Many people claim that bear meat is disappointing at best, and inedible at worst. This has NOT been our experience. (And here’s my Mountain Man’s explanation on why.)
So here it is folk’s, the first post written by the Mountain Man himself.
So 2016 Colorado bear season was awesome!! Jodi and I hiked 4.5 miles into one of my favorite bear spots, and spent all day sitting over a pond. It was early September and HOT, and we just knew the bears would need a drink eventually. So we sat there from first light into the afternoon, enjoying the beauty, and throwing acorns at each other in our sock feet. About the time I was getting tired and losing interest (sitting is very hard for us both), Jodi’s eyes popped open wide and she nodded towards the pond. I about came out of my skin!!! The bear was about 40 yards away, right where we expected to see her. I told Jodi it was a good one and she downed her! The bear dropped like a rock and Jodi whispered loudly “I shot a freaking bear!!!!!”
Then the work began. We cleaned it out, skinned it, and started packing what we could into our day packs so we would hopefully save an extra trip with the frame packs (late in the afternoon as it was, we would only have time for one trip that day.) Sorry we didn’t get any pictures of breaking the animal down, but as hot as it was we needed to concentrate on cooling it out and not on pictures. Our day packs had to have weighed 60+ pounds when we were done, and if any of you have packed 60+ pounds in a daypack, you know the suspension in these packs ARE NOT made for that kind of weight, at least the ones we use. We didn’t have belly straps, so all the weight was on our necks and shoulders. To top the 4.5 mile hike out, the hike in that morning had caused some serious blisters on Jodi’s feet because her new boots were not broke in. No worry though, the nut just took her boots off and hiked her 60 pound pack out in her SOCK FEET! (Crazy girl.)
Anyway, the next day we finished the pack out (Jodi didn’t have a second pair of boots, so she decided to make the second pack out in her flip flops because we were several hours from home, (WOW!) We were extremely careful caring for and cooling the meat out, and it is outstanding, nearly indistinguishable from beef. I hear people say all the time that bears make good dog food. I say BS, they make excellent people food if you take care of it and harvest it in the mountains on the berry patch instead of the local trash dump.
The least we can do for the animals we harvest is to put their meat to use!!
5 tips for caring for game meat, so it’s excellent people food, and not just dog food
- Cool the meat out quickly!! Immediately after pictures, get the skin off, and get the meat broken down, and off the bone. Hang the smaller pieces in the coolest place possible. Preferably the shade or a North facing slope. There are arguments to leave the meat on the bone, because less dirt can be introduced. I prefer to de-bone in order to prevent the bone souring issues. It’s up to you, just cool it out as fast as you can.
- Cleanliness is king. Put the meat in game bags after carefully de-boning. Take care in keeping all foreign matter off of it. Don’t overstuff the game bags, which will cause the meat to hold heat and spoil.
- Get it off the mountain and back to the homestead, or the meat processor, as quickly as possible. The less exposure to air and temperature fluctuations the meat is exposed to, the better.
- During processing, be very careful not to leave anything on the meat that you don’t want to put in your mouth. Remove ALL dirt, hair, striffin, glands and excess fat.
- During packaging, remove all air from the package that is practical. We like to stuff the meat in a fold top sandwich bag, press all the air out, then wrap it in a single wrap of white butcher paper. Freeze as soon as possible.
I know there is a lot of “as soon as possible,” “quickly” and “as fast as you can” wording in these tips, but it is mandatory to get your meat off the mountain and into your freezer as quickly as possible.
*Note (specific to bear meat) You want to remove as much of the excess fat as possible, bear fat can be rendered separately into lard, but the meat will taste much cleaner when it is not cooked in it’s own un-rendered fat.