Discovering Big Game Field
By Marie L. Monyak
February 23, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - Every Friday
evening, October through April, the Southeast Alaska Discovery
Center sponsors a Friday Night Insight Program from 7-8 pm. This
is a free audiovisual and speaker program held in their comfortable
theatre on subjects concerning Alaska's ecosystem, wildlife,
natural resources, native cultures and public lands.
The presentation last Friday was more of a hands-on how-to class
on the proper skinning methods and meat care techniques of big
game, namely Sitka Black Tail Deer.
Boyd Porter demonstrates
an easy method of
transporting a deer by turning it into a backpack.
Photo by Marie L. Monyak
When you look at Bambi, do you think, "Oh, how adorable,"
or "Mmmm, Venison?" Unless you are thinking in terms
of dinner, you may not wish to continue reading beyond this point.
Wildlife Biologist, Boyd Porter, from the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game and Charlie Miller better known as "The Meat
Man" from Alaskan and Proud, with the assistance of Lon
Rake, brought along a confiscated Sitka Black-tailed deer that
was illegally shot this past September and kept frozen until
the nights demonstration.
An important point made during the evening was safe handling
of the meat to prevent contamination that can lead to the growth
of bacteria which ultimately spoils the meat.
Much of what was offered was good old fashioned common sense
along with some great tips and suggestions.
Cool it! It isn't something you yell at your kids in the backseat
but rather the most important thing you need to do after shooting
game. Cooling the meat as quickly as possible will ensure safe
healthy game meat for the dinner table rather than spoiled meat
left behind for the scavengers.
If leaving the hide on, the
following tips by Porter are:
- With the hide on, submerge
the game in a cold creek or lake.
- Once submerged in cold water
long enough to draw the heat from the meat, pack in dry bags
and anchor the bag underwater.
- Bury the whole deer, hide
on, in a snow bank. If already gutted, pack the body cavity with
The hide will retain a large
percentage of the animal's body heat so removing the hide in
the field is a great way to reduce the temperature. More tips
outlined by Porter are:
- Split the brisket and remove
the windpipe to allow the neck and chest meat to cool thoroughly.
- Avoid contaminating the meat
with dirt, silty water, hair or stomach content.
- If you contaminate the meat
with either stomach, intestine or bladder contents, wash it completely
- Control flies with a citric
mixture from a spray bottle, sprinkle pepper or use a game bag.
(Consider spraying the citric mix on the game bag as well as
- In wet weather, get the meat
off the ground and under some sort of cover. Allow for airflow
while reducing how much moisture reaches the meat.
- Don't place meat in closed
plastic bags unless you're certain the meat has cooled completely.
- Layer the bottom of a cooler
with ice and place the meat directly on the ice or in open bags
to allow the heat to escape.
After the meat has cooled using
one of several methods you can then hang and allow to air dry.
You may wipe or wring out excess water to facilitate drying.
- No matter which end you hang
the deer from be careful that dirt and debris stuck in the hair
does not drip down onto the clean carcass.
- If hanging a whole deer, hang
it head up to avoid moisture running inside the body cavity.
- Allow a dry crust to form
on the outside of the hanging quarters.
- If possible, avoid hanging
meat too long in warm weather.
- For optimum cooling, hang
the whole carcass (or bags of meat) in a culvert, or from a bridge
over a stream.
- Before hanging a November
buck by the hind legs, make sure to remove the scent gland on
the rear hock.
Which brings us to leaving
evidence of the sex of the deer as required by the Alaska Department
of Fish and Game hunting regulations. During the demonstration,
Charlie Miller was able to show the audience that it isn't necessary
to leave the testes on the deer as the vas deferens (the tube
or sheath leading from the testes) is sufficient evidence of
sex. (Note; leaving the head with antlers on, is also proof of
Charlie Miller's other area of expertise was with the knife.
Using just his trusty old pocket knife, well sharpened, he was
able to skin the hide from the deer in record time. His three
most important tips are:
- Always use no more than the
tip (1/2 to 3/4 inch) of the blade to remove the hide.
- Always angle the blade toward
the hide and away from the meat while skinning.
- To remove the hide, make your
cut at the neck and go completely to the tail and then work around
One benefit of skinning and
butchering the meat in the field is that you have less weight
to carry back to your camp, boat or home. If you plan on dressing
your deer in the field it's always advisable to carry a small
tarp to spread under it. Once the hide has been separated from
the carcass begin butchering by removing the backstrap, tenderloins,
hindquarters, front legs and finally the ribs. Packing the butchered
meat in ice is the preferred method.
If you would rather bring the entire deer out, dragging it on
the ground is not advisable as it's not only hard on your back
and arms but dirt and debris will collect on the carcass. Porter,
Miller and Rake demonstrated an easy method of transporting the
deer by turning it into a backpack as shown in the picture.
Miller, once again using only a 1/2 inch tip of his knife blade,
made a circular cut around the elbow joints leaving the tendons
intact. Rake bent the legs forward, breaking the elbows. Miller
made another cut in the hindquarter between the tendons forming
a slit long enough to slide the front legs through. Porter offered
a suggestion that the two left hooves and two right hooves be
held together with duct tape, twine or rope to prevent slippage.
Simply slide your arms through the openings as you would a backpack.
If the deer is gutted, pack it on your back with the head up
and if not yet gutted, then pack head down, as pictured. Care
should be taken to tie flagging or brightly colored bandanas
on the carcass so nearby hunters do not mistake you and your
prize buck as their target.
If you're wondering what happened to the the deer meat after
the presention - it wasn't wasted for sake of the program, but
rather donated to the local soup kitchen.
The Friday Night Insight Program this week will be "Our
State Parks by the Ketchikan Advisory Board." Members Rick
Hauver, Jim Shoemaker, Karen Wolfred and Terri Robbins will present
a brief summary and overview of the Alaska State Park system,
regions and then focus on the eight local State Parks in the
Ketchikan District. Community members can let their desires be
known in regards to funding or issues about the State Parks.
On the Web:
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Alaska Hunting & Trapping
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.
Contact Marie at mlmx1[at]hotmail.com
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