Keeping meat fresh, the challenge after the catch
Hunting is a challenge from the beginning to the end and nothing shows it better than keeping the meat fresh after the catch.
You have been tracking, chasing and pursuing your game for a long distance and many hours, even days and after that critical shot, the job is about to begin! You are miles away from the nearest fridge without no more else than what nature have to offer; now the clock is ticking and you must move fast in order to keep the meat fresh.
The challenge is to achieve such aim with available resources and keep you and your catch safe, after all there are lots of predators and scavengers out there which would be very pleased to take a part or even all of your hard job.
Thus the job starts almost immediately after the killing; depending of the size of your game you will need to use one or other technique to skin it, but regardless the choosen method, you need to move fast.
After skinned, next challenge is to preserve meat, especially if you have to travel a long distance to your truck, camp or cabin; then you must be sure to delay as much as possible the natural putrefaction process and here the key is to inhibit bacterial growing.
On cold weather this may be easier but on warmer areas or at the season beginning external temperatures is not a help precisely, moreover, the combination of high temperatures and moisture is fatal to preserve meat but following some clever steps you will gain enough time to keep your meat safe.
First thing to do after skinning is to eviscerate the body; bacteria live mainly on skin surface and hollow viscus, thus removing bacterial sources is a critical step to keep your meat fresh. Once eviscerated, be sure to keep viscerae away from the body in order to avoid contamination.
After evisceration you could need to dismember the body, especially with big games such as deer, while with small catches such as rabbits or ducks that isn't necessary and the body may be kept intact.
Next step is to lower temperature as much as possible, and to do it there are several ways:
1- If there's a cold creek around, put the meat inside a waste bag, close it tightly, tie a rope to the bag and put it inside the water. Be sure to tie the other end of the rope to a fixed point to keep it safe despite the water stream, otherwise your meat could travel away on its own.
After a couple of hours the temperature will drop enough and you can take the meat out of the plastic bag and put in inside a game bag to start your way back.
2- If there's no creek available or the water is not cold enough (depending of the area you are hunting in), hang meat from a high stand, each piece as much separate as possible of the other in order to allow wind to dry the meat and reduce temperature, sometimes it's good to spend the night since lower temperatures will help to cool the meat.
If you decide to spend the night, be sure to keep predators and scavengers away, putting your meat as high as possible and using fire on the perimeter; usually night predators will stay away from fire; nevertheless you will need to be on guard all night long to prevent danger.
Once the meat is cool enough, pack it an begin your travel back. On both scenarios, if your travel takes more than a day, be sure to avoid direct sun exposition to keep your meat fresh and hang it at least once a day, especially at night.
3- A citric-acid-based meat-preserving liquid sprayed or wiped on the meat is also very valuable since it crust it and repels insects.
During your way back, if you need to rest, remember to hang the meat or put it over cold stones away from sun; that's a good way to keep it cool.
Finally, once you reach your truck, cabin or camp, be sure to put everything on the fridge immediately and process all the meat on small pieces the day after, this way you allow the temperature to drop as much as possible before processing the meat, rendering the process more effective and safe.