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Top Tools for Field Processing Deer

Top Tools for Field Processing Deer

Field processing deer is when the real work begins. Having any of these tools on hand will help make the job go easier.

PRE-TRIP PLANNING

The first step in a DIY adventure is making sure you have realistic expectations. On a caribou hunt, if things go right and you're dropped off in the right place, most of the animals are seen early in the trip and then sightings drop off as they migrate elsewhere. On a moose hunt, you may see a legal bull on the first day, and never encounter another one for the rest of the trip. You won't have an outfitter keeping track of the animals for you.

You must also be prepared to deal with success. It's a rookie mistake to wander far from camp and worry about recovering the animal once it's down. I've packed out a couple of caribou and it takes me two fully loaded trips to get one bull back to camp so I won't hunt much further than two miles out.

You should also plan for adversity, mostly because of the unpredictable Alaskan weather. Bobby was stuck on the tundra once for almost 20 days because of poor flying weather and an aircraft breakdown. Getting anywhere in Alaska almost always involves a plane. If your flight service uses Super Cubs, weight limitations are about 65-70 pounds of gear plus one hunter. For larger planes, like a Cessna 185, the pilot will usually take two hunters with about 100 pounds of gear each. Always allow extra travel time at each end of your hunt because of weather delays, and bring extra food and emergency supplies such as a first-aid kit.

If you are not in good physical condition for a hunt like this, get in shape or don't go. This is especially true for moose, because the recovery will be the hardest work you'll ever do.

If you are still up for a trip like this, take the time to plan every detail. Seek the advice of hunters who've been there, done that. Ask them what they learned and take advantage of their mistakes.

PACKING FOR THE AIRLINE

If you hunt with a compound bow you'll need a hard bow case, and since you'll be charged by the airlines for a bag it might as well be packed to the weight limit, which is 50 pounds. Stuff it with your bow, arrows, releases, broadheads and other gear, plus at least one complete change of clothes in case your duffel doesn't show up. Keep packing until it weighs 49 pounds, just to be safe.

I hunt with a longbow, and recently switched to a takedown model for ease of packing. My spare bow is a takedown recurve. They're easy to get into a duffel bag along with my arrow tube.

It's usually best to carry valuables like binoculars, cameras, GPS, etc. in your daypack as carry-on baggage, as long as it fits in the overhead compartment.

Duffel bags pack into a bush plane easier, and two smaller bags are better than one monster bag. It sometimes works to pack two smaller duffels into one large one for the trip and then leave the larger duffel at the flight service along with your hard bow case.

FOOD

In remote locations it's unlikely you'll find appropriate lightweight food at a store, so we always pack our own food. Mountain House meals are great, but expensive. Ramen noodles, rice mixes, and dehydrated soups that only need water added are ideal, cheap and pack easily. We usually take along some hot dogs and a can or two of some sort of meat. Tuna or chicken in foil packets don't weigh much and will supplement a meal of noodles. Breakfast food usually consists of instant oatmeal and pancake mixes.

There are a number of individual package drinks, including energy drinks, you can mix in a bottle with some water. The sugar-free drinks with artificial sweeteners are usually lighter.

COOKING GEAR

Airline rules prohibit any sort of fuel, so if you plan to use an ultralight stove the container must be empty and not smell like fuel or it isn't going on the airplane. For this reason we use propane stoves, even though they are heavier. Propane canisters are usually found at most destinations but it still pays to verify they will be available before you head into the bush.

There are plenty of good cook sets for backpackers. Most have a frying pan and a pot or two, with a removable handle and cooking utensils. We also bring Ziploc bags with dehydrated marinade for when we get some meat for camp. You can also take spices in small containers.

Of course, on any such trip a quality water filter/pump is indispensable. We use a collapsible five-gallon plastic container for water around camp.

CAMPING GEAR

There are a lot of sleeping bags on the market, but one rated for zero degrees or less with synthetic insulation is the way to go. Down bags are useless if they get wet. A sleeping pad is a must, even in good weather. The pad provides insulation from the ground and makes for better rest. A cot is a great accessory, if you can bring one along.

For a tent, bring something that can withstand a lot of wind. Lightweight tents save weight, but we prefer aluminum-framed tents, like Cabela's Outfitter Series, because they hold up better in the wind.

Your pack will have to hold all your gear and also be capable of carrying meat quarters. Chunks of boned-out moose can weigh as much as 100 pounds, so your pack has to be tough.

OTHER ESSENTIAL GEAR

There are a couple of things I would not be without. The first is good rain-gear. Buy the very best you can afford, because you might spend the whole trip wearing it. A GPS unit, loaded with the maps of where you will be hunting, is also a must. Compasses are great, but if fog rolls in you'll never see a landmark. Clothing should cover the whole temperature range, from t-shirt weather to freezing conditions. I also bring along lightweight neoprene hip boots.

MEAT CARE

Plan on what you are going to do with meat, antlers, and capes before you leave home. What if you bag a moose on day one of the hunt and the weather turns warm? How are you going to keep all that good meat from spoiling? The best bet is to have quality meat bags, and some sort of citric acid spray mix available. In warm weather, the meat can be cooled in a lake or creek, and then dried and bagged up. We've been on hunts when we had caribou meat in camp for several days with temperatures in the 60's and the meat was fine.
There are specific regulations for meat salvage and meat care tips in the Alaska hunting regulations. Be sure to check the regs for the area you will be hunting prior to your trip.
Caping an animal out poorly is a good way to ruin the trophy of a lifetime. There are videos and websites that explain the process. You must also plan on bringing enough salt for a cape and know how to use it. Check with your taxidermist for advice before your hunt.

BEAR DEFENSE

In grizzly country, there are two choices for personal protection — pack a gun or carry bear spray.

Bear spray will stop a bear, but you must have it handy so it can be used quickly, and it doesn't work as well in wet or windy weather. You are prohibited from flying with it, so you'll have to buy it at your destination. Bush pilots won't allow it inside their aircraft but will tape it to the strut.

I personally carry a gun. My theory — which fortunately has not been tested — is that with the gun you can fire a warning shot before Yogi gets too close. Hopefully he'll run the other way, with neither of you getting harmed. We have had bears walk right into camp in broad daylight, and one crafty guy messed with our meat pile at night. In all cases they ran off without being a threat, but that isn't always the case as a handful of people do get hurt by bears each year. If you do plan to travel with firearms, go online and review all the TSA rules, as well as those of the airline you're traveling with.




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