Proper Meat Care for Antelope

WyoDoug

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I seen Randy stress this in his videos yet I see hunters carrying a freshly harvested antelope around in the backs of their pickups. Antelope that has been resting has a high internal body temperature of 101.84 degrees Farenheight. That temperature rises when they are running. Antelope have the ability to raise and lower temperature by raising and lowering the hairs on their bodies. So those temperatures are very damaging to the meat on a carcass being carried in a pickup bed.

Antelope really should be quartered and/or deboned and the meat put in coolers full of ice. You really want to cool antelope immediately. Get the hide off as fast as possible, quarter it out and get it cooled. I use large cookers full of soda bottles that I filled full of water and froze. Place the ice on top of the meat with the drain plug open. Those of you who wondered why your antelope tastes so strong, this is usually why.

The other reason antelope tastes strong is when they are running, a hormone called epinephrine, commonly known as Adrenalin is secreted into antelope blood and helps to increase blood flow and oxygen retention. This is why antelope can run for such long distances. I prefer to shoot a rested antelope. I will never shoot an antelope that has been run hard. Just my preference. I like to ambush antelope in their bed. Some call that not sporty. I call that smart hunting because the meat is relatively cooler and not so much Adrenalin is secreted into the blood.

But most critical thing beginning and novice antelope hunters overlook is cooling the meat as quickly as possible by removing the skin and getting the meat into coolers with ice as quickly as possible. Do that and you have little to no gamey taste as long as you also remove the glands and fat when you do the butchering.
 

Zach

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Three of us hunted last year together. 1st antelope killed was around 9am, last was close to noon. All 3 gutted and put in the back of the truck. Butchered in the afternoon. Tasted fine.
Ambient temps play a role in meat care. Had it been a scorcher, we might have gone a different route.
 

WyoDoug

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Three of us hunted last year together. 1st antelope killed was around 9am, last was close to noon. All 3 gutted and put in the back of the truck. Butchered in the afternoon. Tasted fine.
Ambient temps play a role in meat care. Had it been a scorcher, we might have gone a different route.
Yeah you can get away with that if the days are cool enough. Where I am at, it's always on the summer side of temps when I go hunting for antelope in August. I always have two coolers full of ice for that purpose. Me myself, I skin and quarter it out at the kill site and leave the skin, gut pile and a lot of the bones. BTW don't forget to pull those antelope ribs. Talkin about good eats on the BBQ. Most people throw them away.
 

Firedude

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That's good advice. For the most part deboning is a great method and most appropriate in most situations.

I do things a little different. Don't think of me as arguing please but just offering a different idea. I was with a butchers daughter for years. We saw every method of meat care from chasing a hit buck with a knife and getting it cut up minutes after it died to laying in a pickup for days untouched (yuk). I prefer if possible chilling in one piece gutted and letting it age a little to let amino acids break down. I leave the hide on to keep the meat from drying out. Does that mean more babysitting meat than deboning, absolutely. It means cooling with water, washing the hide carefully, placing iced bottles near bone to chill it, switching out bottled as they thaw, finding shade, protecting from bugs, checking on it regularly, and getting it home and in the butchers cooler fast. One thing that he always stressed was to do the most appropriate thing for the situation. If you can chill a whole carcass with hide on he said that was best. After tasting and eating many animals with most methods I agree. Most of my hunting buddies stick their nose up at my method because it differs from the norm. I can see why. Most gutted and hung animals are precisely that, just gutted and hung. No further care. But when I talk them into trying a steak the answer is usually, (WOW! Now how did you handle this one again?)

If that's not possible don't waste your time trying. Get it cut up, hauled out, and cooled as previously mentioned. I've boned out deer to get them out and I've retrived whole elk that had iced bottles in them with a portable winch. Just do the best you can for whatever situation pops up.
 

btweedy

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That's good advice. For the most part deboning is a great method and most appropriate in most situations.

I do things a little different. Don't think of me as arguing please but just offering a different idea. I was with a butchers daughter for years. We saw every method of meat care from chasing a hit buck with a knife and getting it cut up minutes after it died to laying in a pickup for days untouched (yuk). I prefer if possible chilling in one piece gutted and letting it age a little to let amino acids break down. I leave the hide on to keep the meat from drying out. Does that mean more babysitting meat than deboning, absolutely. It means cooling with water, washing the hide carefully, placing iced bottles near bone to chill it, switching out bottled as they thaw, finding shade, protecting from bugs, checking on it regularly, and getting it home and in the butchers cooler fast. One thing that he always stressed was to do the most appropriate thing for the situation. If you can chill a whole carcass with hide on he said that was best. After tasting and eating many animals with most methods I agree. Most of my hunting buddies stick their nose up at my method because it differs from the norm. I can see why. Most gutted and hung animals are precisely that, just gutted and hung. No further care. But when I talk them into trying a steak the answer is usually, (WOW! Now how did you handle this one again?)

If that's not possible don't waste your time trying. Get it cut up, hauled out, and cooled as previously mentioned. I've boned out deer to get them out and I've retrived whole elk that had iced bottles in them with a portable winch. Just do the best you can for whatever situation pops up.
This is almost exactly what I do. I stuff the cavity with bags of ice as quickly as possible. Bring the rear legs up and the front legs down and use a strap to hold them that way until I get home. with the hide on, it is like an on the spot cooler. It cools them off quickly without drying out until I can finish off the process. It has always worked for me and my family loves antelope.
 

