By Mark Fike
One of the best things about hunting is that we get to take meat home when we successfully harvest our game. However, sometimes our family members may decide that the meals we get from the meat are not that delectable.
Here are some tips to change that this season. Give them a try and hopefully there will be empty plates at your house this winter!
1—Make good shots
Making a good shot means the animal does not suffer and it goes down fast eliminating the need for tracking. It also means that stomach contents or intestinal contents which are full of digestive bacteria, won’t be spread to your meat. If the shot is not good, don’t take it!
2—Find the animal fast and have a plan for cooling it down
Finding your animal quickly means better tasting meat. Don’t venture out to the field on a hot day without a plan for cooling the meat. That may mean getting it to a processor quickly or taking ice with you until you do.
3—Once you find your animal, field dress carefully
Don’t be in a rush to field dress. Avoid cutting into the stomach or intestines and carefully remove the bladder. These parts of an animal can make the meat rancid.
4—Open the animal up and let it air out to cool down
Prop the cavity open to let air cool the animal off. This is the way to cool the animal off the fastest.
Once to the truck, if it is warm out, consider shoving a bag of ice into the cavity to finish cooling it down.
5—Cut away bad meat
When cutting up your harvest, carve out all bloodied or damaged meat from arrows or bullets. No one wants lead poisoning or bacteria-ridden meat. The same goes for the exit hole area. Any bruised meat should be discarded. It will taste bad.
Once you cut away the bad meat and have it ready to process, if you can keep it at a stable temp between 34-40 degrees, you might want to hang it to allow the meat to age. The trick is to be sure the meat does not increase in temperature after it cools down. This is when it would spoil. Some meat can be aged a week or more if the temps are right. This will tenderize the meat.
7—Storing and freezing
When storing and freezing the meat, be sure to do so in such a way that air cannot get to the meat at all. Air is not good for frozen meat. Vacuum seal the meat or double wrap it to freeze. Most meats that are frozen will be good to eat for up to two years. I have had some vacuum-sealed meats three years later that tasted fine. The sooner you use them the better the quality though.
When vacuum sealing, be sure to get all the air out and even more critical, get a good seal. With meats that are wet, I either lightly freeze them on a cookie sheet and then vacuum seal them up, or I put a strip of rolled-up paper towel to absorb the juices at the top of the bag to keep the liquids from preventing a good seal. I also double seal things.
One other thing to keep in mind when freezing in a bag is to avoid jamming bags against things where the bag gets punctured. This ruins your meat because it allows freezer burn.
This season when returning from a successful hunt, be sure to follow these tips to make your meal something to talk about in a good way, not a bad memory.