BOWHUNTING: Hang ‘Em High
by PJ Delhomme
A meat pole is one of the best ways to let air circulate around your meat to help cool it off.
A meat pole at base camp has numerous advantages: the first being the massive amount of gear you can throw in the back of a truck and then hang in a tree. Consider using parachute cord as lashing material, but do yourself a favor and use thicker rope for hoisting up your quarters. Also consider using small pulleys or even a block and tackle system (right) to reduce friction.
My favorite way to hang a cross-pole is to use two trees with thick lower branches. After finding trees 10-15 feet apart, limb a 5- to 6-inch diameter pole to use as the crossbeam. With or without helpers, it’s fairly easy to set the first end on a branch next to the trunk 8 or 10 feet up. You can loosely lash it to the branches or just rest it there. Keep in mind the other side still needs to come up. Even if there are not suitable lower branches, properly lashing the crossbeam directly to the tree shouldn’t be a problem as the tension created by the weight of the pole will cinch things tight.
To raise the free end of the crossbeam, tie some para cord to it, then tie a rock to the other end of the para cord and toss it one or two limbs above the limb to which you’d like to lash the beam. Once you have the rope over your chosen branch, have your buddies below hoist the beam up while you guide it into place. Then, lash it tightly to the tree. Don’t forget to feed line through the pulleys before hoisting into place.
It’s a beautiful thing to shoot an elk early in the morning and have all day to haul it out. But for hunters who use every minute of shooting light to their advantage, it’s inevitable that an elk will go down at dusk. Rather than hauling out the meat in the dark, sometimes it’s best to field-dress it and allow it to cool for the next day’s extraction. Building a meat pole or meat hang in the backcountry takes some time and ingenuity, but it’s not impossible.
One of the quickest ways to get the quarters up is to hang them in a tree, just as you would a food bag in bear country. For each quarter, pick a stout limb. Tie a rock onto some para cord and toss it over the limb, but make sure the other end is tied to your meat. Once it’s over, yank or walk backward with all you’ve got to get the quarter off the ground. Chances are you’re not going to be able to get the meat too far out on the limb without it snapping, but go as far out as you can. If a black bear or lion wants your elk, it’s going to get it. All you are trying to do is cool it down for the night.
At times, trees with stout, accessible limbs are few and far between in elk country, especially at high elevations. If you find yourself with an elk down without trees nearby, you can always opt for the lean-to meat pole. As the name suggests, all you are doing is making a lean-to. You can set a stout log on a rock or steep hill and hang your meat from there. Or you can build a cross-brace with two logs and set a crossbeam in the crotch of the brace.
The worst thing you can do to your meat is leave it on the ground overnight. Even putting logs underneath your elk is better than nothing. You just want cold air flowing underneath everything. With some time, ingenuity and a little para cord, you can keep your meat fresh and tasty from the field to the freezer.