Butchering wild game when stalking or hide-hunting

Butchering wild game when stalking or hide-hunting

I asked the hunting journalist Philippe Jaeger a few questions about butchering wild game, which is a fundamental question in the ethics of hunting.

I asked Philippe Jaeger, who has been a hunting journalist for 25 years, some questions about this complex and technical subject, which is one of the fundamental questions of the ethics of hunting. Details aside, I sensed his faultless commitment to this question in all his answers.
Carefully read the following discussion, feel free to come back and read it again regularly, and, most importantly, try to approach this subject with the same conviction, and encourage your fellow hunters to do likewise.

Even if much of this information is common to all forms of hunting, in this particular case, we talked about hunting big game individually, either by stalking or in a hide.

How is the subject of butchering wild game addressed in france? 

As a hunter yourself, you already know that no training is currently provided when you apply for a hunting licence.

Local hunting federations offer training for the basic game butchering exam. But this training is only compulsory for hunters who intend to sell their game meat, in accordance with the French decree of 18 December 2009 pertaining to the hygiene rules applicable to animal products and food containing animal products, appendix IV - section V.

So, how can you learn to butcher game meat? Philippe's answer is very clear. This know-how is shared between hunters through observation and experience. Simply because this know-how depends on a multitude of skills: shooting, aiming at the right part of the animal, using the right ammunition, the health and safety rules, the gutting techniques and the storage conditions. And like any skill learned this way, knowledgeable hunters may teach both good and bad practices.

Both Philippe and we at Solognac firmly believe that "The butchering of game meat is our best ambassador! In the eyes of non-hunters, it is the only means of justifying our hunting activities. It must be faultless and complete. Every one of us must be beyond reproach”. Philippe continues. “When we hunt and butcher an animal, we become meat producers, with all the responsibilities that this entails. It is our duty to adopt the right practices to guarantee the quality of hygiene of the game meat. When we go out stalking, or hunting in a hide, we are alone, and we also have to butcher the game meat alone. Therefore, a strong command of all the aspects of hunting practices is essential.” In its report CGAAER n° 21032, the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food talks about “the ethical demands on primary hunters and producers”.

Hunting first, then butchering afterwards. 

Philippe Jaeger reminds us that the bullet must be placed perfectly to produce quality game meat. The only place that can guarantee this is just behind the shoulder, when the shot is perfectly perpendicular to the animal's body. Shooting the animal in this spot will be lethal and will protect the best pieces of meat.
Our ethical practice starts with this good aim, which is the result of sufficient training on the shooting range and the proper settings of your weapon.

Lead-free ammunition is obviously preferable.
On 15 March 2018, the French national agency for the sanitary safety of food, the environment and the workplace (ANSES) published a warning about lead residues in game meat, which corroborates our point of view. We can only encourage you to prefer lead-free ammunition.

What is the right equipment to butcher wild game? 

You obviously need all your equipment before you set off on your hunting expedition. Your equipment must be clean and sharp. You must always wear new rubber gloves.

The essentials:

- rubber gloves
- gutting knife
- bone saw (rib cage and pubic symphysis)
- game bag
- cleansing gel

Butchering wild game when stalking or hide-hunting

What are the basic rules of hygiene to be obeyed? 

Philippe explains:
“Butchering game is a race against the clock. But every cut must be precise. Remember that more haste means less speed.
The intestinal and gastric processes continue to function, even after the animal has been slain. This process demands rapid action, because after 45 minutes, the walls of the intestine are no longer sealed and the bacteria start to spread.

Take care not to put any fur in the carcass when cutting up the animal. This risk can be limited by making a large cut measuring about 5 cm in the skin before making the incision.

If you are not in the immediate vicinity of a hunting lodge, you must gut the animal immediately, taking care to leave any innards out of the sight of other nature-lovers.
I again insist on the need for training in this exercise before going hunting, in order to be as precise and careful as the task requires. Learn, train and inform yourself before performing this task alone.  

Also, rinsing the carcass after gutting was recently banned. These regulations must be strictly followed if you want to sell the fruit of your hunt.  

When hunting in the summer, special attention must be paid to flies and the ambient heat.

The carcass must be put in a cold room at 2°C. At this temperature, the bacteria develop more slowly, and the meat can mature properly. If you do not have a cold room or a cold chamber, then leave your game meat with a professional. Wait four to six days before freezing the meat to allow it to become nice and tender.”

How can sufficiently hygienic conditions be provided to butcher game in the wild? 

“Before starting, find a spot free of any vegetation, where you can gut the animal as comfortably as possible.
After gutting, ventilate the carcass sufficiently to prevent the meat from warming up. If you transport the animal in the boot of a car, pay attention to sloping hatchbacks, which can expose the meat to sunlight.
Game baskets that are attached to tow bars are only used to transport animals that have not been gutted, as there is a risk of contamination by mud and dust.

Soft game bags help to ventilate the carcass, while also protecting the interior of your vehicle.”

Butchering wild game when stalking or hide-hunting

Are there any things to look out for that vary from one species to another?

For large animals (large deer and boars), it is advisable to use a rib cage spreader to allow the air to flow more easily and to lower the core temperature more quickly. Do not make any cuts in the shoulder joint, as doing so will increase the risk of bacterial contamination.

As for boars, even if it is only compulsory for meat intended for sale, a test for trichinae is necessary to make sure that the meat is not contaminated. Refer to your local hunting federation for information on how to organise these tests.

And finally, what am I allowed to do with the game meat?

As we have already mentioned, to sell game meat, you must first follow the basic training in butchering that is provided by your local hunting federation.  

You can also give away the game meat for free. But remember that you are responsible for food safety and hygiene when you process the game meat. You can be held liable, and your ethical standards can be called into question.

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Stalking is a method of hunting that used to be practised solely for the purpose of regulation or observation. Today, this atypical hunting method, known as "silent hunting", has become a perfect complement to driven hunting. It is less stressful for the animals and for the fauna of the hunting grounds.