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Keep it clean - game handling tips


Friday, July 29, 2016

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds hunters that simple, common sense precautions are part of the safe and proper field dressing of big game.

The Antelope 900 series archery and some elk shoulder seasons open Aug. 15, followed by the general archery season for antelope, bear, wolf, deer, elk and mountain lion on Sept. 3.

“While the chance of contracting a disease from wild game is remote, it makes good sense to take a few simple precautions,” said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for FWP in Helena.

Here are some of the precautions that FWP recommends to hunters handling harvested game including waterfowl, game birds, deer and elk.

  • Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or that appears sick. Contact FWP if you see an animal that appears sick.
  • Wear rubber gloves when field dressing any game animal.
  • Bone out the meat from your deer or elk. Avoid sawing through bone when you can and avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).
  • Minimize contact with animal brain, intestines, fluids, spinal tissue and feces.
  • Be mindful of humans and domestic dogs touching or coming in contact with animal parts or feces as it can be contaminated and transmit parasites.
  • Prevent dogs from eating the internal organs of game animals.
  • If you have your wild meat commercially processed, request that your animal is handled individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal.
  • Wash hands and forearms after field dressing game animals.
  • Cook all game meat until well done.

Additionally, early season big game hunts can present unique challenges when trying to get a large animal from the field to the processor. Here are some tips caring for big game when the weather is warm.

  • The bone is what retains the heat and is the source of the problem and causes meat to ultimately sour in the event that it does. You need to expose the bone to ambient air as the bone transfers the heat to the muscle.
  • Split down the spine from the inside, through the spine and backbone to the hide. The carcass should be opened up all the way from the pelvis to the neck.
  • Open up the round area by cutting through the round into the bone as that's another place that is a significant problem for heat retention.
  • Have lots of ice available. Bring an extra cooler and put blocks or bags of ice in it. Ice stored in a cooler that's left closed will last for days and be available when you need it in the field. Blocks last longer than bags. Water should be drained from the cooler to maintain the ice.
  • Skinning a carcass cools it fastest, but if you're making a relatively short trip from the field to home or field to camp, you can fill the body cavity of an unskinned deer or elk with ice bags to help cool it. Be beware, body heat can remain in the thickest parts of the animal, such as the hindquarters, and stuffing with ice is only a temporary measure. Do not rely on ice in the body cavity to cool larger animals like elk and moose.
  • If it's too warm to hang a deer or elk outside, skin and quarter it and put the meat on ice. A large cooler will hold most or all of a deer that's been quartered, or an elk that has been cut into smaller pieces. Remember to leave evidence of sex, as per rules on page 15 of the 2016 deer, elk and antelope regulations.
  • Know where the nearest meat processing facilities are located and know their hours of operation. Do a little homework before your hunt so you will know where and when you can take your game to cool it quickly.