Bison Float Hunt Meat Salvage Tips

Arctic_Beaver

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Jan 21, 2017
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Anchorage, AK
I am gearing up to head out with 2 other buddies next week for a float hunt for bison. One thing that I thought I'd ask to some of the more experienced float hunters here, is what do you bring along to help with in case you drop an animal in the water for retrieval? Such as length/thickness of rope, pulleys, come along, etc? I'm wondering if a come along is necessary, or if a bison would be so big that you just have to play it as it lies type of thing with field dressing it?

Any other tips to help with the meatcare portion as it relates to dressing and caring for a very large animal, and keeping the meat in good shape for at least 3-4 days after it's down? I'm thinking 30-50 lbs of salt for the cape and hide? He wants to do a shoulder mount for the bison, but also keep the remaining back portion of the hide to tan. There might be an opportunity to take additional animals on this hunt too, so that is a consideration.

I've watched a lot of Larry Bartlett's youtube videos and certainly have the basics for meatcare down. We will of course have the other essentials like 2 tarps for pitching over the meat, tyvek ground sheet to lay on, 2-3 sets of larger game bags, hatchet, saw, citric acid, meat thermometer, spray bottle, etc.

I think we have about everything else covered. I have some decent packraft experience with the PR-49 and rowing other boats/rafts, but haven't done any longer float hunts for anything bigger than caribou. I've never been moose hunting, and bison can certainly be a step-up from that. Just thought I'd get the thoughts of the guys with experience tackling a big animal once it's down, especially in case it lands in water or the river.

I will take plenty of pics and videos of the trip and do a recap here after hunting season. I'm foregoing sheep hunting this year to go on this hunt, as who knows when there will be another opportunity to hunt free roaming bison in my lifetime.
 

Voyageur

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Feb 12, 2020
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647
Since you have watched @Larry Bartlett videos you have a wealth of information on meat care.
I know there are at least a couple of threads here in the moose forum that discuss different pulley systems.
Hopefully people that have experience with them will chime in.
Good luck on your buffalo hunt!
 

Bighorner

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Nov 15, 2017
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241
Sounds like an awesome trip. I got a wyoming bison and I was absolutely floored by the size. It takes all of two guys to lift the head with the cape and the meat came in around 600 pounds. Let us know how it goes, sounds like an awesome trip. I would bring a full on come all if you are worried about the animal dieing in the water.
 

E Butler

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Feb 12, 2015
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171
Unless you are taking a regular come a long I would bet you are going to be cut hams and shoulders off just to be able to move it around. My buddy and I use the carabiner pulley system to try and get my moose out of the water and it took everything we could to move it more than a few feet. We had 200 feet of the high strength tape line that they used to pull through the pulleys on powerlines when they are running them. It broke once although it was frayed a little in that spot but I could not imagine Pullen anything heavier than that moose. I would definitely at least have a rope come along and a few pulleys to double or maybe triple it up.
 

John Havard

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Oct 10, 2016
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Hansville, WA
One other thing to bear in mind is water level and how much your raft(s) draw when loaded. You'll get a LOT of meat off of a cow and perhaps 800# off of a bull. Not sure what you're after but the point is to be aware of how far you have to drift down to your take out spot and how high the water level is between your bison and that point.

I put together a 4X1 light weight pulley system using carbon fiber ratcheting pulleys (developed for sail boats) from West Marine. With 40' of good rope it weighs just under 2# but can winch (at 4-to-1 ratio) about 400#. The downside is that you have to provide the "1" part of the 4-to-1 and you have to have a solid anchor end. My intended use was to simply move a portion of bull moose out of the edge of a pond I used to hunt near if in the unfortunate case it became necessary. A bison in the water would be much worse. Probably the best advice is to drop the bison away from the water.
 
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AKDoc

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May 16, 2015
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Alaska
Research "z-drags" (simple and complex/compound) and learn to tie Prusik knots...I've pulled a moose out of the lake with that set-up. We've talked about z-drags here, so there is good information available as well as online.
Honestly, that will be what you need to know. Best of luck on your hunt!

Edit: I had my second cup of morning coffee and read through the thread more carefully! Good advice from others, who are essentially referencing what is called a z-drag system when put together (and they are very useful!). Since your hunt is this week, you may not have time to learn about z-drag components, purchase them, and practice the process. Therefore, if weight is not a problem with your float, then you might just want to get a rope come-along (they're relatively heavy). I've pulled a good sized boat from a sandbar with a rope come-along. Make sure you have anchor webbing and carabiners with it.
 
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Arctic_Beaver

Arctic_Beaver

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Jan 21, 2017
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133
Location
Anchorage, AK
Thank you all for the suggestions and responses, I think we will bring a rope come-along as has been suggested here.

I forgot to mention I will be bringing my PR-49 and Alpacka. We can fit all 3 members gear in those two packrafts. Which will help free up room so the larger raft is just hauling the bison. The packrafts might also come in handy if we need to disperse the loads to drag through shallow areas of the river.

Weather is looking good to fly out on Saturday up here. I'm finishing up the final packing now and ready to get this trip started!
 

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