Meat and Trophy Care Gear Lists
The gear you need for field care of your big-game meat and trophies is a level beyond what is required in other places in the United States. In most cases hunters should expect to do all the caping, skinning, fleshing and detail work on their hides and capes, final clean-up of skulls, and rough butchering and packing of the meat. Additional steps must be taken to ensure that meat does not spoil in the field.
Basic Field Care Tools
|• Citric acid powder (1 pkg.)
• Knives (2)
• Salt for capes
• Contractor trash bags (6)
• License & Tags
• Saw or Hatchet
• External frame pack
• Meat thermometer
|• Tape measure (1)
• Flagging tape (2 rolls)
• Nitrile gloves (4 pair)
• Tarp (10x10)
• Game bags (see list below)
• Pack frame pins (4 spare)
• Tarp (12x24)
|• Parachute cord (100')
• Trash compactor bags (2)
• Hunting Regulations
• Pump spray bottle
• Knife Sharpener (2)
• Rope, 1/4" braided nylon (100')
Citric Acid Powder
Bring one packet (about four ounces dry weight) of citric acid powder. It is unlikely that you will need it, however if the weather is unseasonably warm or if you are not able to keep the surface of the meat dry, mix the powder with water and spray it on your meat to kill surface bacteria. Usually one application of citric acid solution is sufficient for an entire trip. Click the link below to order it.
Citric Acid Powder (Alaska Game Saver)
Contractor Trash Bags
Contractor trash bags are used in warm weather for immersing your game quarters in a river or lake at the kill site in order to reduce the core temperature and prevent the onset of "bone sour". Read more about the process in our meat care page, found AT THIS LINK.
External Frame Pack
Internal frame packs are not generally large enough or strong enough for packing heavy game meat. Go instead with a sturdy external frame pack. Read about packs for game meat AT THIS LINK. Bring some spare pins for your frame, as they can sometimes break under heavy loads.
Flag the route from the kill site back to camp, to make it easier to find when you return for your second, third and fourth loads. Take the tape down on your last trip out. Use some tape on the end of a long stick, wedging the other end into the carcass of the animal. If a bear gets on the kill while you are packing, he will usually move it, knocking down the stick. This will alert you to the potential presence of a bear, when you are approaching the kill site.
In all of our game bag lists you will see two rows of numbers. The reason for this is because we recommend that you bring two sets of bags. Bring the light-weight compact synthetic bags for moving your meat from the kill site to camp, and change out for cotton bags once you have the meat in camp. For details and an explanation why, read through our Meat Care Tools page.
If you're hunting with a partner who is also planning to take an animal, you can get by with one complete set of synthetic bags between the two of you. Simply rinse the bags in the river, dry them, and reuse them on the second animal. You will need a second set of cotton bags, however, as each animal must hang in its own game bags in camp.
Game Bags Review (AOS Video)
Cotton Game Bags
- Small Game Bags (24"x36")
- Medium Game Bags (36"x48")
- Large Game Bags (36"x54")
Game Bags Needed for Alaska Big Game
For moose you need a large for each of the four quarters, plus another for each side of ribs, assuming you are leaving the rib meat on the bone. If you are removing the meat from the ribs, it will fit in a small bag. Keep in mind that meat left on the bone keeps much better in the field and is much easier to move. You'll need another large bag for the cape, assuming you are caping your moose for a shoulder mount. You won't need this bag at the kill site, as you can back-haul one of your synthetic bags from camp after hanging your meat. Haul your cape out in this bag, flesh and salt it in camp, and put it in a large bag to keep the flies off of it. Finally, you need three small bags; one is for the neck, another is for the prime cuts (backstraps and tenderloins, and the last one is for all the meat you'll trim off of the carcass when you are done rough butchering at the kill site.
- Large: 7 (one for each quarter, one for each rib slab, one for the cape)
- Small: 3 (neck, brisket/ trim, prime cuts)
Caribou/ Sheep/ Goat
You're going to need a large bag for each of the four quarters, plus another large for the cape. If you're bringing the ribs out on the bone, you can slide one side of ribs in each of the large bags that contain the front quarters. You'll need two small bags; one for the neck and trim and the other for your prime cuts (backstraps and tenderloins).
