How you care for your game in the field has a big impact on how much you and your family will enjoy the meat. Here are some important field care tips you should keep in mind so you don’t regret it later.
Make the Shot
There’s more to making a shot than a quick, ethical kill. Make a bad shot and your meat quality will suffer. Shooting the head or neck might seem ideal to “save meat” but the risk is too high for wounding game. Aiming at either region means aiming at a target of 4 square inches or less. Instead, aim for the lungs and heart with a basketball-sized “zone” around the region. Could doing this mean losing some meat? Yeah. But it’s better to lose one or two burgers instead of a winter’s supply of meat.
Keep the Meat Clean
Many hunters mess this up during field care. Keeping meat clean is extremely important. Two of the biggest factors that can spoil meat through bacteria spread are moisture and dirt. Out in the wilderness, dirt is inevitable, so care is necessary. You don’t want your meat covered in dirt or hair from the animal. Hair from a big bull elk may be covered in mud, urine, or feces, and if the hair gets into the meat, it can ruin it.
To keep debris off your meat, hang it or lay it on a clean tarp of some kind when cutting. If you get hair on your meat, you can meticulously pick it off or burn it with a butane torch. If you use water to wash debris or blood off (we don’t recommend this because it can invite more bacteria to the party), be sure to dry your meat off completely.
Gut Quickly – But Not too Quickly
Gutting quickly not only helps to cool off the meat faster but is a key factor to tasty meat (or so some swear by). Here’s the thing – quick gutting is best. But it’s important to not go crazy and gut as fast as you can. Working extra fast can lead to sloppy work. And when it comes to gutting, precision is also key, unless you want to accidentally pierce the stomach.
When it comes to field care, there are a few reasons to quarter an animal instead of debone it. First, keeping the meat in large pieces allows you to keep the meat a lot cleaner and decrease the amount of surface area exposed to dirt, bugs, and other contaminants. Another is that bone-in meat is easier to handle and packs out better (though this is truly personal preference). The last reason is that tags in Colorado are often specific to sex. Hunters with specific tags must keep evidence of sex attached to the animal while transporting. With quartering, you can easily leave the evidence of sex attached to one quarter and not have to worry about it later on.
Sharp Knives Only
Probably the most important field care tip: use a sharp knife. A dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp knife, and since this is your primary tool for skinning and cleaning carcasses, you need it in great shape all the time. Invest in a good knife and sharpener and keep it sharp at all times.
These are important field care tips to keep in mind during your hunt. Of course, the excitement of a kill can leave you all over the place, so don’t worry if you need help. Our professional guides are there for you during your guided elk or deer hunt. At Soap Mesa Outfitters, we provide the best guided hunts in Western Colorado and we’ll be happy to show you what you’ve been missing.