With such a smorgasbord of game available to us, often all that effort to bring home game meat can be in vain unless the meat can be properly protected and enjoyed in camp or at home. Here are some simple ways this can be achieved, something I developed out of frustration some years ago in order to stop the dreaded blowfly reaching the dressed game out in the field or when camping for several days.
Preserving game meat
Meat Nets: In my early days of hunting, when we ran out of ice and in the absence of a fridge or freezer, my initial attempts to bring back a piece of pork or game meat failed dismally, botched by the retched blowfly laying its eggs in hard-to-spot crevices.
Searching for a better method to protect game meat, I eventually devised a fully enclosed net. It was six feet long with a four-foot drop, a two-foot wide cloth at the top sewn on to mosquito netting (later replaced with stronger nylon netting) and a long zip at one end. Eyelets in the top at either end allowed a steel cord or rope to run the inside length of the net from which game was hung using butcher hooks.
Strung between two sturdy trees in the shade with a little breeze blowing, the meat inside not only cooled and cured but formed a dry thin outer layer of skin which, if accidently exposed, made it difficult for the blowfly to penetrate and lay its eggs. In winter or in cold conditions, bulky pig and goat legs remained in the net for a couple of days or longer without spoiling.
Later, when we started taking ice, thin skinned smaller game such as duck and rabbit were left in the net overnight to drain of blood and chill in the cold night air before packing away in ice the following morning. Over the years, a lot of game meat has been successfully recovered by this method, a method I still use today and one I’m not aware anyone else uses. Anyone can design and build their own net and they really do work.
In hot weather, as soon as the body temperature of the game reduces or cools a little, it’s best packed in ice soon after. However, with any food preservation, it’s very important that proper checking is maintained at all times to ensure the meat hasn’t gone off.
Game Bags: Out in the field, away from camp or the vehicle, game bags made of cheesecloth or similar breathable material with a tie cord at the top will protect dressed game strung up in the shade of a tree and allow air to flow through, pending its recovery. They’re light and easily stored in a backpack.
For a number of years now, full-sized cheesecloth bags or bags of similar material 180cm x 120cm wide and larger to hold a dressed goat, pig or deer, have been part of the gear on trips and have served me well. It’s amazing how an unprotected dressed carcass in just a few minutes can attract blow flies and spoil the meat. Once they lay their eggs it’s too late and all your efforts go down the drain. Depending on where the eggs are laid, they can go undetected for a few hours or even a day or two.
Similarly, smaller bags 70cm x 40cm or larger that will hold two or three gutted rabbits or a few ducks at a time can be strung up in the shade, allowing you to continue hunting freely and retrieve later. Sure, the game can be stowed in a backpack as you walk, but if you still have a ways to hunt and return to camp, game piled on top of each other will take longer to lose its body heat and can go off. The bags also protect game from foreign matter such as grass, twigs and dust.
Cheesecloth material itself is relatively inexpensive and readily obtainable from most fabric stores such as Spotlight. Knocking up a few bags of various sizes on the sewing machine is not that time consuming and well worth the effort. They will get bloody, but left in soapy warm water for a couple of hours or overnight in a bucket, most of the blood stains will wash out, ready for the next trip.
Camp spit: I must admit I enjoy game meat, especially when cooked in camp over the coals. The simple improvisation of a lightweight motorised spit driven by 2D batteries, obtainable from most barbecue outlets or hardware stores, on two sturdy ground anchoring metal rods, will do the job. It’s more a matter of building it so the height of the skewed meat can be elevated or lowered as desired. If you’re a bit of a handyman it’s not that difficult to put together.
With shooting and hunting off the table at the moment, have a go at making these handy hunting aids – they really do work and I’m sure you’ll get a whole lot of satisfaction from your efforts.