Time to process an elk?

JakeSCH

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Jun 14, 2020
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San Diego, CA
I have found that butchering my own elk is not economical, but I like being able to do it myself. 12 to 16 hours is about right for me because I am extremely meticulous.

I have done it much faster, but find myself scraping more when I go fast.

It is tedious work, but I see it as a part of the hunt. Plus I get annoyed at how butchers cut the meat.
 

squirrel

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May 25, 2017
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colorado
Very interesting thread responses. Guess I’m about average too. Applying for a job once to butcher elk at a hunt ranch guy asked how many elk, skin- frozen I could do in a day solo. They had beautiful set up area. I answered if a long day and skinning quartering help/vacuum help was procured my guess was two. He ran me off laughing at why I bothered to interview. “Any butcher can do 6-10/ day solo, you ain’t no butcher man”.

I figured just to skin 10 elk a pretty good knife guy would take 3-4 hours to have them on meat hooks let alone vac-packed.

And I’ve skinned and cut a lot of game. Would love to watch his butcher go at it. I might get a lot better.

Of course it crossed my mind he might just be a blow hard asswipe…
 

MNTC

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Every time I had someone else process elk for me it turned out like garbage, got someone elses meat, or had dirt, hair, etc. We started doing our own 10 years ago start to finish now. I go slow and am also very meticulous about trimming. Less waste and the meat tastes better. We also mix fresh spices (none of that premix garbage) for sausages and do multiple recipes. Italian, mexican, breakfast. We have good equipment and it still takes times to do it right. I can hang full quarters in a reach in fridge I made up so I am not stressed about the time. It's not a race and we just take as much time as we need to do it to our standards. Whether that's 18 hours or 48 hours, doesn't matter for us.
 

Gerard Marcaurele

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Southeast Texas
The grinder you use can really speed things up. My two brothers and I did 6 whitetail worth of cutting and grinding in about 6 hrs.

My brother and I went and helped a processor catch up the other day, and he had 5 elk to work on. We deboned and cut up 4 of them in a day. With grinding and packaging included when using a commercial setup, I think 6 hrs is pretty reasonable.

If you’re doing it at home with consumer grade processing equipment, I think 12 hrs is good speed. While it doesn’t make all the difference, having commercial grade stuff really speeds up processing.
 

ctguenthner

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Flatter side of MT
Sometimes my wife helps me, but my last bull she didn’t took me 8 hours to bone, process,and package all the meat in the freezer, burger isn’t ground though I leave it chunked up until I make an appointment in spring to have butcher do all the grind or my wife and I will if time and weather allows.
 

Wrench

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Shot placement and cut choices make a lot of space in the variable....and skinning skills pay off big time. I get laughed at for my swiss army hunting knife, but I have yet to see a better skinning setup.

I just cut one that I neck shot, so no chasing bones and bullets, bloodshot meat or the like. I knew this one was going to be jerky and sausage minus backstraps and tloins for steaks.

It takes about 5 minutes to pop the straps and 5 more to trim and steak them (I cut 1.25" steaks). Tloins come out whole and go in a 1 gallon bag each.

Front quarters are off in a minute and for me, they took the most time as I was running the blade roasts through my jerky machine which doesn't like sinew. I had about 30 minutes per side on the fronts.

Hinds come off at about 5mins each as I need a hand so they don't imbalance my tree. I wasn't picky about perfection on this one and just peeled the groups to get to the femur and worked the bone out. This is about 10 minutes to have each side broke down.

Moving forward is where the time can add up. Some guys want very specific cuts. I don't do roasts and my family loves burger and good steaks. I will steak the eye of round and sirloins, and grind the rest.

For this project I had to cut everything into 1" steaks and run them through the jerky slicer (badass). I would say this is about the same time as double grinding with a 32 neck grinder.

We bag everything in ziploc freezer bags loaded to 2# and wrap with freezer paper at least two layers thick. A few years ago I bought a stamp to mark the packs and it was the single biggest time saver besides the commercial grinder.

