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Joined: 02/25/2007
Posts: 53
How much time to get an elk in the cooler?

I posted this same message in the Elk forum, but there's nothing like local advice. So , I am planning on hunting the early bow season here in OR. I am going to backpack into the wilderness, and have to pack out the critter on my own (with some luck), 3-6 miles from my truck. My question is, how long do I have before the meat spoils considering the worst case scenario where the weather is 80-90 in the high country. How many trips should I plan on making if I bone out the elk where it falls? I am a former Marine used to carrying heavy loads for long distances. So the weight of the load isn't an issue so much as the time before the meat spoils. Any input is greatly appreciated.

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Location: Olympia, WA
Joined: 04/09/2005
Posts: 140
How much time to get an elk in the cooler?

Solo, it all depends. I am sure you already knew this. IMHO, meat spoilage is a big time threat during warm weather hunts, maybe even of such a degree that you should not travel by foot too far from your truck. Warm weather may also require that you have someone else around to help carry meat out. This is the respect you must give your quarry. Believe me, I also love to solo hunt, but warm weather sometimes cancels it for me. That is just the way it is. Why shoot something you know darn well is going to get ruined.

Old timers would salt the meat. Salt it heavy, even inject the quarters with salt. Other now use sprays to change the ph of the meat on the surface in order to discourage bacterial degradation of your prize. (also keeps the flies down). I have had some meat spoil when I was younger, did not skin the elk quick enough, during a cool November. Ended up cutting an entire inch and a half of all the meat quarters off, in order to save the meat. I still feel like schlitt about it. My fault, I should have known better, I will never do it again. Think of your hot weather hunt like duck hunting. Sometimes you pass a shot cause you know the duck will die off in the brush, never to be found and wasted. Do not shoot an elk in a place where you know you will ruin the meat. Don't do it.

If you just gotta do it, here is what I would do...;

Hunt closer to your truck than you want to.
Quick skin the Elk.
Bone the elk out.
Bag the meat in ventilating style cheese cloth type game bags.
Hang all pieces in shade and the wind, to help speed cooling.
Hike the quarters to a nearby creek and sink them in. (Many folks advise against this as the extra moisture associated with washing meat in water provides a prime time environment for spoilage later when you hang them after cooling, but I have done it many times with Muleys, and had no problem as long as you dry them off well, later...)

and lastly, Take a buddy or two along to help save your meat.

Maybe you can find some other "knuckleheads" who like to solo hunt also, and simply hunt together, maybe a mile apart, and radio each other if successful?

Good luck, you sound like you are a pretty motivated individual to take on this type of hunt. I have not packed em out that far by myself.

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Moderator
Location: Wa.
Joined: 03/31/2004
Posts: 1300
How much time to get an elk in the cooler?

That's some good advice.

Solo hunts such as those are best done when there's snow on the ground.

Boned Roosevelt will be 400+ lbs. and six miles is an hour to two of hiking, on a good day, with a heavy weight pack. Plus your gear. That's at least 4 trips.
I can certainly understand the desire to do such a hunt.
A game cart would be another option. It would take half as many slower trips and you could pack the meat to stay cooler.

My guess would be. On a warm 80 to 90 degree day. The meat won't hold more than a couple hours and have to be completely chilled immediately. That ncludes the time it takes to prep.

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Joined: 02/25/2007
Posts: 53
How much time to get an elk in the cooler?

Thanks for all the insight. Let me assure you that I would never harvest an animal that I knew would go to waste. On the other hand, I know that where there's a will, there's a way. I am not exactly one to be discouraged or to be told something cannot be done. What about these guys that get packed in by horse and picked up a few days later? How do they prevent meat spoilage? Tell me more about this salt thing, that sounds like a good idea. I am the only person that I know that hunts, so that rules out help. Also, I don't like the idea of being reliant upon someone else's motivation and endurance or lack thereof.

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Location: OlyWa
Joined: 04/27/2005
Posts: 472
How much time to get an elk in the cooler?

Fuzzy and Ice are dead on. If you have doubts on full recovery of all edible meat, don't take the shot, just the memory.

Good luck.

Don Fischer's picture
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Location: Antelope, Ore
Joined: 03/24/2005
Posts: 3183
How much time to get an elk in the cooler?

I wonder why state's even have those early hunt's. They have to know meat is extreamly hard to take care of then. I realize that some of the backcountry might get awful unaccessable later in the year but for those that chose to do it, meat wouldn't go to waste.

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