Until a few years ago I had never butchered or disassembled a moose-sized animal and I think most Maine hunters find themselves in this category. We’ve all field-dressed our share of whitetails over the years. And some of us skin out and cut up our own deer carcass rather than take it to a processor. But a moose is a different story.
The stunning reality of the task ahead sinks in quickly — within only a few moments of having a moose on the ground. The hunting is over and now the harvesting needs to begin . . . and quickly before the meat spoils.
It is the dread (or anticipation) of this moment that keeps most hunters close to a logging road during their hunt. Logging roads mean companionship, assistance from motorized apparatus — and the opportunity to simply eviscerate the huge beast — field dress it like a whitetail buck — and then haul the entire carcass away to the registration station.
The key to hunters being able to confidently roam far away from the roads is to find a solution to the “Oh my God, What now?” -factor.
The best information comes from western hunters — particularly elk hunters — who deal with large animals killed in remote locations on a regular basis. The first important tip is: don’t gut the animal.
This will seem completely wrong in so many ways to experienced deer hunters. But removing the quarters and all other edible meat from a moose is ten times cleaner and easier if the hunter never open the stomach or chest cavity.
The “gutless method” involves skinning the hide of the moose back from the legs and working toward the backbone. The front and rear quarters are removed, the back strap, brisket and neck meat are filleted from the bone. The moose is flipped over on to its other side and the process is repeated. Even the tenderloins can be retrieved.
The internet is loaded with instructional step -by-step videos that demonstrate this simple process. One of the best of these can be found at http://elk101.com/videos/gutless-video/ .
By removing the hide the carcass cools quickly — preserving the meat without using ice. The guts, lower legs, rib cage, head, and moose-hide stay in the woods. There is very little blood with this process and no entrails to worry about contaminating the meat. The hunter is left with four skinned quarters, one or two bags of loose meat and the antlers after they are sawed from the skull.
It is an elegant solution. One that hearkens back to moose hunting in Maine before the vast system of logging roads was in place.
But most importantly, it means freedom from the roads is attainable.