We can spend as much time cleaning up flank meat as cutting a quarter, or we can toss it in the grinder.

I've used 1 and 2# chubs for burger/sausage and they save a lot of time, but they bleed all over the place and I despise them.
 

Geewhiz

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Obviously the hardcore do nothing but process their own. Evidently I’m one of the lamps that prefers to give it to a butcher to process. However, I have definitely had mixed results with that in terms of prices and meat yield.
Processing meat is not something I enjoy, plus why spend a couple of days off in the kitchen cutting meat when you could be hunting for other tags or with friends.
 

RojoGrande

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Jan 15, 2018
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Weston, Colorado
Took me 14 hrs solo for my cow this year. Debone, double grind, and vac-seal. Have the tube type bags for ground meat. Mix in some pork fat in the burger. Have a Lem grinder with the patty maker which is handy. Vac-seal the patties along with steaks, tenders, and roasts.
 

GringoBling

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Dallas
I am pretty meticulous about trimming silverskin, removing any hair/dirt/debris, and properly butchering the proper muscle groups. I also have a commercial grinder and commercial vacuum sealer to make sure the meat stays fresh for at least 2 years. So my process is longer than most. I would say it more than 12 hours.

I also will use a high quality processor in Dallas if I'm not doing my own. After seeing some of the Texas whitetail processors in NW Texas leave gutted deer piled up outside in warm temps in pools of blood and flies swarming, I'm pretty particular about who is processing my animals.
 

kyarcher

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Feb 5, 2018
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KY
I have done all of mine for the past 10-15 years. Multiple whitetail, can't even begin to count. I've processed one elk, a good bull in Sep. 2020. It took me an my buddy about 6-7 hours, but we have both been doing our own processing for a while. Start building up your processing equipment, it is definitely worth it, especially a good meat grinder. Watch some good elk processing videos on YouTube, that really helps. Keep it up!
 

Trimbandit

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May 8, 2020
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I get the 'wanting to enjoy the process' attitudes, but, at least for me, if I'm having to butcher an elk, it means I've already spent a week away from my family and job, and once I'm home I'm re-inserted fully into the meat grinder of life...butchering is done (usually alone) after the kids go to bed, from 8PM to 2AM, until it's all done. That gets old pretty quick.
To each their own for sure. Around my house processing game animals is a family event. My kids love to help, especially love to run the tenderizer and grinder. They get a great education on the process and how it works while we spend some quality time together.
We usually do an elk over a couple evenings but it could take many if we only have an hour at a time.
 

GotDraw?

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Its all fun and games till a processor gives you back 90lbs of rank burger you feed to the dogs.
Id say 6-9 hrs.
Multiple people and a good grinder go along way.
My old grinder it took about 7 hrs just to double grind 40lbs.
The new grinder was about 42 minutes
@BRTreedogs - what is your new grinder?
JL
 

roosiebull

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oregon coast
Last fall my wife and I decided we would start processing our own animals. We’ve done 2 elk and 1 deer so far. Our first elk was a decent sized bull that yielded a little over 200 pounds of meat cut and wrapped, not including bones we kept for making stock. That took us the better part of two days. Yesterday we processed a cow elk that took 12 hours. Included in that time is cutting, wrapping, grinding as well as me cleaning game bags and coolers. What is a reasonable time for two people to process an elk? How much faster will we get with experience?
i think you guys are fairly efficient... it takes me about 10hrs start to finish without grinding, but having all meat that will be ground, trimmed and ready. i never do it all together, we just keep saving the meat from all of our deer and elk to grind, then i'll knock it all out after the fall seasons.

i'm never trying to race through it, i just stay busy until it's finished. i take longer than some, but i'm tedious about what gets packaged, because i'm eating it all year, i want a high quality product, and cutting corners processing is likely responsible for 90+% of "i don't like wild game, it's too gamey"

those old stinky mature bucks with necks big enough to shove their head down, or that old rutty stinky roosevelt bull will taste just like the rest if you take your time and trim off all fat and membrane and keep things clean... the steaks may be a little tougher and easier to overcook (dry out) but the flavor will not be compromised.... it takes time.

