A tanned hide or mounted head isn’t the only thing a hard working hunter can show off after their hunt. A successful hunt can yield pounds of burger meat, sausages or jerky that will last for months. It starts by getting your meat from the field into the freezer, which requires some time and skill. As quickly as possible after the kill, hunters should fully dress out the animal, including removal of the windpipe and anus, to prevent contamination of the meat.
Next, cool the animal by opening the shoulder blades and hip sockets, to ensure complete cooling throughout the entire body, which will also prevent spoilage. Taking care of your meat properly will determine how much you can expect to get back. My advice is always to take good care of your meat in the field and you’ll be a lot happier in the end! A meat processor can only work with what he has been given.
I’ve found that sprinkling black pepper on the animal while dressing it can help keep the meat fresh. It definitely is a great deterrent to the flies as well. If necessary, a hunter can skin and quarter the animal in the field, but if the animal comes in with its skin still on, it stays cleaner and holds moisture better.
When quartering an animal, I also recommend not splitting the loin down the center. This will help to prevent contamination from the spinal cord, where CWD is often found. I’ve found that putting meat in a plastic bag does not work well; they don’t breathe and therefore increase the risk of spoilage. I recommend wrapping meat in a cloth or muslin bags when packing it out of the field.
Hunters who bring meat in for processing should know that the yield, even from a large kill, could be lower than they expect. I’ve found a 500 pound bull elk is only going to turn into about 150-170 pounds of meat.
A 500 pound elk can lose about 90 pounds each from the abdomen and head, in addition to losses from the hide and legs. Pounds also can be lost depending upon where the animal was shot or how it was packed out.
All in all a large elk for example will yield between 70 and 80 pounds of prime meat, such as steaks and roast, in addition to 80 or 90 pounds of trim meat, such as burger, sausage and specialty items.