Any backcountry hunter will tell you that getting an animal down is often the easiest part of the hunt. After the shot, the clock starts ticking, and you’re often miles from the truck or airstrip. It’s a classic catch-22: Both the cape for a mount and the meat are the object of your hunt, but by going so far into the wilderness to get them, you risk losing one or the other on the way out. It can be very difficult to keep both from spoiling, especially in warm weather early in the season. Here are several things you can do to increase the odds of saving both.
Maintain the Meat
The key is to keep it dry. Wet meat plus warm weather equals bacteria, and you won’t have very long before it starts to go bad. The first step is to clean the animal quickly and lay out the meat to cool before packing it in a game bag. If pieces of warm meat are packed together immediately, the heat can’t dissipate.
One trick to cooling meat in a hurry, or keeping it cool in hot weather, is to put it in garbage bags, seal the bags, and submerge them in a cold creek. This works great, but be sure to get the meat out of the plastic bags immediately after removing them from the water.
Make sure to remove meat from your pack if you stop for the night. I like to lay it out on cold rocks next to a creek. If I need to stash it during the daytime, I’ll find a patch of brush or a shaded hole to store it in.
One thing I definitely recommend is a citric-acid-based meat-preserving liquid, such as Game Saver. When sprayed or wiped on meat, it causes the meat to crust and repels insects.
Keep the Cape
The cape can quickly begin to slip if it’s not taken care of properly. For sheep, my favorite thing to do is keep it submerged in a cold creek at all times when I’m not packing it. The water where I hunt is cold enough to keep the cape from spoiling, and it washes all the blood out. Again, do not leave it in the sun or let it get hot when it’s not in the water.
Some situations don’t allow for the creek treatment, but there are still a couple of things you can do. If you know how to properly flesh and turn ears and lips, salt is the classic solution. Use enough so that every millimeter of the skin is coated, fold it skin-to-skin, and roll it up. When you stop at night, unroll it and set it in a cool place so the moisture that the salt draws out can evaporate.
Since most field conditions don’t allow for proper fleshing, I pack a small bottle of Stop Rot to coat the skin. The clear liquid inhibits bacterial growth and will make the skin last much longer.