that's the main reason i won't take my meat to a processor even if i'm guaranteed to get my meat back... they cannot afford to do a good enough job.... at their prices, they just can't. they do a pretty good job, most are very talented, but for what people are willing to pay, they can't afford to be as tedious as i'm going to be with the meat i'll be eating... that's not a knock on processors, it's just how it is.

if a processor was tedious (as you should be with most wild game imo) nobody would be willing to pay that cost of labor, there would be an outrage.... i think the hunters at some point in time kind of screwed themselves there, if the hunter is willing to pay up to "x amount of dollars" the processors do the best they can within that amount of money
 

idahoan

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Dec 6, 2018
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southeast idaho
The wife and I can do a bull in about 8 hours. The best part about doing your own is you know exactly what's in your meat, no hair, no gristle,it's exactly how you want it.....
It's really a no-brainer for me....we can do a better job than any meat cutter because it's our own and we care more.
 

backcountry_hunter

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Sep 23, 2016
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For the grinders on here, are you guys double or single grinding? I was a long time double but after discussions in the off-season w/ a co-worker tried single grinding this year. Maybe I have a gutless grinder, maybe I was tired or misremembering but it felt like it took forever. I didn’t time it however. Would be interested to know if one is actually quicker than another.

I get the “take your time, enjoy it” sentiment but by the 3rd or 4th animal of the season I’ve “enjoyed” enough and want to get it done w/.
 

BRTreedogs

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Nov 16, 2017
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Central Oregon
For the grinders on here, are you guys double or single grinding? I was a long time double but after discussions in the off-season w/ a co-worker tried single grinding this year. Maybe I have a gutless grinder, maybe I was tired or misremembering but it felt like it took forever. I didn’t time it however. Would be interested to know if one is actually quicker than another.

I get the “take your time, enjoy it” sentiment but by the 3rd or 4th animal of the season I’ve “enjoyed” enough and want to get it done w/.
Man save up, set $50 buck a check aside until next season. Granted who knows how long my meat your maker will last. And I'm not saying to buy that brand. I'm saying buy at least a #22 whith some ommh.
Buy a 7mm intermediate plate.
Took me from around 6hrs to double going 100 pounds to about 30 min

I tried single grinding the 10 mm plate, seemed a little bit not enough.
5mm plate seems a little mushy and you kinda have to force it tru, on a 2nd.

Now I'm 10mm 1st grind the meat, and beef fat I add.
2nd grind 7mm

On the 1st grind 10mm plate you could do 2 people one on each side with there own tub 2 hand feeding simultaneously.

Trust me I feel the pain on paying that much for a grinder but not that I have it ill never look back.
 

Wrench

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WA
A 22 neck will require you to push the meat down the neck. A 32 or bigger can be a blessing.

Uf you're using a 12......I'd just skip grinding and make stew.

Burger is double ground. Some hot dog / sausages are 3x or 4x.....some are 1x. Depends on the product. If it's getting mushy in one pass, you need to sharpen your blades/plates.....regardless of siz e.
 

TAGPUNCHER

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Dec 3, 2020
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THE SIP
I don't test anything. Never have. I live in the highest Cwd areas in the country. These are WHITETAILS I'm talking about and a BUNCH of em. I am not advocating for ANYONE ELSE to do this just saying. I also live in the MURDER capital of the U.S.. I technically have a higher chance of dying going to buy a loaf of bread, I figure then eating a tainted deer that has ZERO evidence so far that it effects HUMANS. If I look in the mirror and see a third ear or some shit growing that AINT supposed to be there I will let y'all know. LOL.
 

Redangus

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Jan 21, 2022
Messages
11
I’ve been thinking about processing my own animals, but when the time comes, I always just fall back to what’s familiar.
 

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