Cooler Size for Elk

Sewall

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Jun 21, 2016
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Newbie just wondering what is the best cooler size for a quartered elk. Looking to invest in one large cooler or maybe two smaller coolers that will hold an elk. Thanks!


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archer wapiti

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Are you driving cross-country with it or just within 5 - 6 hours? I don't even fit all my meat in the cooler, but I'm driving 5 - 6 hours. It hangs in the woods and cools overnight and doesn't heat up if it's in the shade. Getting that last load from the trail into the vehicle and maybe covering it with a sleeping bag is sufficient.
I'm sure some of the cross-country drivers will be able to help you more on how much capacity you'll need if you need to fit it all in with ice.
 
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Sewall

Sewall

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Jun 21, 2016
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Are you driving cross-country with it or just within 5 - 6 hours? I don't even fit all my meat in the cooler, but I'm driving 5 - 6 hours. It hangs in the woods and cools overnight and doesn't heat up if it's in the shade. Getting that last load from the trail into the vehicle and maybe covering it with a sleeping bag is sufficient.
I'm sure some of the cross-country drivers will be able to help you more on how much capacity you'll need if you need to fit it all in with ice.

I'll be traveling about 7 hours but I will be with others so it would possibly sit in the cooler at the truck if I kill one early.


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full choke

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Last year, a guy in our elk camp shot a spike bull 10 minutes into opening morning. He quartered it (bone in) and packed it back to camp. We stored the four quarters and the extra meat bag in one of these cooler/totes for five more days before he headed home. Everything fit with the lid closed. He rotated the quarters daily and repacked the ice. This was the PB11 model (half a full size tote size). I don't know if that is the info you were looking for? Also- with the lid on, one of these fit inside my Toyota Tacoma with a cab height canopy

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dah605

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I used a 110qt and a 65qt cooler to haul back processed elk meat from Montana to Pennsylvania. It left enough room for dry ice on the top. I went the dry ice route since the meat was frozen--the top half was by the time I got home.

-David
 

Brendan

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I've used a Yeti Tundra 160. It will keep ice for two weeks no problem driving from the east coast. But - bone out a bull, and then there's not quite enough room in the cooler for the meat and enough ice to get it cooled down quickly. It would certainly work for a processed / packaged bull though if frozen.

I now bring a cheaper 60qt (or two) that are full of dry goods, spare gear, my mountain house/backpacking food and spares on the way out. If I get something - I split the meat and ice between the Yeti and one other cooler.

Other problems - I'm not moving that Yeti when it's full. Stays in the truck. Doing it all over again, I'd probably get two in the 80-85qt range, and still use a cheaper cooler for dry goods.
 

ericF

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Oct 4, 2016
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CO
For just hauling the quarters from Camp to the processor, we use an Igloo 150qt. You can find them at Sams Club for $70. a 150qt should fit all four quarters with a little bit of rearranging, but there is not alot of extra room for jugs of ice. We usually haul up cold stuff or extra camp gear in the coolers and then swap out as needed depending on how many elk are going back. The elk we get are hung for the week during the season and only go in the cooler for the 5 hour drive back to the processor.

Igloo 150 QT MaxCold Cooler - Sam's Club
 

Krm140

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May 17, 2021
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I used a 110qt and a 65qt cooler to haul back processed elk meat from Montana to Pennsylvania. It left enough room for dry ice on the top. I went the dry ice route since the meat was frozen--the top half was by the time I got home.