WyoDoug

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As noted above, everyone has different methods of doing things. You know as long as they work and the meat is cooled down fast, that is all that matters and those ways are perfectly fine. I have hunted antelope in 80-90 degree temperatures. I prefer my method for two reasons: (1) meat is cooled very quickly and preserves the flavor and (2) I hate, hate hauling out crap I am going to throw away anyways. I prefer to feed that stuff to the coyotes and other predators. Now that I drew 3 different antelope tags, I am going to want to load as little waste and bones as I can get away with. My plan is to do the same with the 2 elk tags and 3 (plus maybe 1 leftover) deer tags. I am confident on tagging out on all the antelope and deer tags. The elk will be a bit more work.
 

AggieCowboy

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Help me out here... Does deboning make a difference? I've only ever shot one antelope and I had left the bones in the quarters, but got them placed in cool coolers with plenty of ice as fast as I could. The meat taste great, but for this year should I debone the meat before placing into the cooler? I have enough cooler space for bone in meat with ice/frozen jugs.
 

WyoDoug

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Deboning makes a huge difference in the space and heat dissipation. However, I keep the bones in the shanks and ribs because shanks are really good slow cooked like a roast bone in. I also keep the ribs which minus the brisket bone is the same as St Louis ribs in pork. Brisket bone in elk, deer, and antelope has a lot of cartridge so I discard that in the field. Deboning cuts about 1/4th to 1/3rd on weight and space. It does help cool the meat faster because of the density that is removed.

It's a matter of preference. If you are going to debone before cooling, you have to work fairly quickly in warmer temps. If you can debone fairly fast, I recommend it. If you got plenty of space to put the bone in and quartered out animal in the cooler, I would go that route and worry about rest at home. Best tasting antelope for me has always been what I got on the ice within an hour after the kill. But I debone automatically because that is the way I have always known to do since I was in my 20s which was over 40 years ago now. Where I can quarter and debone fairly fast, not everyone can do that. You are also more vulnerable to meat contamination, so be sure to protect from that. I always have a new, unused tarp in my pack that I do that on.
 

mtmuley

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Way too much misinformation out there on antelope. Contrary to popular belief, they don't need deboned and iced immediately. Or quartred and iced immediately depending on conditions. mtmuley
 

WyoDoug

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Yer right, lotta misinformation and I just saw an example of it. To verify what Randy suggests and what I suggest contact you nearest game biologist. Cooling meat after a kill is absolutely necessary. How soon that has to be done depends on ambient temperature and humidity. Sooner a carcass is cooled the better the quality meat you get.
 

WyoDoug

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Keep in mind that an antelope's internal body temperature at resting is around 100-110. It goes up around 30 degrees when the adrenal glands starts pumping adrenalin into the blood. A running antelope if you shoot one is even more critical to get cooled asap. Any game biologist will verify that for you.
 

mtmuley

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Doug, I've killed a bunch of antelope in 40 years. Was your example of misinformation directed at me? You simply need to use common sense. It's not a race to get one in a cooler. mtmuley
 
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WyoDoug

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For reference to being accused of misinformation, I have hunted antelope since 70s. I have butchered prolly well over 100 antelope and the same for deer since late 1990s and help others do their own to save money. This post comes from a video I saw where a Texas hunter carried an antelope in the back of his pickup for a good two hours. They were sweating and commented about how hot it was. You can see the meat when they skinned it which turned to an ugly brown which indicated spoiled meat. Keep in mind the temperature in that neck of the woods. I also had to advice someone to dispose of their antelope when they asked me to help them to butcher it because the meat was rancid. They had just shot it that morning and never skinned it. It was also in the mid-80s at the time I was presented the carcass to help butcher. I have also stopped and congratulated some on their fine trophies and the carcass was so bad you gagged. Again, before anyone calls this misinformation, please do your research on it or better yet, visit the regional game and fish office and ask to talk to a game biologist. Funky meat might just taste bad … or it could land you in the hospital, or kill you. Do you want to risk that this information just might be right on, or disregard it and take a chance with bacterial contamination which can kill you?
 

renello

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I have not had near the experience most of you have had harvesting and butchering antelope but my experience points to cooling after harvest as being very key to quality and taste of meat.
 

WyoDoug

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As different people posted, there are different ways to cool an antelope down. Stuffing the cavity with frozen milk jugs is a good one. Or as I saw in a video, you can stuff bags of ice into the cavity. For that method, I would leave the hide on, mainly to protect the meat from flies in addition to keeping the meat from drying out during transport. However, quartering meat and putting it in a cooler full of ice does the same thing. I use frozen 1 liter soda bottles of water myself. Key is cooling the meat as quick as you can. Nothing says you have to but you take the risks when you don't. Cooling the meat quickly and getting it butchered quickly is key to the quality and taste of the meat. I have an advantage myself. Right now I hunt on the base outside of Cheyenne where I live. I pretty much debone it there and leave most of the bones with the viscera and go home with meat in the cooler. The next morning I have it butchered in just over an hour except for the sausage and jerky that I make later.

Me, myself, I feel it is all hunters responsibility to not let meat go to spoil and get it taken care of properly and without spoilage. Anything you can do to prevent spoilage is a good thing.
 

Bluffgruff

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I leave my antelope on bone on ice for a few days, but hide comes off, and the meat goes on ice the first opportunity. I skin them ASAP even when in sight of the truck.
 

bullbugle307

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I agree with doug and many others on this one. Skin and quarter immediately. Be sure to avoid glands. Make sure to change knives/blades so your not cutting into meat with the blade you skinned with when you get done skinning. Get the meat in a cooler ASAP, but don't freeze it right away. That's a sure fire recipe for some of the best game meat in the west.
 
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