How to Pack Out an Elk

Packing out an elk is no simple task; it requires strength and stamina in order to transport its heavy load across multiple trips.

Heavy training involves high-intensity work that’s demanding on your muscles and may lead to injury if you aren’t prepared. But there are ways you can strengthen and stamina before the season starts!


An elk can be an extremely challenging animal for hunters to bring down to the ground. Due to terrain, vegetation and position it can be very challenging getting this beast onto your back; then once out you must figure out how best to pack out this animal with ease and efficiency.

Quartering an animal into four parts is crucial to making it easier to carry and transport. Furthermore, this saves space in your pack while also enabling more meat to fit inside a cooler.

Start by cutting across the top of the rib cage in a straight line down along the spinal column, so as to expose any backstraps you need to remove.

Proceed by skinning the hide from just above the top of the shoulder blade (scapula) down to its base in less than one minute.

As you will need to use bone saws (available from any sporting goods retailer) to cut through and bone out meat, try doing this as close to the rear end as possible. Doing this may help with weight issues and muscle mass removal.

Once the meat has been boned, you’ll need to remove its head and four legs – this may take some time depending on how big your elk is.

Once this step is complete, place the elk into a game bag and hang it in an enclosed, shaded area on some logs so air can circulate and cool it down quickly. Colorado winter nights can get extremely cold during September – this helps ensure its meat remains near freezing throughout the day.

Once the elk is cold enough to handle, you can begin cooking it or freezing it to keep its freshness longer.

If you don’t have access to a freezer, another way of freezing elk meat can be in water; this method will also help it remain fresher longer by extracting moisture from its meat. Just be careful that no blood or fluids remain on it as this could turn the ice into liquid and ruin its effects.


Elk hunting can be an exhausting sport when conducted as part of a two-man pack-out, especially under challenging physical circumstances. Knowing your limits prior to embarking on any trip will help prevent injuries.

Pack your gear efficiently so as to minimize weight and make hauling off the mountain once your elk has been shot easier. A good pack can also make this easier.

As soon as it’s time to cut up an elk, it is vital that it is done safely and efficiently in order to reduce the risk of tripping, falling and becoming injured during this process.

Start by skinning out the entire elk from head to tail and placing it on a flat surface; this will prevent its meat from spoiling and keeps your process moving smoothly.

Once the hide has been removed, you can begin by carefully unwrapping each rib. Depending on how large your animal is, quartering may also be beneficial; once done, game bags should be used for quartered animals while loose meat should go into separate bags.

At this stage, it is also beneficial to remove both the front and hind quarters of an elk as well as cut tenderloins out.

If you decide to do this, be sure to strictly abide by these instructions:

  1. With a gutting blade or gut-hook, cut away any skin covering lower forelegs and hindlegs on either side, before making cuts along the lower abdomen from underneath jawbone and moving upward.
  2. Start at the point of pelvis and work your way backwards along each rib to open up its skin on its reverse.
  3. Once the ribs have been extracted from an elk carcass, it can be opened completely for further processing, making it easy to extract its forequarter, hindquarter, tenderloins, etc.
  4. Ribs should be cut with an axe or saw, then quartered for use in game bags; any leftover meat should be stored in a cool environment until you are ready to consume it.


Gutting an elk can be an arduous task, yet essential in order to ensure no meat goes to waste. This skill becomes especially essential in bear country where speed of processing is paramount.

Before beginning gutting an animal, ensure it is on its back with its head facing upwards and tail pointing downwards so as to drain blood and fluids out of its body cavity. This helps ensure that stomach contents, urine or fecal matter won’t find their way into the meat and spoil its taste.

Once the gutting process is complete, place the elk into a large game bag and slide it out of the way so that you can skin its hide away from its meat – this will prevent spoilage in hot weather by giving its skin time to cool down and release heat away from its interior.

When skinning an elk hide, begin at its head and work your way towards its front legs, starting from head. This will prevent hair getting caught in your meat and help ensure a sharp knife. Once all four legs have been skinned completely, repeat this process on each.

Once the hide has been skinned, any testicles attached to it must be extracted by peeling away.

Once cut loose from their connective tissues, anus and colon should rest inside of pelvis like an end of a hose.

As many states require evidence of sexual relations between two animals, you should leave evidence that your animals had relations. You could choose to place one testicle on each rear quarter in bull elk, and some portion of mammary gland attached to the abdominal wall in cow elk as proof.

Once the genitals have been removed, it’s time to cut through the windpipe and esophagus to extract viscera using either a bone saw, hatchet, or heavy knife. While this process can be messy and may result in some of your internal organs becoming punctured as you proceed, eventually all windpipe and esophagus should be free from its attachment to rib cage walls once gutting is completed.


Cooking meat requires following some key rules in order to achieve tender, juicy results. This is especially true when dealing with game meats such as elk. Elk contains very little natural fat content so it should be cooked quickly for best results.

For optimal elk steak results, add it to a skillet with some oil, and cook it for approximately 30 seconds per side – this will produce the highest-quality, most succulent elk steaks possible without drying out or losing flavor.

After cooking your elk, it is wise to give it time to rest before slicing, so the juices can redistribute evenly throughout the meat. This tip applies to any cut of meat but especially so with lean elk that contains low calories and fat content.

Elk is an ideal alternative to beef when looking for leaner, healthier options. Elk has an earthier flavor while being lower in cholesterol levels than its beef counterpart.

As it contains plenty of protein, making it ideal for building muscles. Furthermore, it contains essential vitamins like iron and zinc.

Comparative to grass-fed beef, elk tends to have a milder flavor due to the conditions under which it was raised as well as what plants and animals it consumed during its lifespan. But don’t take my word for it; experience is the ultimate judge when it comes to flavor!

Elk meat can vary in flavor from mild and gamy to strong and meaty depending on its lifestyle and diet. Farm-raised elk, which eat grains and alfalfa similar to domestic cattle, tends to have milder tastes because its diet mainly consisted of wild plants rather than domestic grains and alfalfa.

There are a variety of recipes you can use to cook elk. From making chili with ground elk as the main protein source to roasting chunks for an elk stroganoff dish – even just simple stew can be an enjoyable way to serve it up – there is sure to be one perfect dish out there for elk lovers out there.

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