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Packing out an Elk

6798 Views 29 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Herb
I have packed out quite a few elk (on my back) and now have goats that I am looking forward to using this fall. I have been pondering the question of how to ""split" the elk up to pack out on the goats.
Ok... the front shoulders likely weigh 25 to 40 pounds each deboned.... and the hind quarters are likely between 40 to 70 pounds each deboned. Backstaps, tenderloins, etc. weigh 20 to 30+ pounds or so.
How do you split each quarter up to distribute the weight evenly between the goats? It seems to me that cutting the quarters into smaller chunks would allow more meat to dry out. Is there a trick to splitting it up and keeping it from drying out, or am I just over thinking it?
Either way, any hints or ideas on packing the elk meat onto the goats would be appreciated.

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Back in the days of survival hunting, when boys were boys and men were... well, boys...

The meat was dry rubbed with salt, then wrapped in the skins.

I imagine a plastic trash bag would do well keeping meat from drying out. Suck or squeeze the air out of it before tying it closed. Then even if the meat does dry out a bit, being salted is salvageable.

The plastic bags might also keep your saddle bags fresher. Some people use plastic buckets for saddlebags is such situations for carrying drippy stuff or otherwise nasty garbage.

Now the absolute best idea, is that you set up a processing camp and slow smoke (low temperature) the meat for about ten days to preserve it.It makes the whole load lighter, and the smaller pieces are easily distributed for weight. My wife makes sure I have plastic bags when I leave the house...
I have been pondering that very question. We have adopted the gutless method and have been boning out our animals for easier pack-out. I try not to cut the meat up too much to keep surface are to a minimum so I am thinking that one goat gets the neck meat and loins and misc. which would be easy to to split up, and maybe if you have one really big goat he could potentially take both shoulders if they are under 60 lbs or so combined, but I see no other way for the rear quarters except splitting the rear quarter in half and draping it over the panniers some way....
The only good way I can think of is cutting it up; just make sure its nice and cool and clean to minimize waste... Hopefully we get some elk this year to try it out!! Good Luck!!
I have packed elk out on my back, on an ATV, and on mules, but not on the goats, yet. In these cases we just quartered it and hauled it out bones and all. The advantage of that is less work out in the dirt up on a mountainside, and the hide keeps thing clean. But if I do pack one out on the goats (or on my back again) I will definitely bone it out. I would try to avoid carrying out bones and hide that we aren't going to eat anyway.

I have a video made by a hunting guide who shows how he bones out an elk. He's really good at it. He basically props it up on its belly, slits the skin down the back, lays the hide of one side over onto the ground, and fillets the meat off the bones and lays the chunks of meat on the clean inside of the hide. Then he cuts them up into pieces that will fit in 1 gallon zip lock bags. When he's done with that side he lays the hide from the other side over and repeats the process. Then it's just a matter of loading the bags into the goat panniers and keeping them balanced.

This may not work well in hot weather tho. I've heard that putting meat in plastic bags and not getting it chilled down quickly is a bad idea. Fortunately I've been getting drawn for late cow hunts so cooling the meat isn't an issue.
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I see a lot of varying opinions here thought I would add some points of interest I have learned.

I went on a moose hunt in Alaska last fall. It was a 110 mile float trip and we were only bowhunting. Minimum fine in Alaska for letting meat go to waste is $1000.00 and/or 7 days in jail. My hunting partner and I did a LOT of research none the less. I recieved most of my good information from a guy named Larry Bartlet. If interested you should google that name. He lives in Fairbanks, and has books and videos on keeping meat clean and fresh while in the woods.

Some of the main points I took from Bartlet:

1) Meat should always remain clean and DRY. (there will be a protective crust that forms on the outside of the meat and that is perfectly fine. Rubbing citric acid on the meat will help preserve it and keep flies away to some extent.

2) Use high quality game bags. There is a type of game bag called "tag bags." I bought mine in AK, and they weren't cheap (somewhere in the realm of $75 for a pack of 5,) but they are high quality and reusable. Do not use plastic bags if it is warm! Do NOT use kitchen trash bags! If you look on a box of normal kitchen trash bags it says something to the effect: "Not for storage of food meant for human consumption." This is due to the powdered agents they add to prevent foul odors. Best not to use plastic bags at all as they will prevent the meat from cooling as well.

Other techniques include using a meat thermometer to make sure the meat close to the bone stays cool, hanging the meat every night or suspending it off the ground if trees are not available. Last resort involves INDUSTRIAL trash bags (ones without the powder chemicals) and using rocks to sink the meat in a cool stream or lake, but keep it DRY. Moisture and heat leads to spoilage. You do want to keep the surface area to a minimum, but that is tough to do with goats.

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The guy that insisted I be his hunting partner used to tie deer across the hood of the truck and drive around in the hot sun all day while we shot a few more. After a couple of days of this, then he'd hang them in the garage for a week. They sure were tender...
We have been packing elk meat out with home made game bags. The outlet stores like Ross Dress for less and TJ Max will sell 100% cotton 600 threads per square inch bed sheets. This is the highest thread count count I have ever been able to find. At home I sew simple rectangle game bags from the sheets. We always have these with us in our hunting pack. Back at base camp we use a heavy cotton duck cloth game bag to hang the meat. (These are a little to heavy to pack everyday while hunting). We hang the meat high due to the bears and dogs. These bags are made local here in Coeur d'Alene, ID at Lyle's Fabrics. He has an online store if you want them. I wash and bleach them and reuse them for years.
After many years I have finally drawn a moose tag for Idaho. I'm not sure how many packs the goats, my husband and I will be carrying to get a moose out.
I've packed out a lot of Elk. You will need to debone it. I use the gutless method which is quick and simple. Do one side at a time by skinning half the animal and lay the hide out flat to put the meat on so it doesn't get dirty. As soon as I get a quarter deboned I split it in equal halves and put it in game bags and set it in the shade while I work on the next quarter.

