Wild Game Care: Field to Freezer in Record Time

Wild Game Care

Before the quarters go in the freezer, remove any bloody/ugly bits, and dirt, twigs, bits and pieces of internal parts from dressing the animal. And if subject to the stress of the rut, as bull elk and buck mule deer can be, trim the opaque sinew from the meat.

I don’t have time. I’ve got to go to work tomorrow. How am I going to get this elk in the freezer. I don’t want to lose any of it.

It’s happened to all of us. Even John and I. Even though we work at home. Several years ago we took an elk and two deer in one week. Luckily it was cool enough to let them age a while, but they weren’t frozen, so the clock was ticking.

Luckily Rocky and Phil Shoemaker happened to drop by from Alaska, and while John and I butchered, Rocky wrapped, labeled and stacked. Phil? He headed out to the garage with the reciprocating saw and a big knife to keep the quarters coming into the back door.

But what if you don’t know the owners/guides/cooks and bottlewashers of the best Alaskan grizzly outfitters? (https://grizzlyskinsofalaska.com) Don’t have friends who cut moose into transportable chunks for their clients several months of the year? And they don’t just happen to stop by on their way to an Arizona vacation?

Or maybe you have a banner day of pheasants, and you’re a dentist, people depending on you to show up at work in 10 hours? There are tricks for upland birds too.

Let’s start with big game. That’s easy, and can be explained in two short paragraphs.

Wild Game Processing

Meat that’s still half frozen, literally, is easier to cut and cuts more precisely. Fully thawed, you’d never get a cut this uniform. (It would squash down with any pressure.) Uniformity helps the cook time the steaks, but not thawing the meat completely also cuts down the refreezing time. All true of beef as well as any big game animal.

First paragraph: field dress, rinse, age, skin and quarter the animal, then trim any bloody and/or ugly bits and wipe all the debris, dirt and hair off the quarters.

Second paragraph: Dry all surfaces with paper towels, wrap each quarter with freezer paper, one layer all around. Repeat, so you have a double layer of paper over every surface. Label and deposit in the freezer. Rotate in 12 hours, then check in 12 more hours to be sure it’s freezing all over. Tada.

Now, the meat is safe until you are ready to take it down further into steaks, burger and roasts. When you do, thaw the meat in the fridge, but not completely. For one thing it’s much easier to cut neat steaks etc. when the game meat’s only about 50% thawed.

But it also keeps the meat in better shape. As long as you freeze the quarters originally within that 24-hour window, then don’t let the quarters thaw for days on the counter until they’re bleeding all over and pick up some microbe from the raw chicken you cooked the night before….

Cut and double wrap again (meaning a sheet of freezer paper long enough to cover all surfaces with 2 layers), and freeze again within 12-24 hours–it’s not only safe, but the meat will be in better shape than if you slap-dashed it on a day when you didn’t have the time to do a careful job. Animal fur, dirt, sordid bits of animal life will affect the taste of your trophy. Take the time. Give yourself the time. Remember, it all ends up on your fork. You want to provide your family with the best wild game butchering technique possible.

The pheasant/upland bird trick is even smarter. It started with a pheasant loving dentist who would spend his days off hunting upland birds, then get up the next morning to take care of his patients. He couldn’t leave them in the lurch, or in pain, so he figured out a very handy trick. But then John and I added another step.


Next week’s tip: easy upland game bird care when you have no time.

 I made a short video about double wrapping for last week’s post. Here’s the link:


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *