A problem that instantly faces a hunter who has just driven, or flown, across the country to go on a big game hunt is how to get the meat safely home. Modern ice chests are a considerable help, but even homemade freezer containers can be constructed from waste cardboard, styrofoam, carpet backing, waste paper and similar items.
Check with your air or land carrier about any restrictions about transporting meat.
Key factors in the safe transport of meat are:
1. Reduce the volume as much as possible by boning out and processing as much of the carcass on site as possible. On driving trips I often take a grinder and make ground meat and sausage. The only thing that I want to put in my ice chests for the trip back is packaged, hard-frozen meat.
2. Contract to have any taxidermy done locally. This greatly reduces the potential for hair slip, the hide is put on salt immediately and locals, who have done thousands of deer heads, bear hides or gator skulls will often do a better job than someone who has seen few of the particular animals.
3. Whatever chests you use, pack them as tightly as possible with solidly frozen meat. Leave room on top for a layer of dry ice. (Most airlines will not fly with dry ice and it is sometimes difficult to find. On a recent hunt I drove from Kellogg, Idaho, to Butte, Montana, before I could purchase 12 pounds to keep my bear meat frozen.) Use towels, dirty clothes, or anything to take up any empty space in the chests and blankets or sleeping bags on top of it.
4. Putting freezer chests inside freezer chests (or a homemade insulated freezer box) helps considerably. Then ordinary ice can be put inside the larger container to keep the smaller boxes as cold as possible.
5. Use duct, or other, wide tape to hold the lids tightly shot and help seal the air gaps between the lids and chests. This keeps out air, even when the truck is on rough roads, hits bumps, etc.
6. Avoid opening the chest once dry ice has been added.
7. If there is room, an old empty electric chest freezer can be taken along or an inexpensive new one purchased. These can be plugged in when you arrive at the hunt location, used to freeze your meat and then re-plugged in at every night’s stop. If you are after really big animals like moose, elk or buffalo; even putting a freezer on a utility trailer can be a useful option.
8. Remember that your tags, import documents and other paperwork must accompany the meat.
I have posted an 8-minute video on YouTube which shows me unpacking my freezer chests after a 3 1/2-day trip back from Idaho. The bear was shot one evening, cut up, packaged and frozen the following day. The freezer was the last thing packed for the trip back to Georgia. Dry ice was purchased in Butte, Montana, and the first day’s drive ended in Sheridan, Wyoming. The second night found me in Columbia, Missouri. I added ordinary ice around my smaller coolers and made it to Atlanta for the next night. I arrived home the following morning at about 9:00 AM when the video was made. Only two packages in an inexpensive cooler contained any thawed meat. This meat was cooked the next day.
This video may be view on YouTube by clicking on the following address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkFYpUarYsQ.
For more information on killing, packaging and transporting wild game meat consult my book, “Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound.” Information on this and my other books are available at www.hoveysmith.com.