Keeping Wild Game Cool with Canyon Coolers Hunting Ice Chests
Put some thought into the type of hunting party you most enjoy. Is it a bigger group going after multiple tags, and staying out there a week, or are you targeting smaller game closer to town.
The largest black bear likely to be taken (300#) will yield 70-90 pounds of boned out meat. A 55 Quart chest this size will hold that plus enough dry ice.
Dry ice, about 100 pounds (60 lb. occupies 10”x10”x12”). Dry ice is recommended because of its intense cold (-109°F), lack of wetness, and the deterrent effect of the carbon dioxide on bacterial action. The chest should not be opened much until you are ready to put the meat in it.
There will be a loss of 5-10 lbs. of dry ice per day, less if you use the best ice chests available. If you get a bear 5 days after you fill your cooler, you will have about 50 lbs. left, 25 to go in the chest with the meat, and 25 to be wrapped with the hide. Caution must be used in handling dry ice because of its extreme cold. Dry ice is safe to put in a Canyon Cooler and the rotomolded plastic can handle direct contact
Choosing Your Cooler:
Cubes scientifically offer the best cooling, but a long box may better fit the meat your working with. Cubes can make better use of space in your truck bed if your packed heavy.
Hunting can require to allot of ice. How often do you want to go into town for ice, how remote are you? For many people standard coolers will work ok, for the rest of us, roto-molded insulated coolers offer that next level experience.
Rotomolded coolers offer strong corners, they are often insulated and the better ones are UV stabilized for years of service. A lifespan of four, six, and ten years is more common than not. They typically keep ice for 3 times longer than a standard cooler and are tough enough to take some rough handling. Ten days of ice, No BIG deal in a Canyon Cooler. They are also usually a repairable investment.
Rigging your Cooler:
Use a camp grill grate or plastic bread tray to keep stuff off the ice. Just cut it to fit. Put ice in the bottom of the cooler, put the grate in, and then put your fish/meat on top of the grate. It keeps everything cold but also keeps meat and fish dry. A plastic tray won’t transfer as much cold as a metal grate might, but the plastic cleans up great without smelling. Bread companies and restaurants are a good source for these. Bubble wrap on top of your ice blocks but under your food also works well.
Packing Meat in the Ice Chest:
Place the boned out meat into the ice chest in layers separated by aluminum foil or freezer paper. Break up dry ice that remains and place half of it along with those layers. The other half of the dry ice goes with the hide. After the meat is placed in the cooler, the hide can be given further attention.
Always try to get the deer on ice as soon as you can get it skinned out. Drain the meltwater off each day. For an older deer, you can use a little salt or vinegar if you want to but it thinks the trick is keeping the meat drained. Keep the drain open, and you could age the meat up to 7+ days before butchering. One hunting tip is to get a put a screen of some sort over the drain hole of your cooler, a screen off of a kitchen sink faucet works great. This prevents flies from entering through the drain hole to lay eggs. Several of the Canyon Coolers have built-in screens on the drain itself, like the 210 and 260 Quart models
When the cooler is draining make sure to keep the area around the cooler sprayed down and clean as it can smell quite bad if you just let the water and runoff lay there.
As soon as you kill a game animal, you must take proper steps to ensure that the meat does not spoil. If you do so, you can have many tasty meals and enjoy the bounty of your hunt through the winter.
Four Keys to preserving venison and other game meat:
- Cool It Immediately
- Cool it Further
- Keep it Cool
By cool, I don’t mean just barely above freezing. That’s seldom possible on many hunts. What I mean is to cool the meat from almost 100 degrees down to 70 or 80 degrees as quickly as possible, in the first hour for sure, and then to continue to cool the meat as much as possible. That first hour is critical because if you don’t get rid of the heat, bacteria multiply like mad in 90 to 100-degree temperatures. Even if you’re hunting where the temperature is 90 degrees, you can cool meat quickly. Ideally to 34 degrees or less and hold it there.
First, recover the animal as quickly as possible. Take your photographs, not spending too much time, and then get to work. Quickly skin and debone the animal if legal. In some states, regulations may not permit deboning a game carcass. If quartering is allowed, skin and quarter the animal, store each quarter in a Gortex bag, muslin or closely woven cloth bag, and hang in the shade.
Cooling Wild Game Meat:
Cool the meat quickly. In the field, you want to cool your meat quickly because the sooner the meat is cool, the better the meat will be. You should bleed, gut and skin your animal as soon as you can. Next, you need to reduce the temperature of the meat. If you are near a stream or lake, you can submerge the quarters to bring the temperature down. Do not cool completely in water. Retain enough heat to dry the meat when it comes out of the water.
Why Water Cool Your Wild Game Meat?
A bath in a stream or lake speeds the cooling process and bleaches out excess blood that feeds bacteria and attracts flies. If your wildly successful game animals have a very large meat mass. Consequently, it takes a long time for the meat to cool down. The cold water temperature of the lakes and streams help expedite the cooling process.
Water Cooling Concerns:
- I’ve been told by several hunters that you should avoid getting meat wet. This is partially true; you don’t want to leave meat wet. This is why you retain enough heat in the meat to cause drying once you remove it from the water (also see air drying for procedures to remove excess water).
- I’ve also heard concerns about Giardia in the water getting into the meat. While we can’t guarantee the purity of the water or possible transfer of bacteria to your meat, we can say that I have never heard of anyone getting sick from water-cooled meat, and I talk with a lot of hunters. The decision is yours based upon the conditions at your location, cleanliness of the water, and outside temperature. Tests have also been done in Canada by Bailight, which show the strong acid in citric acid should take care of Giardia and will also help kill types of bacteria.
Getting Your Wild Game Meat Home
Dry ice is CO2 in its solid form it sublimates into a gas. When it does it expands to 400 times its volume of the solid-state. This is potentially dangerous in an enclosed space such as a vehicle or an airplane.
Find out what is allowable on the plane at the time of boarding, in their hold,etc. is like antler racks, they are all different. Each airline, each airport, and each ground attendant have a different version of what you can and cannot take. I have found on the dry ice, is that if the cooler can “breathe” they have allowed the meat to come home. The drain hole needs to be cracked open.
Sometimes you can save money by having your baggage transported as unaccompanied baggage, which does not ensure that it will be on the same flight as you. Obviously, transporting meat this way requires excellent ice retention, just in case, it takes an extra day.
Airfreight fees are usually less expensive than excess baggage charges. If you live near an airport, you might be able to have your meat shipped home to you before or after your return. Sometimes a butcher will agree to ship it to you, or maybe your outfitter will agree to do it. Also, the freight could be delayed, or the meat might not be packed as required, resulting in meat spoilage or leakage. A great ice chest buys you more margin for error when it’s sitting on the wrong tarmac in Phoenix.
Good Luck, and Happy Hunting!
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