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Safety First, Even with Wild Game

Wild game hunting seasons are upon us! I want to stress a few facts that will make your meat more pleasing to the palate and more safe to consume. By following these suggestions you will hear less and less the phrase, “I just can’t eat wild game, it is so strong and has a gamey flavor,” whether it is directed towards deer, antelope or elk.

Bleeding the Animal

Bleed, dress and cool the carcass promptly. Proper bleeding improves keeping qualities and appearance of the meat.

Field Dressing

There are three major rules to follow as soon as the animal is dead.

  1. Keep the carcass clean by getting it off the ground as quickly as possible and by using clean utensils during dressing.
  2. Remove the intestines, lungs, liver and heart as soon after the kill as possible. If you like variety meats, save the heart and liver in a plastic bag and put on ice.
  3. Cool the carcass quickly and keep it cool during processing and transport.

Hanging to Drain and Clean

Remove all foreign particles and loose hair. Wipe out excess blood with paper towels or clean cloths and clean water. Use as little water as possible because damp meat spoils faster than dry meat. Dry with paper towels or clean rags. Prop the cavity open and hang the carcass in the shade until the cavity surface is thoroughly dry. Be sure there is good air circulation.


Improper temperature is meat’s worst enemy!

  • Cool the animal quickly. Filling the cavity with bags of ice will enhance cooling.
  • To aid cooling in warm weather, the animal may be skinned if you have provisions to keep the carcass clean (skinning soon after the kill also prevents some of the gamey flavor). Use ground pepper and cheesecloth or light cotton bags to protect the skinned carcass from contamination by flies. Do not use airtight game bags or tarps that hold in heat and will cause meat to spoil rapidly.
  • Refrigerate the carcass as soon as possible for best quality. If the weather is over 40 °F, it is strongly recommended that the carcass be taken to a cooler and refrigerated within three to four hours after killing.
  • In cool weather (28 to 35 °F), wrap the carcass or quarters in a sheet and hang to chill in a ventilated shed.
  • Do not allow the carcass to freeze. Freezing may toughen the meat.


Keep the carcass cool during transport.

Aging Meat

Aged meat is often more tender and flavorful. Do not age any game carcass if it was shot during warm weather and not chilled rapidly, if the animal was severely stressed prior to the kill, if gunshot areas are extensive, or if the animal was under 1 year of age. Aging is not recommended for carcasses with little or no fat covering. If the meat will be ground, aging is unnecessary.

  • Do not trim fat from game meat before it is aged because the fat protects the meat. However, fat should be trimmed after aging to avoid undesirable flavors associated with the fat.
  • Limit aging to a maximum of two weeks at 34 to 37 °F. At this point, tenderization slows down, and bacterial slime develops.

Care in the Kitchen

Wild game provides wholesome, nourishing food, but should be preserved carefully to retain quality. Freezing meat is the most accepted way to maintain top quality.

  • Wash your knife, hands and cutting board often with warm, soapy water.
  • Trim fat and inedible parts from the carcass when it is cut.
  • Mix 15% pork or beef fat with ground game and 35% pork fat with fresh game sausage.
  • Keep raw meat and cooked meat separate to prevent cross-contamination.

To Store in Refrigerator for Immediate Use

Wrap the meat in moisture-proof plastic wrap or place in a clean plastic storage bag. Store the meat in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

To Freeze Game Properly

Freeze meat while it is fresh and in top condition. Divide meat into meal-size quantities. Prevent “freezer burn” by using good-quality freezer paper. Use moisture/vapor-proof wrap such as heavily waxed freezer wrap, laminated freezer wrap, heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer-weight polyethylene bags. Press air out of the packages prior to sealing. Label packages with contents and date. Freeze and store at 0 °F or lower. Avoid overloading the freezer. Freeze only the amount that will become solidly frozen within 24 hours. Limit fresh game to eight months frozen storage and seasoned or cured game to four months frozen storage.

Extension Resources

Are you new to hunting, want to check on some hunting-related issue, or making jerky from wild game?  Check with the University of Wyoming Extension office in your county. We have also listed several publications below to help you.


If you’d like the information on wild game but do not have Internet access, please call or stop by your county Extension office.

Enjoy your hunting seasons, always remembering, safety comes first whether it is with your firearm or with the game you plan on consuming!


Contact Our Expert!


Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Contact Our Expert!


Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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