Gun Test: Beretta 690 Field I

WHAT HAP­PENS ONCE YOUR BULL IS DOWN CAN MAKE YOUR HUNT— AND MAY EVEN SAVE YOUR LIFE

Outdoor Life - - NEWS - BY TOBY WALRATH

SSo you’ve wrapped your tag around antlers some­where be­tween two un­named peaks in the western Rock­ies, and now you’re star­ing at quar­ters that each weighs more than all the meat from last year’s white­tail. Elk hunt­ing is sup­posed to be fun, right? But let’s be hon­est: When was the last time you put 80 to 100 pounds on your back and hiked off-trail over a moun­tain? It’s not fun, it’s tough—even if you’re smil­ing through the pain.

Here are my five rules for pack­ing out elk.

1 PRO­TECT THE MEAT

Keep­ing the meat clean and dry is pri­or­ity num­ber one in any weather. Use a light­weight emer­gency blan­ket or tarp to lay the meat on be­fore you start cut­ting. Dur­ing cold months, keep the meat el­e­vated and sep­a­rated on a pole to al­low proper air­flow. Flies and bac­te­ria are a con­cern on warmweather hunts, so be sure to carry along pack­ets of cit­ric acid. Game Saver (in­dian val­leymeats.com/ game­saver.htm) is a good one. The acid­ity will safely fight bac­te­ria and re­pel flies with­out af­fect­ing the taste of the game. Just add wa­ter and spray or rub on the meat as you peel the hide away.

2 BAG IT

Al­ways carry four game bags—one for each quar­ter—and 50 feet of para­chute cord to hang them. In or­der to prop­erly dis­trib­ute weight, the bags with front shoul­ders also get a back­strap, neck meat, and a loin or two. If it’s hot, it’s a good idea to re­move the bones, and even if it isn’t, you still might want to in or­der to lighten the load. Check reg­u­la­tions care­fully on what game parts you can leave be­hind. Now, take that emer­gency blan­ket the meat was ly­ing on and throw it over the meat pole to keep pre­cip­i­ta­tion off your meat overnight. Ad­di­tion­ally, the sound of the blan­ket or tarp flap­ping in the breeze will help de­ter scav­engers.

3 USE THE RIGHT PACK

Tra­di­tional meat packs with a shelf on the bot­tom work great for a sta­ble load. But be­ware: Some can weigh as much as 10 pounds empty. New com­pact pack de­signs weigh­ing less than 3 pounds are an op­tion. Pack Out Bags (pack out­bags.com) are my pref­er­ence. These pack­able haulers were de­signed by elk hun­ters and are es­sen­tially sim­ple shoul­der straps with large meat pouches at­tached to both the front and back. These packs dis­trib­ute weight more evenly than do tra­di­tional frame packs. No mat­ter the pack style, how­ever, your very best op­tion is to use a pack mule.

4 KNOW YOUR WAY

“How far is it?” That’s a ques­tion asked of­ten just prior to pack­ing out game. If the an­swer starts with some­thing like, “Well, as the crow flies, it’s about…” stop the con­ver­sa­tion right there. Just be­cause the LCD screen on your GPS shows that your elk meat is hang­ing 2.36 miles away from camp does not mean that the di­rect route is the best route. Two miles straight through thick, rough ter­rain can kill you. A longer route over eas­ier ter­rain, such as a trail along a ridgetop or a creek bot­tom, is al­most al­ways the bet­ter op­tion. Take a look at a map or aerial photo. If there is a trail, use it and for­get the crows.

5 ABIDE BY TRA­DI­TION

The ivories are a fas­ci­nat­ing byprod­uct of a suc­cess­ful elk hunt. They should be re­moved and used to make cool jew­elry like rings and neck­laces. At the very least, you should keep them in a con­tainer to show off at work. It’s tra­di­tion, af­ter all. Tra­di­tion also holds that the hunter who killed the elk car­ries the antlers out. A fresh elk head and antlers can weigh more than 40 pounds, so keep that in mind when you divvy up the meat. Note, too, that many states re­quire hun­ters to re­move all their meat prior to pack­ing out the head. Good gear will make all this gru­el­ing work far less painful.

A suc­cess­ful elk hunter quar­ters his bull in the Mon­tana back­coun­try.

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