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Idaho Fish and Game

Backcountry Game Meat Care Guide


Taking proper care of game meat is a hunter's responsibility!

Idaho law provides for civil penalties from $400 to $10,000, in addition to fines, jail time and loss of hunting privileges for persons convicted of wasteful destruction of game meat.

 Idaho Legal Requirements 
  • Idaho Waste of Game Law: "Hunters are required to remove and care for the edible meat of big game animals, except black bears, mountain lions and gray wolves. This includes the meat from hind quarters as far down as the hock, meat of the front quarters as far down as the knee and meat along the backbone which is the loin and tenderloin. It does not include meat of the head or neck, meat covering or between the ribs, internal organs, or meat on the bones after close trimming."
  • The hunter must tag any big game animal immediately after it is killed
  • Tags should remain attached to the largest portion of the carcass until meat is fully processed (Preferred to attach tag to portion of meat with the evidence of sex).
  • Evidence of sex must remain naturally attached to the carcass/meat.
  • Antlers must accompany meat while in transit.
  • If someone is transporting game taken by another, they must have a completed proxy statement signed by the taker showing number and kind of animals, date killed, taker's name and address, taker's hunting license and tag numbers.



  • Carry all equipment with you while you hunt. Leave heavier canvas bags in camp or with the horses. Lightweight game bags tear easily and can allow flies and other insects to ruin the meat. Repair tears in game bags and close all openings to prevent flies from getting in. Place cheesecloth bags inside canvas bags for transportation on stock or in vehicles.
  • Fully boned meat cools slowly if packed together and can spoil if not spread out to cool completely. Carrying more game bags allow you to separate meat to cool better.
  • Only use plastic bags for very short durations and not for storage. Meat spoils quickly in plastic.
  • Keep meat in large pieces, so it has less surface area to get dirty or dried out.
  • Try to cut as little hair as possible and remove loose hair from meat.
  • A sharp knife is much easier to use and is less likely to cut you because you will not be straining to make your cuts.
  • Once meat is cold, cover it with a sleeping bag in the shade during the day and it will stay cold even on fairly warm days. Uncover during cold nights. Get meat out to cold storage as soon as possible during warm weather.
Proper meat processing gear is essential
Equipment Recommendations:
  1. At least 2 sharp knives (drop point preferred)
  2. Knife sharpener
  3. Small saw
  4. Emergency space blanket (reusable, not tin foil type)
  5. 4 heavy canvas washable game bags (best for keeping insects and dirt off meat)
  6. 4 to 6 light cheese cloth game bags
  7. Rope or parachute cord
  8. Headlamp and batteries


Boning Out Your Big Game Animal


Steps 1,2,3, and 4

This is one method that can be used to bone out a big game animal without gutting it. It is very important to get the meat cooled down as quickly as possible after the kill. If conditions do not permit boning the animal out immediately; after tagging it, gut the animal in the traditional method, skin the hide back from areas that retain heat, prop open the carcass, and elevate it off the ground so that cool air can circulate around the carcass and cool the meat. Return as soon as possible to complete boning the carcass out.

  1. Validate your big game tag by notching out the month and day of kill.
  2. If possible move the animal to a fairly level location and position it on its side. Lay equipment on the opened space blanket.
  3. Do not cut into the intestinal cavity. Make a cut just under the skin, from between the hind legs, up the belly, sternum, between the front legs and up the neck all the way to the base of the head. Once through the hide, cut with the knife blade pointing out to minimize the amount of hair that is cut. Note: If caping the animal for mounting follow your taxidermists directions.
  4. Cut just through the hide up the inside of each leg. Do not cut the tendon between the ham and the rear knee. It can make a good handle or hanging hook.

  1. Skin the topside of the animal by pulling the hide from the belly towards its back, around the neck, and from around each of the legs. Be careful not to cut off the testicles or udder! Leave these naturally attached to one of the hind legs. Continue skinning the carcass until just past the backbone. Laying the hide back with the hair on the ground can give you another clean surface to place boned meat.
  2. Use your bone saw to cut below the knee on the hind leg and at the knee joint of the front shoulder. (Can also be done with knife if you know where). Discard lower legs.
Steps 5 and 6
Step 7

  1. Remove hind leg: Pull top hind leg up to 90 degrees or greater to expose pelvis area. Cut straight down between legs to pelvis bone. Do not puncture intestinal cavity! Leave testicle, penis, or udder naturally attached to leg. Follow pelvis bone with your knife cutting meat from the pelvis to expose the large hip ball joint. Work knife around pelvis and through ball joint. Spread hindquarter further apart as you cut. Continue cutting through to backbone until hind leg is totally free. Remove and lay skinned hind leg on clean space blanket.

  1. Remove Shoulder: Cut behind shoulder blade all the way to rib cage, taking as much meat as possible, then work forward and up to free shoulder from carcass. Place on clean space blanket or hang it off the ground.
Steps 9, 10 and 11
  1. Remove Backstrap: Insert knife along backbone near pelvis, cutting against upper side of spine, work forward cutting backstrap from the backbone. Cut until backstrap ends, near the base of the neck. Locate where ribs curve in towards backbone, then cut down towards spine. Work knife against the top of the ribs until backstrap comes free in one long piece. Place into cheesecloth game bag on space blanket.
  2. Remove Neck Meat: Cut meat off of topside of neck, filleting off of the neck bone and windpipe. More meat will come from the neck than the shoulder. Try to keep meat in large pieces, so it has less surface area to get dirty or dried out. Place into game bags.
  3. Remove Rib Meat: From the point where the backstrap was removed, lift the slab of meat covering the ribs and cut along the top of the ribs toward the sternum like you'd filet a fish. Place meat covering ribs and brisket into a game bag.

  1. Flip carcass over: Repeat steps 5 through 11 on the opposite side.
  2. Remove Tenderloins: After all meat has been removed from outside of carcass, cut into abdominal cavity behind the last rib. Saw can be used to cut base of ribs to give more access. Push rumen and intestines away from spine with non-knife hand. Remove tenderloins from either side of the backbone. Place into game bags with back straps.
Steps 12 and 13
Step 14

  1. Bone out hind legs and shoulders: (Only if further weight reduction is needed) Starting at the hip ball on the hind leg and at the lowest part of the leg bone on the front shoulder, carve meat away from the bone keeping the muscle groups as large as possible. Hind leg can be done in one piece. Place into game bags on space blanket.

  1. Remove antlers and skull base with "V" cut through eye socket.
Step 15
Last Updated: March 29, 2012 
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