- Large: 5 (one for each hindquarter, one for each forequarter, doubled with a rib slab in each, cape)
- Small: 2 (neck/ brisket/ trim, prime cuts)
You're going to need a large bag for the hide, and six small to medium-sized bags if you are salvaging the meat. Use a small for each of the four quarters, one for the ribs and trim, and the last one for the prime cuts (backstraps and tenderloins).
- Large: 1 (hide)
For meat salvage:
- Small: 6 (each quarter, neck/ trim, prime cuts)
It's not uncommon to find yourself working on an animal at the kill site or in camp, after nightfall. A headlamp allows you to work hands-free. It also allows you to pack meat after dark or simply to return to camp after hours if you decide to continue butchering in the morning. Choose a headlamp that uses the same type of batteries used in your other electronics (GPS, VHF radio, Camera, etc.) This allows you to change batteries back and forth as needed. LED headlamps are quite popular and are very easy on batteries.
Keep a set of the Alaska Hunting Regulations in your pack at all times; they contain answers to very important legal questions that may not occur to you until you're in the field.
You need something to touch up that blade in the field. Bring a couple; one for aggressive sharpening and the other for detail work.
Bring at least two knives; it's possible to break a blade or lose a knife in the field. Sharpen both before leaving for your hunt. A knife with a 2" to 2.5" blade is plenty adequate for any big-game animal you'll encounter in Alaska.
License and Tags
Your hunting license, harvest ticket and metal locking tags (where applicable) must be with you at all times when you are hunting. Retain the punched-out harvest ticket with you at all times after you have harvested an animal.
A meat thermometer is not essential, but it's a great help for monitoring the core temperature of larger pieces of meat in order to determine whether the meat is at risk of bone sour.
Some hunters prefer to wear latex or nitrile gloves while handling raw game meat, in order to prevent infections to the hands. Because some people have a severe allergic reaction to latex, we recommend using nitrile gloves.
Known in military circles as "550 cord", parachute cord is ideal for securing the tops of your game bags so flies cannot enter. It's also used for securing a tarp over your meat rack, to keep rainfall and dew from soaking your game bags. True "550 cord" is up to military specifications and is plenty strong enough for hanging moose quarters.
Pump Spray Bottle
If you're bringing citric acid powder, you'll need a small pump spray bottle to apply it to the meat, after you've mixed the powder into clean water. WalMart carries an assortment of spray bottles; get a very small one, around a half pint or so.
Salt for Capes and Hides
Use non-iodized fine mixing salt (not rock salt) for your capes and hides. Instructions for its use are provided AT THIS LINK. Quantities will vary depending on the species you are hunting and whether you intend to cape the animal for a shoulder mount or if you are planning on a full-body mount. Salt should be protected from the elements during transit and while in the field. The best way to do this is with a Poor Man's Dry Bag. Pack your salt in a plastic trash bag with a nylon grain sack as an overbag to protect the trash bag. Due to the high cost of shipping, it is not recommended to ship salt to Alaska. Instead, plan to purchase it locally in Anchorage or Fairbanks. A great place to buy it in bulk is at a feed store.
How Much Salt?
- Shoulder Mount: 30#
- Full Body Mount: 50#
Moose/ Elk/ Muskox
- Shoulder Mount: 20#
- Full Body Mount: 50#
Caribou/ Sheep/ Black Bear
- Shoulder Mount: 10#
- Full Body Mount: 25#
- Shoulder Mount: 10#
- Full Body Mount: 20#
- Shoulder Mount: 15#
- Full Body Mount: 50#
- Shoulder Mount: 5#
- Full Body Mount: 10#
Saws and Hatchets
You'll need a saw or a hatchet for removing antlers / horns from the skull if you are not doing a European mount. If you are doing a European mount, simply remove the skull from the neck vertebrae and clean the skull of all accessible tissue; muscle tissue, eyes, etc. If you plan to remove the ribs intact, you can do so with a stout knife by separating the cartilage where the rib bones join onto the spine, and then cutting through the cartilage that connects the other end of each rib to the sternum. It takes time to do this, however, so many hunters simply use a saw or a hatchet. Here are some brand name recommendations for you:
- Estwing Camper's Axe. This tool is the perfect length for the job, and can serve double duty for cutting and splitting firewood, and removing sweepers and strainers on float hunts.
