Last week I wrote about putting meat in the freezer the old fashion and very labour-intensive way.
Nowadays, in almost all instances, hunting folks use ATV’s to transport moose from where they shoot the burly beast to either their homes or a waiting pickup truck.
We shot a moose just yesterday that dressed out at 443 pounds. For you non-hunters out there, that’s the total weight of the meat quarters as they’re taken to the butcher.
That’s plenty of burger, sausage, roast, and steak for the cold and stormy winter I’m praying for.
We hauled our moose out of the woods,
10 kilometres in total, to my buddy’s garage. We were towing the non-skinned halves of the moose in carts behind our quads. By halves I mean the front half and the back half, intact and not split down the backbone or spine.
This job takes quite a bit of sawing and it’s much easier to do an acceptable and decent job home in the garage.
My butcher, Dave Garland from Carbonear, is a bit of a perfectionist in the wild meat world. He makes amazing moose sausages. He would tell us in no uncertain terms if our cuts were crooked, or if one front quarter weighed in much heavier than the other.
I try my best to impress him. So we carefully split the quarters with good lighting in my buddy’s garage.
I’m not meaning to blow my own horn or the horns of my hunting crew, but we’ve got this moose getting thing down to a well-oiled-machine-sort of operation. I suppose we should know what we’re doing, hunting for
40 years. Either that or we’re very slow learners.
We back the cart into the garage still attached to the quad and lift the half moose up with a pulley system into a convenient position for cutting its spine. Then we split the half into quarters with a reciprocating saw. You could do this in the field, but you’d need a battery powered saw and possibly a tripod of logs built over the animal to lift it with a pulley.
It depends on how many hardy hombres you have to help you. Pulleys and rope can replace many hands. And my Dad’s old handsaw, from last week’s column, stays hanging in my garage.
If you can’t back your ATV right up to the kill site you have to quarter the moose before you move it. Nobody I’ve ever met could lug half a moose. Two hunters would have great difficulty carrying a half moose any more than a few feet. It takes everything I have in me to lift a half moose into a cart with my buddy’s help.
The front half of a decent-sized moose with the hide on is pushing around 300 pounds, and even more for a bigger critter.
That’s serious strain on the lower back.
Years ago before the ATV era, you always had to quarter your moose in the woods. It was much more difficult to keep your moose clean. By leaving the hide on and not quartering until you get home, there should be little or no bog and twigs sticking to your winter’s meat. That’s the big advantage, and — along with using power tools and tidier cuts — is why we bring home the moose in halves with its coat intact.
Quartering and skinning to high standards in the woods took way more time and much more skill, but if the only option was carrying home the venison on your tender shoulders there was no other option.
That was the way it was done in the old days. Many of us would skin the quarters in the woods and then wrap them in cheese cloth to reduce weight and let the meat cool more quickly.
Because as Dave Garland always tells us, you have to get the moose’s temperature down fast and that won’t happen with that big hairy coat on.
Don’t ever leave moose overnight without skinning it. So if you had to carry moose out on foot, especially if the weather was a tad on the warm side, you’d be better off rigging a meat pole and skinning the quarters right at the kill sight. Then wrap the quarters in cheese cloth to keep away the flies and the woodsy dirt.
Nowadays we get the meat out fast with our ATV’s and skin at home in our sheds or garages.
But no matter how tired you are, or how bad you want a feed of Mary Brown’s and a few beer, skin the moose first. Moose hunting is hard work and it’s so easy to put things off until the belly is full and the head rested.
Some hunters have taken to quartering moose with a chain saw. An excellent quality smaller chain saw can be purchased for about 200 dollars. You must use vegetable oil for chain lubricant in place of the regular and nasty tasting regular petroleum based stuff. So the saw must be dedicated for moose hunting only.
I’ve never butchered with a chain saw, but they say it works like a charm, to split the chest bone, remove the pelvic bone, and divide the quarters. I’m thinking of trying the chainsaw method, but there’s not a significant advantage for our style of moving moose. If I were still carrying moose by hand I’d get myself a vegetable-oil saw in a flash.
Even with modern machines it’s a tough and tiring day’s work to harvest a moose.
I’m pretty tired today. Granted, I’m a lot older now than I was when I trudged home with my first moose on a hand barrow in 1979. Just the same, I’m in pretty good shape and so are my woods friends.
I think a day of moose hunting and moose hauling would take the wind out of the best of us.
We don’t shoot moose alongside groomed trails. The terrain is rough and getting over it on a quad is not for the faint of heart. There’s typically plenty of winching and pushing heavily laden machines. It’s no Sunday drive.
A few years back after I wrote about moose hunting I received a very nasty email from a guy who took great exception to hunting — although he wasn’t a vegetarian, wiping out his argument I think, at least from my point of view.
Anyway, he described us hunters as zooming around the woods on our ATV’s and blasting away at moose with our high powered rifles.
With his eloquent words he portrayed a very nonchalant, almost country club kind of atmosphere.
He saw no physical or tactical challenge in hunting, painting a rather turkey-shoot kind of picture.
He’s a good writer, I’ll give him that.
But I think words are cheap when there’s no experience behind them. If my critic were forced to put a moose in the freezer, instead of picking up a steak at Dominion, I think he’d sing a far different tune.
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and
wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.