It's a great feeling for a hunter when he or she hits a deer, elk, or other game animal cleanly and swiftly. It's not such a great feeling for a hunter when he or she realizes all that meat needs to be hauled back to civilization — and fast. Game meat is like other meat; it's subject to spoiling if left in conditions that are too warm or too moist. If there is a meat locker or cooler business nearby, you can move the carcass there while you continue hunting. But if you're planning to be out in the middle of nowhere, you need alternative methods to keep the meat cool.
Coolers and Ice
The simplest option, especially if you're hunting smaller game like rabbits and geese, is a large portable cooler and a lot of ice. The ice can melt, of course, so at some point you're going to have to drive the cooler back to a place where you can at least buy more ice, if not actually store the game somewhere. Do not use the same cooler you use for picnics and storing other food — use one that's dedicated to game and clean it thoroughly after each hunt so that no blood is left in the cooler.
For larger game that has to be cut up, you may need several large coolers. That also means looking at which vehicle you're using to travel to the hunting site. A pickup, SUV, or van will obviously hold a lot more than a smaller vehicle like a jeep.
Also, be sure that the cooler isn't sitting in the sun. That will warm up the cooler faster.
To Debone or Not?
Carcasses do not cool down immediately, which means that the meat on a large game animal will remain warm — and thus very hospitable to the growth of bacteria — for a long time. Cutting the animal up can help cool the carcass down, but you have to be very careful of something here.
Much of the advice out there is to debone the animal so that the meat cools off more quickly and doesn't sour. But as LiveOutdoors notes, that introduces the problem of bacteria spread due to knife use. As you cut through meat, you can spread bacteria from one area to another unless you sterilize the knife between each cut — not each section, but literally each cut.
Deboning the meat does help it cool, though, so you need to reach a middle ground: If the law requires you to leave the bone in, talk to the state's fish and game department about cutting the meat into smaller sections with a clean knife while doing so. Sterilizing after each cut, though, can take time if you're dealing with a large animal, so you may want to bring several clean knives so that you can keep cutting as your hunting companion sterilizes the used knives. Bring disposable gloves as well so you can change those frequently and prevent spreading bacteria as you hold different cuts of meat.
Game meat can be an economical way to feed your family and friends, but you want to make sure it's safe. Check hunting supply stores for coolers, maps of meat locker locations, sets of clean knives, and other sterilization equipment.