All of us, at one time or another have gone on a hunting trip and had what we call “Blue Bird” weather. Warm evenings and almost hot days. We hunt in our t-shirts and enjoy the sunshine. We are way up in the mountains and have a whole week to hunt. How could it get any better?
That is, until we score on that big buck or bull. We work to get it out of the field and skinned as quickly as possible to cool it down. But try as we might, we just can’t get that meat cool enough. It’s only a matter of a day or two that we might lose the entire thing. On more than one occasion, I’ve dunked meat into a lake or stream to cool it down until we can get it to a cooler.
We have two choices at a time like this….. let it spoil or haul it into the closest town and put it into a cooler. I didn’t particularly like either one of those choices.
So here’s what I did. My late son-in-law had a friend that was in the sheet metal fabricating business. We designed a cooler and one night after work, went to his friend’s company and built an aluminum cooler box. We made it out of heavy gauge aluminum so it would be sturdy, but at the same time, lightweight. We made it small enough to slide into the back of my pickup with the canopy on. We lined it with 4 inches of foam insulation on all sides. It has a long continuous hinge across the entire width of the lid and can be locked with a padlock.
Before heading into the mountains for a long hunt, we freeze several five gallon buckets of water and put them into the cooler. That ice will stay frozen for almost two weeks in our cooler. When we get an elk or deer, we quarter it and drop it into the cooler. We have never lost any meat since then and have never had to drive into town. We have avoided the trip!
If you don’t have the luxury of a sheet metal fabricator, make it out of plywood and 2X4’s. Make it large enough to hold a couple of deer or elk. Remember that you will be adding several inches of foam insulation on each side so make it bigger. Mine is about 5 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall. We have put two quartered elk in it on several occasions. Another thing we did was to put some holes in the bottom for melted ice to drain out. You can put this cooler in the back of your pickup or in a trailer and have it at camp, ready for when you get the big one. And as an added bonus, we keep a few “cool ones” in there as a reward for having to open it and put something inside.