By Steve Mayer
Sportsman’s News Pro Staff
You have hunted or fished hard on a trip and were successful at obtaining some quality, hormone free, natural animal protein for your family. Now it is time to make sure that precious commodity is processed in the best manner available to ensure fine dining down the road.
Most fishing and hunting trips are not located in the back yard, so the transportation of the meat to your home should be a very serious concern. No one will take care of it as well as you can. Here is my way for converting my success in the field to prime dining on the dinner table.
I always take my go-to cooler with me when I travel. I affectionately call it “the tomb of doom”. My better half, Eileen, calls it hillbilly luggage. We never leave home without it. I use a 50-quart lightweight model that I have upgraded with stainless steel hinges and latch. I take a black sharpie and print my name, address and cell phone number in large lettering right on top. I pack a roll of heavy duty food grade plastic wrap, along with quart and gallon size freezer Ziploc bags. A folding fillet knife, Leatherman, a plastic trash bag and a roll of duct tape round off my setup.
Be it some form of venison or fish, I like to portion it into packs that feed our household. Give the meat a nice tight wrap in the plastic wrap. Do not skimp here. Try to seal the meat so it is really covered well. You do not want any air in the packaging. Then I usually put this into a quart Ziploc and freeze. Most hotels will allow you to use their main freezer, just ask the front desk. A lot of outfitters will vacuum seal and freeze your fish for you and this is great too. To transport fish or game meat it has to be frozen. The airlines do not allow ice or dry ice. Their primary concern is that your cooler does not leak any liquid. Careful packing will satisfy anyone inspecting your cooler and they will; oh yes every time, they will.
When I pack the meat to go home, I line the cooler with a plastic trash bag. I then stack the frozen packs into the bag and weigh to 49 pounds. Take a cell phone picture of the full cooler in case there is a dispute later. I then cinch up the bag and usually have room to add a jacket or other bulky piece of clothing on top for extra insulation. I duct tape it well, including covering the hinges and latches. They usually will open it when you check in and then tape it back up. I figure if they see my over-taping they will put on some extra themselves. Check that baby as baggage and you should be good to go!
Back at home I finish what I call the triple wrap. I remove the Ziploc and cover the plastic wrap in a layer of heavy-duty foil. Then I wrap the foil with a waxed butcher paper and label for the big freezer. This triple wrap really works well and extends the freezer time of food dramatically. I heartily recommend it.
Eileen and I put this to good use on a recent trip to Loreto in Baja Mexico. I have fished Loreto for 30 years or so, but had not been down there in a while. We wanted to get in on the yellowtail fishing that is always so good there in spring time. I researched the local guides and decided to use Juan from Mijito Sport Fishing. After seeing a photo of a down rigger on his panga, I thought he was going to work out well.
And it did work out really well. We could target the schools of yellowtail that were picked up on the fish finder down around 125 feet. We boated nine nice yellowtail between 20 and 35 pounds, before we ran out of bait. We ended up having to buy another cooler down there to transport the rest of the fillets.