DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Take care of game after the shot

Cool and clean often the key

The hours between when you pull the trigger and when you place your game on a butcher table are crucial to the quality of your meat.

This is especially true in warm weather. Keeping your game cool and clean is essential for excellent table fare. You hunt with pride now prove it with proper game care.

Big game, small game and birds all require proper care if you hope to have the best meat possible for your table. Temperature is the most important factor in the preservation of game meat. The warmer it is, the less time you have before you meat begins to spoil. Follow these tips to ensure your game is properly cared from the field to the butcher table.

Big Game

Deer, elk, antelope, bear, wild hogs and other big game animals can all be delicacies if taken care of properly.

There are only a few important steps to take once your game is down. Field dressing your game, transporting cleanly and keeping it cool are the core responsibilities you have in taking care of game animals after the shot.

You should field dress your game as soon as possible. This requires opening up the abdomen area of the game and removing the internal organs. This process, which is also referred to as “gutting” allows air to enter the carcass to help cool the meat. Wearing a pair of disposable rubber gloves helps keep your hands and clothes clean, while reducing any chances of catching a possible disease. Once you have the organs removed, flip the animal over to let the blood run out.

Once your animal is field dressed, you need to keep it clean while transporting it. If you have to drag your animal to a waiting vehicle, do your best to keep dirt and debris from entering the carcass. A number of commercial products, like the Game Sled, are designed to wrap your game for clean transportation.

Once you have your game in your vehicle, if it’s warm out and you have a ways to go, make a quick stop at the first place you find that sells ice and pack the inside of your animal. Once home or back at camp, use a hose to wash out the inside cavity of the animal. If you are not taking your animal to a butcher right away, or at all, and it’s cool enough outside hang the animal in safe place until you are ready to take it or butcher it.

Small Game and Birds

A couple of the same rules apply with small game and birds — keep them cool and keep them clean.

The main differences with small game and birds is the fact you don’t normally field dress them right after the kill and you are likely trying to kill more than one. Since you’re not heading back to the truck or camp right after the shot, you need to an in the field storage system for taking care of game while you continue to hunt.

A good vest with a game pouch is great tool for keeping game clean while carrying it with you through the field. If you are duck hunting from a blind or a boat, a cooler is a fine place to keep ducks. As soon as you get home or back to camp, go straight to skinning cleaning your small game or birds. Don’t take a chance on waiting. Bad things from heat to dogs to varmints can ruin your game.

See you down the trail …

III

Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at outdoors@newstribune.com.

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