If the Elk is a large bull I figure on one deboned rear quarter per goat. Then one goat per front quarter and two more for the neck, rib and loin meat making 6 total goat loads. I usually carry the head and hide myself. Obviously I put each rear quarter on my largest goats and the loose meat on my smallest ones.

If the Elk is medium size like a cow or small bull then you can combine a front quarter with half the loose meat and bring it out with 4 goats.

It takes 2 goats to pack out a deer. I leave the bones in and put the rear quarters on one goat and the front shoulders and loose meat on the second goat.

I pack all my meat in cheap cheesecloth game bags and hang them up as high as I can get them while I bring the goats in. I line my panniers with small kitchen garbage bags to keep the panniers clean and keep the meat from drying out. Once I get to the truck I take the meat out of the plastic so it can air cool on the way home.
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FOr those that don't know the gutless method: refer to

Its a great elk hunting web site
My friend has a LE archery elk tag for this fall. Thanks for the informative post from Rex on a good way to load up the goats with all the meat to pack it out. Thanks That helps a ton. Hopefully we get the chance to use my goats to pack out the bull.
Mt Nebo Goats said:
Hopefully we get the chance to use my goats to pack out the bull.
When I go hunting I throw the bull... ;-)
Bob Jones said:
[quote="Mt Nebo Goats":19zschvx] Hopefully we get the chance to use my goats to pack out the bull.
When I go hunting I throw the bull... ;-)[/quote:19zschvx]
Bob you throw bull even when you aren't hunting... ;)
My turn to share.

The goats and I were there when my son shot with his bow. The elk was curious about the goats.
All the goats did well for their first hunting trip. They went up on the hill when prepping.
But I think it was because of the buzzing bees. (that time of the year)
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This is me on a trip to get water for the goats.
Which by the way they did not drink at all the whole trip.
Friday til Sunday. Yet water was available. What is up with that?
Of course they were eating mountain grasses not dried up hay.

The panniers were just old horse saddle bags. And one Northwest set.
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I see the same thing with no water consumption when we first hit the trail. Often for several days. They have an amazing ability to go without water. I make sure they have access to it a couple of times a day and they eventually drink when they are thirsty.
Great read guys, thanks for sharing...

I drew a Unit 15 New Mex bull tag, packing a big boy out on our backs!!
I didn't realize when I applied, this unit is full of roads. So the goats will sit out one more season, they are 3 this year. Above tree line muley hunt planned next bowseason. I can't wait to use my goats!!
Well, it was a fun 5 days hunting on my own in the backcountry, five to six miles in (with Copper and Talc). From day one I was in the elk, there must have been an early cow in heat. I missed a nice 6 point when my arrow hit a limb. Had 4 other bulls within range but no shot due to brush and/or trees.
Monday night I heard a bugle and snuck towards the direction of the sound (with two goats following). The bull saw me and the goats and stopped at 18 yards. I drew back and cow called, but a large tree blocked everything but the butt and guts. After holding way too long, I couldn’t hold any more so I let down way to quick…. arrow fell off the rest and hit the dirt. I cow called again but the bull was intent on the goats. I loaded the arrow up and scooted three feet back, drew back my bow, aimed and shot him at 18 yards. He ran 40 yards to the right and I thought for sure he was going down! However, a black bear came out of the trees and spooked the elk, which took off in a flash.
I was a little pissed, until I remembered…….I have a bear tag and should shoot it (it was 35-40 yards away). So I drew back my bow, but couldn’t get a shot (the bear was busy blood trailing the elk I think). I literally “chasedâ€\followed the bear for 50 yards trying to get a shot at him and he didn’t even care I or the goats were there until he winded me. Once he smelled me, he took off. Thank goodness, as that would have been way to much work!!!!!
The elk only ran about 100 yards and died. I used the gutless method recommended above at this link and it worked well, but would have definitely been easier with another person to help hold legs, etc. I used a tarp to lay the meat on. Overall, I am impressed with the goats. They didn’t mind the elk at all.
I had Copper pack 50Lbs of meat and Talc packed the 40Lbs of gear to the trailhead where I met my wife, daughter and our other four pack goats. We stuck my daughter on Treasure and walked the 3+ miles to the elk, loaded the goats up and came back. They did a good job, didn’t mind the “dead†elk or meat and I only had to pack about 20 pounds of meat (due to my daughter taking up a big goats meat carrying capacity, which was worth it as she had fun). Packed out 200Lbs of meat.
Also had a bobcat stalking the goats…….but I guess that story is for another time.


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Bowslayer2, congratulations! What an exciting hunt. Where were you?
tgallaty.... I can't give away my spots, spent too much time walking and scouting and scouting and walking. I got it in western Montana.....
Nice pics! Thanks for sharing. I was with my buddy last weekend when he arrowed a bull. 20 yards. Fun!!!
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