Hopefully most Montana hunters have a head full of happy memories of this year’s seasons, and a freezer full of nutritious wild meat.
But if your harvest is still hanging from a garage rafter or aging in a game bag, this is the time to convert the carcass into groceries. Montana state law requires hunters to process their animals – whether birds or big game – into a state fit for human consumption. Whether you have the carcass commercially processed or do it yourself – whether you donate the meat or feed your family – the hunter is responsible for ensuring that the meat is suitable for table fare.
For big-game species such as elk, deer, antelope or bear, the four quarters of the animal above the hock, plus the loins and backstrap, are considered fit for human consumption. For upland birds and waterfowl larger than a partridge or a teal, the breasts and thighs must be retained. And for wild turkeys and swans, the breast, thighs and wings must be retained.
“Waste of game becomes a problem this time of year,” says Region 6 Warden Captain Mike Herman. “The carcass is hanging, then it becomes frozen and people don’t want to deal with it. It’s not uncommon to see these carcasses get dumped or hang until they thaw out and spoil. Don’t let a successful season be ruined by neglecting the meat.”