Caribou Meat

Butchering Your Meat Back at the Hangar

As transporters, we are not permitted to store meat at our facility in Kotzebue. Meat has to stay in the field with you for the entire time unless arrangements are made between you and the pilot.

When you get back into town, you are responsible for butchering the meat yourself. Kotzebue DOES NOT have meat processing facilities to accommodate hunters. There is a small area at the hangar where you will be able to process your meat, and the local Hotel in Kotzebue we recommend has a walk-in, -20 degree freezer for hunters to freeze their meat prior to departure back home.

How to Butcher Wild Game

Prior to your trip, we recommend that you learn a little bit about meat cutting and storage before you get out your knives and freezer paper. Butchering may seem a daunting task to those who have never done it, and although it can be time consuming, it is also a task that is well worth learning.

  • The first thing you will need is a clean work environment. You can’t expect your meat to stay clean if your counters are disgusting. You can lay down plastic on your counter, or simply wipe them down before and after you butcher your wild game.
  • Although a full knife set is not necessary, you will need a few good sharp knives. I generally only use three knives during the whole skinning and butchering process. I break down any wild game with a simple folding knife with a three inch blade. I sharpen it after every use and keep it clean, and I’ve been using it for 20 years. For the actual butchering process, I use a long sharp fillet knife for most of the breaking down, and a small cleaver style knife for cutting and slicing any large pieces into smaller cuts. Every individual will come to have their own preference, so use what works best for you. Just make sure your knives are clean and sharp.
  • When it comes to packaging, there are many ways to do it and many ways that work. While I prefer using a vacuum sealer, you’re going to have to use freezer paper and freezer bags (bring them with you). Be sure to use several layers and seal tightly to help prevent freezer burn.
  • Break your cuts down into the appropriate size. If you’re a family of four, package the cuts accordingly. However, if you live alone, chances are you don’t want to thaw two pounds of venison at a time. If you need to, you can take out more than one package to create a larger meal.
  • Date and label everything. There is nothing worse than taking out a package of meat in hopes of making a grilled steak, only to find out you really thawed out a pound of roast.
  • Once your done with your meat, you’ll need to get it and your antlers ready to ship back home.

Here’s a good video on butchering wild game by MeatEater:

It gives the “how to” on breaking down a whole whitetail deer (which is the same as a caribou or a moose). Steve takes you through the process of transforming a whole deer into steaks, roasts, shanks and doesn’t skip the extras that are often discarded.

Transfer or Donation of Game Meat

It is illegal to buy, sell or barter game meat. Unprocessed meat and other game parts may be transferred to others permanently (given as a gift) or may be transferred temporarily for the purpose of transport. However, two requirements apply: First, any meat you plan to give away must be in the same or better condition as meat you would keep for yourself. Second, you will need to fill out a “Transfer of Possession” form (see the back page of the hunting regulations book); keep a copy and give one to the recipient of the meat. You must show this statement and the meat to an ADF&G representative if asked.

It is your responsibility to make sure that game has been legally taken before you accept or transport it. If you accept game or parts of game from someone else, either permanently as a gift or temporarily in order to transport that game, it becomes your responsibility to salvage all edible meat for human consumption.