I hear this complaint almost everyday during hunting season. We had a great time hunting, but it was so much work dragging our animal to the pickup. My question is always why did you drag your animal to the pickup?
Hunters have it ingrained in their minds that they have to gut their harvested animal and then drag it whole to their transportation. It is very difficult lifting a whole animal minus it’s guts into the back of the pickup. Then hunters generally want to hang their animal. The idea is that it will be easier to skin the animal, which it is, and perhaps age the meat. Aging the meat can be argued either way. However, most hunters do not have a way to hang the meat. Hanging an animal like a deer is work in a normal size garage, but an elk will require a large shop.
The first thing a hunter does is skin the hanging animal and either throw the skin away or trade it for a pair of crappy gloves at the local recycle center. Next they carve off all the meat leaving a bunch of bones to discard. So why do hunters drag the hide and bones home just to throw them all away? I have never understood that.
Here is a better solution. Always hunt with a pack frame on your back. Sure it is clunky, but many of the pack frames out their today are made on a flexible plastic frame. You don’t have to fill the whole pack. Just carry the items you normally would put in your day pack. The reason you carry a pack frame with you all the time is because after you shoot your animal you might as well take a load of meat to the pickup instead of going to the pickup empty, grabbing your pack, and walking back to the animal. Lots of walking and you haven’t packed any meat.
Carry a knife with changeable blades. You will not need a saw using my method unless you plan on taking the horns and if you do many knifes have saw blade attachments. Kershaw makes a wonderful knife with changeable blades, as do many knife manufacturers. Then you will not have to carry a knife and a saw plus a sharpening stone.
Carry a 10-foot sheet of thin plastic that you will use as clean spot to bone your animal. I place this sheet of plastic right next to the animal. I will secure the plastic to the ground using nearby rocks.
Bring along a gallon size Ziploc bag with two pairs of plastic gloves. The Ziploc bag will be a great place to put the 10 plastic sheet and bloody plastic gloves after you have boned your animal. I also include small travel pack of wet wipes to clean my hands after the animal is processed.
Carry a second gallon size Ziploc bag to place your saw or knife blades after you are done boning your animal. In this second Ziploc bag you can store several garbage bags. How many garbage bags you bring will depend on what size an animal you are hunting. For a deer two garbage bags should be fine. For an elk you will want at least six garbage bags. The garbage bags will be used to hold your meat and keep the inside of your pack nice and clean
So we are next to our trophy with our 10-foot plastic sheet secured with rocks, garbage bags out on the plastic sheet along with spare knife and saw blades, and now its time to make the first cut.
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Boning The Animal In The Field
Forget about the belly area. We start at the base of the skull and slice the hide down the neck and backbone to the tail. Next slice the hide from the backbone straight down to the knee joint of the front leg. Cut the hide completely around the knee joint. Do the exact same thing for the rear leg. Start at the backbone sliced hide and cut straight down the back leg to the knee joint.
Next start skinning the hide back away from the hind leg. Once you have the hind leg totally skinned you can remove the hind leg if you are working on a deer or if you have an elk you can start boning the hind leg still attached to the animal. The hind leg is attached by a ball joint and can be removed without a saw. Simply lift the leg and start cutting where the leg connects to the body until you hit the ball joint. Once you have cleared all of the muscle away from the ball joint, the hind leg should lift easily off the animal. Place the hind leg on the plastic sheet to allow it to cool.
Move up to the front leg. Skin the hide away from the front shoulder. The front shoulder is not connected by a ball joint. How this works without a ball joint boggles my mind, but it works. Just like the hind leg, lift the leg and start cutting the front shoulder off the animal. Once the front shoulder is disconnected place it on the plastic sheet to cool.
Next we will remove the back strap. Go to the where the neck connects to the body and start a cut right next to the backbone all the way to the tail. Start cutting the back strap off the backbone in one large piece all the way to the neck. This procedure should be exactly what you are familiar doing with a hanging animal. Place the back strap on the plastic sheet to cool.
Move up to the neck and skin the neck hide away from the neck muscle. Remove the neck meat and place it on the plastic sheet. You can also remove rib meat and the tenderloins at this point.
After you have removed all of the meat from that side, simply roll the animal over by using the remaining legs as a lever. I have easily been able to roll over a bull elk by myself after the meat from one side has been removed. Repeat the above procedure on this side and you will have all of the meat removed from your trophy and sitting on the plastic sheet clean and cooling off.
If you want the heart and liver you will have to gut the animal. Without the legs in the way this will be fairly easy.
Start boning the quarter you took off the animal first. The reason for this is because these quarters have had a chance to cool properly. Placing hot meat into a non-breathing garbage bag can spoil the meat. As you bone the meat place it in a garbage bag.
If you have to make multiple packing trips, like you will if you have shot an elk, bone the first two quarters that you removed and place as much meat in the a garbage bag as you can pack. Leave the rest of the boned meat on the plastic sheet to cool while you are packing your first load to the pickup. This will allow the meat to cool properly. Of course outside temperature will determine how much cooling time is required. If you have to leave meat on the plastic sheet during transportation periods, place a shirt or something with a lot of human scent in it on top of the meat. Generally speaking human scent will be enough to keep critters off the meat while you pack a load to the pickup.
Once you have all the meat in a plastic bag simply place your used knife and saw blades into a gallon Ziploc bag ready to clean when you get home. Next place the plastic sheet in the other gallon Ziploc bag and lastly your plastic gloves. By doing this you have a Ziploc bag filled with processing mess ready for the trash.
When you get home you will have your meat nicely boned, cleaned and ready to process or ready to go into the freezer. No hanging, no skinning, and no boning when you get home.
After you have boned a few animals in the field you will find you can do it quicker than gutting the animal, dragging the animal, and processing the animal at home.
I can bone a deer in about twenty minutes and easily pack it out to the pickup in one load. An elk I can bone in about 45 minutes and will require three pack trips to the pickup.
Next Article: Slow Stalking Techniques
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