-David
I will be making that drive this fall also, hopefully have to worry about transportation meat! What side state you from? I'm about 70 miles north of pittsburgh
 

Dos Perros

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Figure 1 quart per pound of animal going in. I struggled to get a boned out bull into a 125 + 110 with enough ice to give me the warm fuzzies. If space weren't a consideration I'd do 2 125's with another 50 or 60 in reserve. Take the fozen camp food up in the 50/60, gear in the other two coolers, and then rearrange when you kill.
 

bigfish87

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Aug 2, 2013
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Michigan
I've put down a couple younger elk, 2-3 years old, and have found a yeti 105 and 65 was enough room for all the boned out meat of one elk. I think a big help of getting the meat cooled down is having your cooler already cold. I travel from Michigan to MT and ID for elk, before I leave, I have both coolers full of frozen 1 gallon jugs of water. I'll add ice to fill in the gaps. Keep draining the melted ice out of your cooler, it's good for rinsing hands, face, dishes at the truck if you've been day hunting. The nice thing about the frozen water jugs is as they are melting, you have safe ice cold drinking water that doesn't need filtering. Unless its abnormally warm, those two coolers will stay cold and have a mix of water and ice in the water jugs after 7-8 days. When getting my meat into the cooler, I drink/drain the water jugs until they are just ice and then squeeze the air out of the jug, cap it, and placed the compressed jug with ice chunk inside it in between quarters. Great way to cool meat down.

Wish I could take credit for this process but this is all from a Randy Newberg podcast.
 

MJB

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San Diego
Go with two smaller coolers so you can move them yourself.
I do an 80qt & 65qt.
The 80 is almost too big......debone and you'll have more room
 

dah605

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I will be making that drive this fall also, hopefully have to worry about transportation meat! What side state you from? I'm about 70 miles north of pittsburgh
I'm in Cranberry (the one closer to Pittsburgh, not the one closer to Clarion), so ~20 miles north of Pittsburgh. I'm hoping for a repeat this year myself. I'll likely be in Montana for a time in late archery season and planning to head back in rifle season if archery doesn't pan out.
 

Krm140

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I'm in Cranberry (the one closer to Pittsburgh, not the one closer to Clarion), so ~20 miles north of Pittsburgh. I'm hoping for a repeat this year myself. I'll likely be in Montana for a time in late archery season and planning to head back in rifle season if archery doesn't pan out.
Small world. I'm from Greenville. Small Town near Sharon / Hermitage area. We have similar plans. I'm off Sept 3rd- 18th. From my research and autumn equinox. And moon phase these have potential to be the best weeks to call one in. I will go back for rifle too but that time period depends on work. You ever want to link up or agree to help one another pack out an animal let me know. I be going solo most likely.
 

ODB

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I saw a guy once who put a small locking chest freezer in the back of his truck and connected it to his little Honda generator while driving across country. Seemed to work.
 

trueat1stlight

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Sep 29, 2019
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MN
Great topic and some outstanding ideas. I’ll be coming from MN to WY and MT which isn’t a terrible amount of distance but last year when hunting in WY in mid October, it was nearly 90 degrees during most of the days. I’m glad I had loads of cooler space.
 

Jimss

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Mar 6, 2015
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I have a ginormous Coleman that I love! It got great Youtube reviews for longest lasting ice that weren't much off Yeti....at a fraction of the price!

I've only been on around 1 elk hunt that I didn't have to bone and pack out a bull. I bone my elk so likely can get by with a smaller cooler . Obviously a larger cooler takes up more space but sure is nice not having to worry about room. An entire mature bull elk plus cape can take up a gob of room in 1 or 2 coolers! On antelope hunts I often toss all 4 non-boned legs into my giant cooler and don't have to worry about boning meat.

Do you save your capes? It's also nice having enough room for meet plus capes! I often save even life-sized capes so the extra freezer room is nice. Also great for throwing 3 frozen whole turkeys into the cooler. Are you seeing a trend on my preference?
 

Predatore

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Oct 20, 2015
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I use 2 coolers- cheap Coleman 150L and Igloo 165L, each loaded with maybe 10-15 frozen 2L bottles. I pack so many frozen bottles because they last a week or longer, then I'll just throw out bottles until all of the elk quarters/meat bags fit. Perhaps it's overkill, but the meat touches a lot of ice every time.
 
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