Keep elk from spoiling?

Ithaca 37

New member
Mar 4, 2001
Home of the free, Land of the brave
I've been in on enough elk kills to believe you're in big trouble if you kill an elk in weather over 65 degrees. I'm not saying it's not possible to kill one in weather warmer than that and keep the meat from spoiling, but you really have to be prepared to take care of it and you don't have any time to waste. I've seen big bulls that were left laying on frozen ground overnite with the hide on when the temperature was in the twenties and the next morning when we skinned the hindquarters the meat in the middle of the thickest part of the quarter laying on the ground was still warm. That was probably 14 hours after the bull was killed. In that situation you have to at least get the elk up off the ground so air can circulate under it, even if you just roll it onto some branches or logs. I always carry a hoist, saw and game bags so I can at least get the elk skinned if I have to leave it overnite.

What do you guys think the warmest temperatures are that you can hang an elk and not be having the meat going bad? What do you do to make sure your elk meat won't start to spoil? What temperature do you think you have to cool meat down to in order for it not to be spoiling? If the temp is 75 during the day and forty at nite how much time do you have?


Grand poopa
Dec 9, 2000
Boise, Idaho
Ithy, there is no Real answer to that. there are Many Factors.. such as Moisture in the Air, What type of Undies you're wearing.. Etc.

Here are My Answers to your Questions though :

What do you guys think the warmest temperatures are that you can hang an elk and not be having the meat going bad?

Ans: If you can Get the Meat temp to 40 Deg, you have 6 days that you can Hang it before you need to Worry.

What do you do to make sure your elk meat won't start to spoil?

Ans: Get it as Cool as possible as quick as Possible.

What temperature do you think you have to cool meat down to in order for it not to be spoiling?

40 Deg is the highest temp you want the Meat. When it starts getting over that after a day the BActeria Grow Rapidly. It will slow the Proccess at 40 Deg and Under.

If the temp is 75 during the day and forty at nite how much time do you have?

Ans: You have 2-3 days. Work as fast as you can and make sure the Meat stays in the Shade. You can Have 50 Deg Temp but if the Meat is in the Sun it will be like a 85 Deg temp. It doesn't take Long with "DIRECT" sun to warm up cool meat even on a Cooler day. Likewise, on a Cool day once Meat is cooled, keeping it in the Shade will keep it longer...

Jsut my .02. *NEXT* !!!!

PS, We killed 2 elk once. One we Split open and the Other we didn't even Gut until the Next day. The one We didn't gut was Far bigger then the One we did yet the Smaller one had some Spoilage and the Larger one didn't. The temps dropped to freezing that night.

My AK moose was Shot one morning and Layed in the Sun ALL day. with Temps at 70 Deg. When I found it the Next day at 10 AM. It was Already TOO late.

I shot a Bull Elk once and Split it and Left it for 2 days in the Snow. Day 3 I came back and 3 of us Bebaned it and PAcked it out. Didn't loose 1 OZ. of the meat... HUmmm ..

Just a bit of More Tid bits..


New member
Jan 22, 2003
My younger brother shot a big cow elk in 6a 3 yrs. ago, it was early october[6th] and the temp was 79 deg. when he shot it at 2 in the afternoon, we gutted it right away, pulled it into the truck and had it "hanging" in camp 15 min. later, then we skinned it real fast[10 min] then we cut it into 8 pieces, and put game bags on each piece, there were alot of flys, we then put a tarp up in front of it so "all" of the cuts were in the shade, by 4:30pm the temp had dropped to 68 deg., that night it got down to 38deg.[about a 40 deg. temp. swing] this elk went from living to hanging in the shade in 8 pieces in less than an hour. never lost any meat, in my opinion time is the key factor in warm weather.


Well-known member
Dec 19, 2000
It's the intial cooling of the meat that is the key. If you don't get the meat cool right away (as in 5-6 hours), you are in trouble. If you have to leave a mortally hit animal overnight, even if it's freezing cold out, you might loose some meat. The neck and the quarters laying on the bottom will be the first to go.

On the other hand, even if it's 75-80 degrees out, and you get that meat off the bone fast, in pieces, put it in the shade, you got plenty of time to get it out before it spoils. I think if you get the meat off and hang it in a tree in a pillow case (keeps flies off and lets air circulate through it), you can take 10+ days, even in warm September weather.

If you put meat in a plastic bag, or even lay hunks of meat on a piece of plastic (say in a garage on the floor) you are asking for trouble will spoil in no time.

I guess the bottom line is if you get it cool quick, and take care of the meat, you have more than ample time to get an elk out of pretty much anywhere.


New member
Dec 20, 2000
Jackson, Wyoming
Most excellent topic Ithaca. You must get the meat cooled ASAP no matter what the weather is. Get that hide off and get it into pieces quickly and in the shade or cooler and you should have no problems. I consider myself very lucky that I have never had to leave one in the hills overnight. All of mine have been skinned and quartered and in the proccessors meat locker withing hours.


New member
Mar 18, 2002
When I hunted in SC in augustin would get up to 105 degrees and the guide would tell us if we killed early in the afternoon not to gut it or do anything. His reason being that if you open it up you let bacteria in side and that's where the spoiling starts.Now thats on a Deer and not Elk which would be alot harder to get out whole.

Not saying this is right, just what I was told.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ 10-28-2003 07:43: Message edited by: MEATHEAD ]</font>


Well-known member
Aug 22, 2002
quarter it and BONE IT OUT!! that way the hinds are filleted open in a way that they are thinner to remove heat faster. Hang them in trees in the shade and use game bags if the flies are bad. leave them hanging at night and pile them up in the day in the shade after cooled.
You need to get the meat below 60 within 6 hours kill if possible as a goal is what i was told.
I let my deer hang a day if possible even if cold because the natural rigamortis process makes the meat more tender.


New member
Oct 21, 2002
My uncle killed a small bull in 80 degree weather. ( probably down to the 40s that night). We gutted it and threw it over some sage brush to drain. I quartered it about 2 hrs later and hung it in a tree. We packed him out 2 days later and had no problem. I am by no means an expert, but the one thing that I always do whether we quarter one or not. I always, and I mean always take out the windpipe and slice the neck open real good. I have lost some neck meat and an elk from that stupid thing. Seems also that the flies like the windpipe alot too! I also make sure to get them off of the ground no matter what. I hate to leave and elk laying on the ground, or even hanging with an leg touching. Have lost meat that way also.
IF flies are a real nuisance, use a couple of cans of black pepper. When you hang them in the game bags, pepper the hell out of them. Its cheap and seems to work fairly well.

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