How to effectively venison after an out of state trip.
I bet you've heard the phrase, "I'll worry about it when I cross that bridge." It would be best if you didn't count your chickens before they hatch, but the more you prepare, the better your hunt will be.
It's crucial to consider the next steps after a successful hunt. You've devoted time, energy, and resources to your hunt, but with a plan for transporting a trophy, all that preparation can be well-spent. Responsible hunters understand their duty to the game and should have a post-kill plan before tackling any hunt.
Until you've had the hands on experience, most plans are just educated guesses. Knowing these finer details can help you make the most of your time and ensure you fully enjoy the fruits of your labor when you return home. First, we'll review the basics, then dive into the minor details that can enhance your experience.
1. Kill Kit
A kill kit isn't overlooked very often. In fact, on any elk (or out of state) packing list, you will find the makings of a kit. Setting up your kit and knowing how to use it is the basis of bringing home quality meat. When purchasing any tools for processing (like a knife or game bags), make sure you are buying tools that will meet your needs. Buying whitetail game bags for an elk hunt is a mistake. If the place you're shopping is sold out, search for the item elsewhere.
A good kit doesn't only come with tools; it also comes with knowledge of how to process a kill. You need to know how to remove quarters, what legally must be removed from the field, and how to handle meat once removed from the carcass.
Now that you've thought about your kill's immediate care, how will you move it to your vehicle or base camp? Saving money is great, but investing in a good quality pack is smart. A pack with load lifting capabilities and a large carrying capacity can be invaluable when you have several days of work ahead of you.
There are other options, like a drop camp or packout service, but do some research. You want a reliable service that isn't going to cancel when you call.
Know your physical limits. We all say there is no limit to how far we will go. But should there be? Relying on a game officer to help you when you can't go further is a poor backup plan. Placing limits on a packout means that you need to figure out how to meet the needs of your physical ability before you make the kill.
3. Taxidermy Considerations
Reputable is the name of the game. What processors are close to the area you will be hunting? Will you be taking the meat to the processor and taxidermist in person, or are you solely counting on web reviews or a guide to tell you what's good and what isn't?
If you're interested in using a taxidermy service, it's important to know what they offer and how much they charge for their services. Also, are they qualified to remove high-risk CWD parts? Remember that brain material must be removed from the skull or skull plate before moving out of state. That may be important for hunters who plan to use their home taxidermist.
Don't be surprised by shipping costs. An elk will cost upwards of $400 for a skull and more for a full shoulder mount. If you have a local expo or show that a guide or taxidermist is planning to attend, this could also be an option for pickup.
4 Choosing a Processor
What does the processor provide? What are the details and cost of basic cutting? Some places charge per pound of hanging weight, others by pound of meat you collect. If you enjoy your own meat processing, you may want to bring the meat home yourself. Is there a processor that guarantees a spot in their walk-in cooler if you need a few days to wrap up your hunt?
There are plenty of details about a processor, but cleanliness tops the list. Some guides use a friend's business or because it's in an easy drop off location. You may want to visit those places before your hunt begins to see it for yourself. Online reviews can be deceiving, mainly because most clients only see the meat once it arrives at their home. Trust me, there are some deplorable processors out there.
5. Rules and Methods
Before taking ANY meat out of state, ensure you know the rules. Almost all states do not allow the transport of high risk parts of cervids. That would include brain material and spinal column.
Shipping meat has rules about how to pack your cooler. Most services require frozen meat. Check the requirements of the airlines or shipping service you will be using.
For the DIYers transporting meat, don't wing it! Know how much room you will have in your vehicle and if you need backup plans for your gear.
6. Rent a Trailer
Splitting a drive with a few buddies means a lot of gear in your truck. Renting an enclosed trailer is a good option when you need space for the return trip. Elk are big critters; believe me, they will fill the entire bed of a pickup truck.
Cost and location are only some details you need to know before renting. Is a reservation required? Does the rental service offer the trailer you're looking for? Are there drop off locations close to your home? How many days will you be renting? What are the open hours of service? That will matter if you hope to leave early in the morning and the dealer only opens at noon.
7. How Many Standard Coolers
Are you hunting antelope, whitetails, or an elk? For smaller game, you will get by with two 65-quart coolers. But for a big bull, you will need between four and six. Flash freezing is essential for bone-in quarters, as a full elk quarter will not fit completely inside a standard cooler. De-boned meat will fit, but monitoring temperature and spoilage will be more critical on the way home without a flash freeze.
On your drive home, check your meat and monitor the ice at every gas and pit stop. Drain your coolers during these stops because spoiling will occur faster in water.
Six coolers are a lot to pack, so if you're not planning to buy an over-sized cooler, search for stores to grab an extra cooler or two for the ride home.
We all hunt for different reasons, but quality meat is the real reason we hit the field every fall. Taking the extra steps to ensure you bring as much home as possible will bring satisfaction every time you fire up the grill this year.
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hats Team Member