After you hunted and shot the elk, you will want to bring it home. However, you will need to check to see how much space you have for it in your freezer. Most likely, you will want a deep freezer for storing the elk meat because deep freezers were built for more long-term freezing, and they have better insulation.
What size freezer should you use for elk? The average elk cut and wrapped will give 600 pounds of take-home meat, which requires a freezer between 13 to 17 cubic feet. Cut and wrapped properly, it won’t take up too much space, but you want more than enough space. Chest freezers do better than upright freezers because they hold more meat.
You want to make sure that you have enough space in your freezer to store the meat. Let’s have a look at how to pull that off.
More Space Better Than Not Enough
Practice the golden rule when not sure if your freezer can hold all the elk meat. The golden rule is that too much space is better than not enough. You can always add more into the freezer, but if you have too little of a freezer, you can’t hold it. You will need to put it in other areas. In Minnesota, we have a saying for the weather that you could apply to elk and freezers, “Better to bring an extra coat and take it off if not needed than to wish you had an extra coat.” Think of the space in the same way. Having more space than needed will do no harm, but not having enough will become an immediate problem.
How You Field Dress and Wrap the Elk Matters
How well you field dress and wrap the elk will determine how much you can store. Many hunters recommend the gutless method because it lets you store more in the freezer. Take advantage of plastic totes as a way to stack the frozen meat better. This keeps everything organized in the freezer to allow for easier storage. How well you can store the meat will take practice, but you will get better at it with time so that you can store more in a smaller freezer.
What is the Smallest Freezer Recommended for Elk?
Previously, I spoke about 13 cubic feet as the minimum, but someone might fit elk in a 10 cubic foot freezer as the bare minimum. I wouldn’t recommend anything below this because of how it would be a stretch. Perhaps you could pull it off, but it wouldn’t be as comfortable in comparison to a 13 cubic foot freezer or greater. For the smaller freezers, you may want to have the butcher shop prepare the meat. You will find that you can fit more in it because a good butcher will prepare it to maximize the space.
I have a 25 cubic foot chest freezer, which can fit two elk, a hog, four antelope and a bison in it when I dress them myself. Now, if I take that same thing with a butcher, I can fit seven elk, two bison, two hogs and 14 antelope in it. While it may cost some to pay a butcher, you can make the most of your space doing it. You will pay around $300 (give or take $50) to have an elk field dressed at the butcher shop.
Why Choose a Chest Freezer over an Upright Freezer for Elk
Especially when you will store things like elk, a chest freezer offers 20 percent more usable space than upright freezers. Along with that, the air doesn’t circulate as much in a chest freezer and prevents freezer burn. Blackouts happen, but a chest freezer keeps your meat cool for longer. Chest freezers will also save you money over the long term in energy usage. When you plan to hunt elk regularly, investing in a bigger freezer will make sense.
What Should I Look for in an Elk Freezer?
Size ranks as the most important factor when it comes to a freezer. You want as much space as possible. After you consider the size, look at energy savings next. Buying a bigger freezer will use more energy, but you may see it as an investment because of how you can store more in it.
The other crucial thing comes down to floor space. A big freezer would be fantastic in cases where you can afford the space, but you may not have the space for a big freezer. In that case, choose an upright freezer, but for all other cases, a chest freezer makes more sense as an elk hunter.
How to Prepare Elk for the Freezer
As I said before it costs about $300 to have the butcher prep the elk meat for you. You may find it beneficial because of how you can store more meat in the freezer. If you decide to save money by doing it yourself, you will begin by making sure that you have several large coolers on hand. Elk meat, like deer meat, is called venison. Expect field dressing, skinning and quartering an elk to take several hours to prep it for your freezer.
Depending on the time of the year, you will want to prepare the meat for the freezer as quickly as possible. The same methods that you’d use to process a deer can be used to process an elk. To begin, you will cut away the hair, muscle sheath, fat and bruised meat. The hair may cling to the meat, and you can remove it with a damp cloth.
You will want a sharp fillet knife to make the meat cuts. Much of the strong gamey flavor that people associate with venison comes from the fat of the meat. Remove that to get rid of the stronger flavors. Beware of the meat with bruises around it as well because this part will often taste strong or it will not look appealing when you serve it at the dinner table. As you cut away and prepare the elk meat for the freezer, you will want to make the meat cuts large enough for the meal you plan to have.
Double wrap the meat each time before putting it in the freezer to avoid freezer burn. Vacuum sealers will especially prove useful here. Once you have wrapped it, you will use tape to seal it. An elk weighs about 600 pounds, while a deer weighs 127 pounds. As you can imagine, you will spend far more time with elk than a deer.
What Size Cooler Do You Need for Elk?
Boned-out elk will require a minimum of a 120 to 150-quart cooler, but I would use a 200-quart cooler. You may need a second smaller cooler to hold the extra meat in it. For cool weather, I usually hang the meat for a day or two before I take it to the butcher. To transfer them, you can put them in a cooler with a thermal blanket and tape the cooler so that no air escapes. This will give you the safest and easiest way to store the meat.
Along with fitting the elk in the cooler, you need to consider how it needs to fit the ice in the cooler as well. Beware of poor design with coolers because it needs to keep the water out. I had a buddy one time with a cooler, and his brand had a poor design that let the rainwater in. He opened it up later to find an inch of water inside. If it can leak water that easily, you shouldn’t consider it airtight either.
What Freezer Would I Recommend for Elk?
If you wanted a good medium-priced freezer for elk, I would recommend going with a 13 cubic foot freezer. The Plastic Development Group 13.7 Cubic Ft Manual Deep Freeze Chest has enough to hold the capacity of an elk while not costing an outrageous amount of money. In terms of depth, it’s about 36 inches at the bottom, and it only requires 45 minutes to get cold. The hassle-free setup also makes it a popular choice. Not only does it fit a lot of meat inside, but you can also use the basket at the top to make the elk meat immediately available. The energy efficiency also means that you will save money over time.
Before you go elk hunting, you first need to see that you have a place to store the meat. You will need a larger freezer for it, but you can buy that. You will also want to have coolers that you can transport the elk back in. Some hunters deal with the space issues by giving away elk meat to friends. You can always find people willing to take elk meat. In addition, no law prohibits the sale of game meat as long as it receives a mark of inspection from a state or federal inspection program. You can sell the meat that you shoot in cases where you don’t have enough freezer space to store it.
At the minimum, I would say 10 cubic feet for a chest freezer to store elk meat, but you may want more than that because more freezer is never frowned upon.