- ARS GR-18L folding saw, with extra blade. Unlike other folding saws, the ARS GR-18L has a curved blade that is designed for cutting on the pull-stroke. This makes the saw much less likely to break when you catch it in a bind on the push stroke. The saw also has a bulge at the lower end of the handle that helps keep your hand from slipping off while you are cutting.
Bring a small tape measure for measuring the antler spread on your moose, the overall length of your Dalll sheep horns and so forth. But don't forget to measure the dimensions of the carcass of the animal you are planning to mount!
Bring a 10'x10' plastic tarp in your pack. You'll need it to create a clean surface on which to work on your animal (see THIS PAGE for details), you'll use it to tarp the meat while you are packing it from the kill site to camp, and you can also use it for an emergency shelter if you are stuck out away from camp overnight. You'll need a 12'x24' tarp in camp for covering the meat pole. Get one that is silver on one side, and pitch it so the silver side is facing up. This reflects the sun's heat and keeps the meat cooler.
Trash Compactor Bags
You need a few trash compactor bags for use as pack liners while you're packing meat. Get a roll of them because you can also use them for packing food items and other gear using the Poor Man's Dry Bag method. Note that compactor bags come in scented and in unscented. Get the unscented variety as the other type will permeate your food and your game meat with a chemical smell.
An ulu (pronounced "oo-loo") is a traditional curved-bladed knife used by many native groups in Alaska. There are basicly two types of edges found on an ulu; blades that are sharpened on both sides like a regular knife, and blades that are sharpened on one side only. Many hunters prefer ulus that are sharpened only on one side, because if you flesh the hide with the bevel facing the hide, the hide tends to allow the blade to float along the surface of the skin without cutting through. Cut-throughs with an ulu tend to sever a lot of hair roots, leaving a line on the finished rug or mount. The single-bevel helps prevent that.
Packing Your Gear
It's important that you pack your gear in a way that protects it from the elements, allows safe transport, and saves time in the field. The items highlighted in yellow on the list should be packed in your backpack, and the items highlighted in green should remain in camp (or on the boat, for float hunts. You will only need these things when you return to camp. In terms of game bags, leave the cotton bags in camp and pack only the synthetic bags with you in the field. Change out to the cotton bags in camp. We included the saw or hatchet in the "stay in camp" list, because you can back-haul it with you when you make your last load. Alaska hunting regulations require that the trophy (hides, capes, skulls and antlers) come out with or after the last load of meat.
Pack your knives, sharpening tools and tape measure in a gallon ziplock bag and leave it in the side pocket of your pack. Pack frame pins can go in a smaller ziplock in the same side pocket. Your tarp, hunting regulations (in a large ziplock bag), game bags and trash compactor bags can go in the main bag and the rest of the stuff goes in your pack's side pockets.
Make up a Poor Man's Dry Bag for your salt, and another for your cotton game bags. In the bag with the game bags in it, also toss in your citric acid powder, spray bottle, rope, meat pole tarp, ulu, extra parachute cord and meat thermometer. On float hunts both of these bags can be loaded toward the bottom of your load, as you won't need them until you have an animal down.
Recommended Gear List
The following items are recommended by this site as a result of years of collective experience in the field working with Alaska game.
- Helle Nying knife (2 each)
- Havalon Piranta knife (1 each, with extra blades)
- E-Z Lap Model M diamond sharpener with sheath (1 each)
- Leatherman Wave multi-tool (1 each)
- ARS GR-17 folding saw, with extra blade (1 each)
- Estwing Camper’s Axe (1 each)
- Heavy-Duty Game Bags
- Citric Acid Powder
- UDAP electric fence kit for bear protection
- Flagging Tape
Additional Resources on Meat Care
- Alaska Field Care Handbook (two-part e-book by Michael Strahan)
- Field Care Handbook (book by Duncan Gilchrist)
- Float Hunting Alaska's Wild Rivers (book by Michael Strahan; contains extensive meat care section)