Bad Elk

Swede

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Mar 24, 2012
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Warren Oregon
Over the years I have eaten a lot of elk meat. Bulls, old bulls, cows, both young and old. I have never had one that was particularlly tough or tasted bad. I have read and heard of different people with different experiences. Some say they do not like elk as it is "gamey" or "strong" flavored. If I ask a person. if they are a hunter, some say they used to, or their father did, but they don't because they just don't like the flavor of game. On the other hand our guests often think they just ate beef unless they are told otherwise. We use a little marinate or seasoning, but never cover the natural flavor.
Since other people have had different experiences, I find myself wondering if you have had bad elk; what do you believe was the reason it was bad, and can you identify what was the bad taste you experienced?
 
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Chesapeake

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Apr 15, 2012
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Meat care is important for flavor. I've had 2 bad elk. One we wounded, broke the front leg. Had to more or less run it down. 3 hour chase to bring her down. The meat was a pale pink color. I believe the off taste was from lactic acid buildup in the muscles. The other was a bull I got in November. It had a broken jaw from a gunshot wound. Probably the year before. The bone never Mandes and had a big buildup of calcium and some broken teeth. He was skinny. But otherwise looked normal. The meat was very tough and had a gamey flavor. Couldn't place the taste, just musky kind of blood sour flavor.
I've had everything from rutty antelope bucks to bull elk. All taste fine if cooled fast and kept clean and dry. But I have a walk in cooler and do all my own butchering.
I've heard rutting caribou are no good but never had one to say.
 

bigmoose

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Yerington Nv.
I killed a bull in Montana that I thought was quite old. He was very tough and chewy no matter how the meat was prepared, not gamey or strong at all. He had a 30 caliber bullet at the base of his head, completely healed from a previous encounter with a hunter. I don't know if that had anything to do with it or just that he was old and had very little fat on him. I like elk meat and have eaten my share, this was the worst one any of my family can remember.
 

Umpqua Hunter

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95% of the issue is care of the meat.

Kill the animal cleanly, field dress keeping the meat clean and get the animal to cold storage ASAP. My dad's rule growing up was we were done hunting when we had an animal on the ground until it was in the cooler at the house.

When I am in the desert hunting antelope, I carry big ice chest full of ice cubes in the truck. When we get an antelope we "gutless" field dress the animal, put the quarters in plastic bags and submerge it in ice until I can get it to a locker. The meat is usually getting a chill on it an hour after the animal was harvested.

I always tell people if they have had a bad experience with game, that it likely in how the meat was cared for. If someone chased a moo cow around in the field for hours after wounding it, then dressed it and drove around in the back of the truck for hours, no one would want to eat it either. We raised beef and the guy who butchered them, dispatched them quickly with a well placed .22, dressed it immediately, the carcass washed down with lots of water, and the carcass was hung to dry while it was taken to cold storage. The same is true for game.

I heard from a friend of mine who works for fish and game about some guys who are pulled over in Oregon. In the back of the truck were several antelope, field dressed. They had shot them in South Dakota! Would you eat that meat?

I remember on one occasion hunting antelope in Wyoming, we stopped to talk to a guy. He opened up the tailgate of his truck and there were several antelope does, that had not even been dressed yet, and their stomachs were bloated. I don't understand hunting for does, then treating the meat that way.

As far as caribou, my family has taken several of them and we thought they were quite tasty :)
 

Matt Cashell

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Proper aging can make even the oldest bulls tasty.

I killed an older (8.5-9.5) bull once that was the best elk meat I have had.

I have eaten meat from a bunch of different elk (50, 100? I don't know), and can only remember a few less than choice dishes. I think those had more to do with meat care and cooking than the elk itself though.
 

Chesapeake

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For antelope we had a freezer and generator in the back of the truck. Antelope were cleaned, quartered and in the freezer within an hour of being shot. Then back at camp in the evening we would bone them out, put them in gallon bags, and then back into the freezer.
Elk we get them gutted and skinned within an hour, or gutless boned out and in game bags/packs within 2 hours of hitting the ground. Then it's to the truck and into the walk in that night unless it's freezing at night. Then we may hang at camp overnight and haul out to the cooler the next day.
When an elk is dropped we all stop hunting and take care of the elk. In my life I've only had the two bad ones mentioned above. All other game has been great.
 
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Swede

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It was mid season about ten years ago when a cow with a broken leg came limping down the hill and stood in front of me. She hung around and gave me many good shot opportunities. But she was skinny; very skinny, and I knew she was coyote bait, just holding out for bad weather to set in before she died. I felt sorry for her, and would have shot her, except I would have had to report her and maybe use my tag. I did not want to go through the hassle and possibly have to claim her. I let her hobble off. My decision finally came down to a belief that she would not be fit to eat. Some herd bulls at the end of the rut have lost a lot of weight, but I have never had one that tasted gamey. For the most part I can not tell the difference between a cow, spike or big bull when they are properly cared for, and are reduced to a steak on my plate. Some of the posts above, pretty well explain what it takes to have tasty meat, and why some is not fit to eat.
I was given some bad bear meat once when a friend said his family did not like game. I soon discovered why. The very thought of it brings back bad memories.
 

Ross

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Over my years I dont recall a bad elk, whether it was a cow, old bull or rut stinkin bull. One thing I learned early on is to take care of the animal quickly and cleanly and you should have fine table fair once it is consumed. I have heard of horrible stories about game processing &or unpreparedness while afield and it is no wonder some individuals end up with meat that is gamey or down right nasty!
 

belly-deep

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I shot a cow that was pretty gamey. On the other hand, 2.5 year old bulls are as good as any beef!
 
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Swede

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Warren Oregon
Belly-deep: Why do you believe your cow was "pretty gamey"? Can you identify any cause?
 

belly-deep

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I don't know. She was pretty old, but I'm not sure that is necessarily the cause. One of the oldest mule deer bucks I've killed tasted pretty good. She had been run (not by me) for a couple miles before I shot her. That may have been it.
 
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