Old November 9, 2011, 08:46 AM   #11
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Here in NM the ML season is or was in late Sep. Daytime temperatures were in the mid to high 70s where I hunted. If I killed a deer on Sat I opened it, hung it, and made sure I got it to town on Monday. Never did I have a hint of spoilage.

At an Army school I asked a vet about meat spoilage, and he said if you get the body heat out by cleaning and propping open you can eat the meat safely as long as you can stand the scent.

I always tried to hang my deer for 5 days, and it was never at "refrig" temperatures. The hanging made the meat better.
So I conclude that the requirements for restaurents are good, but not necessary for hunting conditions.
Clean the deer immediately, prop open the carcass, try to keep it in the shade, and don't panic but get it to the shop when you can within a couple or three days.

I never let the meat contact water. The old saw that I you do penetrate the guts or stomach you contaminate the meat is baloney. There is no blood flowing to spread any contamination. Just clean it off and take care of the meat.
You can use a wet cloth to clean it off.

Elk are a different matter as they are so large they do not cool as rapidly as deer. Try to get it off the ground and quarter it and place in bags.

We ate every deer I killed, and that was a lot over a 50 year period, and all were good with never a hint of spoilage.

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Old November 9, 2011, 08:57 AM   #12
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The only time we ever had anything spoil was when we couldn't get to the burger pieces fast enough one hot September. The meat was in a cooler and it took us too long to butcher the elk. If it's hanging or on ice, it's not a big deal. It was so hot that September that the meat on the top of the cooler spoiled. Small cooler, lots of meat, and not enough ice lead to that.
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Old November 10, 2011, 01:07 AM   #13
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nogo, in Washington state it was 45f or was when I was still a cook.

Ideally we have 4 hours to bring meat into the safe zone.

Field conditions aren't ideal. On the good side we are talking about relatively large hunks of meat still covered in epimysium. that helps keep bacteria from getting to the muscle itself.
The greatest danger is in the parts where we cut through the protective membrane.

I agree with rinsing the meat off before bagging and putting it on ice. I'd add that a vinegar solution would be a better idea as the acid content will slow the development of bacteria.

Another good idea is to bring some latex gloves. There are probably more bad bacteria on our hands than on the ground.
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Old November 10, 2011, 02:26 AM   #14
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I must confess that I've never had venison prepped strictly according to restaurant rules, and I never became ill. The technical info is good to know and provides some guidance. Improper handling after food is cooked causes almost all food borne illness. Under this broad umbrella I include poor personal hygiene which is number 1 cause. Viruses from fecal contamination of hands is the culprit here.
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Old November 10, 2011, 10:24 AM   #15
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Depends on where you live and the temps in that area in regards to how quickly you should get it cooled down. We usually hunt for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening so after we shoot an animal, it isn't long until we gut it and quarter it up.
I take the meat, throw it in a cooler with ice, water and lemon juice and let it sit for 48 hours draining and adding ice as needed. Never gotten sick either.
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Old November 10, 2011, 10:35 AM   #16
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Keep it under 40 degrees, and you are good for days...... I'd not let it sit in bloody water: bacteria don't grow fast below 40F, but they still grow. Keep it as clean and cool as possible.
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Old November 10, 2011, 05:46 PM   #17
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clean watertight plastic bags is all you shouldn't even need ice if the temp is below 50
ignore my complete lack of capitalization. I still have no problem correcting your grammar.
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