New Brunswick

How not to spoil a moose on record-hot opening day

WARNING: This story contains graphic photos. Moose hunting season got under way Tuesday, but were hunters ready for the scorching hot temperatures?

'Today no doubt there are going to be moose in New Brunswick that are going to be completely spoiled'

The heat wasn't going to stop moose hunters from getting out for the start of the season on Tuesday. (CBC)

WARNING: This story contains graphic photos 

Moose season is always a hot time of year for New Brunswickers — particularly this fall.

A string of hot days has experts warning hunters to get their moose meat out of the heat as soon as possible.

"The hotter the day, the less time you have to get your moose out and have it in good shape," said Troy Grant, who has been a butcher in the Woodstock area for 25 years.

Moose season kicked off Tuesday with scorching hot temperatures in the low 30s Celsius, and a humidex of 40 C for much of the southern and central part of the province by afternoon.

In that kind of heat, the butcher Grant said hunters need to be quick getting their moose out of the woods before the meat starts to spoil.

"Time is working against them on a hot day," he said.

Shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Pam Hallett-Seely was out on her first moose hunt, when she slew her first moose ever.

Pam Hallett-Seely got her first moose shortly after moose season opened on Tuesday. (Pam Hallett-Seely)

"My cousin spotted one … I told him to shoot it and he said, 'No you shoot it,'" said Hallett-Seely, who was hunting in the Woodstock area with her two cousins.

"It was pretty exciting. We did some hollering and screaming and that was the end of it."

Her moose dropped to the ground just off the road, where the trio gutted the animal, before bringing it in for weighing, and then to the local meat shop for butchering.

Hallett-Seely said she put blocks of ice into the moose carcass after it was shot.

"You have to move fast on a day like today," said the Woodstock native.

Jean Bertin, a provincial government spokesperson, said hunters should be prepared when harvesting moose meat.

"When it comes to the harvesting process during moose hunting season, the [government] would suggest the opinion of a local butcher as to what are the best ways of preserving a carcass in preparation to be butchered in warm weather," he wrote in an email to CBC News.

Organization is key

Hunters should already know how they're going to get the moose out of the woods in a timely fashion, Grant said.

The first thing to do is get the body heat out of the moose carcass and make sure to field dress, or gut, the animal.

Moose season is always a hot time of year for New Brunswickers — particularly this fall. 0:52

Hunters should wait to do the field dressing by their vehicle if the moose carcass is not more than an hour away. That way flies and other insects won't get into the carcass.

But if the body is farther away, the animal should be gutted as soon as possible, Grant said.

"If it's going to be three, four, five hours before you get it out of there, well that's just practically a no-no on a day like this," he said.

Hot winter coat

Larry Henderson of Custom Meat Cutting outside Fredericton says getting the hide off the animal as soon as possible can keep the meat from spoiling on hot days. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Larry Henderson, a meat cutter for 50 years specializing in deer and moose, said he expects hot days during the moose hunt to be quiet. 

"We've only seen three moose today," Henderson said. "That's all, it's too hot." 

 In his experience, the moose hide will accelerate the spoiling of meat, no matter how much ice is packed inside the carcass, he said. 

"Ice is only going to cool parts of the inside," said Henderson. "That coat keeps a moose alive in minus 40 temperatures. It's a thick, thick, heavy coat, and on days like today hot to the touch." 

"So I've got three rule number one: take the hide off. Number two: take the hide off. Number three: take the hide off. That's the answer. As soon as you can." 

Size matters

Grant said the size of the moose can also make a difference.

A small moose doesn't carry as much body heat as a bigger moose and isn't going to deteriorate as quickly.

"It's got so much more bulk to it and so much more body heat," Grant said.

Once the weather starts to cool down later in the week, hunters can extend their time for dressing a moose and getting it out of the woods.

Until then, however, the moose should get to the butcher's as soon as possible so it can be stored in a cold environment.

Once she got her moose, Pam Hallett-Seely said she needed to act fast and get the animal out of the heat as soon as possible. (Pam Hallett-Seely)

But organization isn't always that simple, particularly when a moose is shot but not killed.

Grant said a moose can sometimes run off and it might take several hours before it's found decaying in the woods.

"Today, no doubt there are going to be moose in New Brunswick that are going to be completely spoiled … and not edible at all."

Spoiler alert

Grant said deterioration can start in two to three hours, and after six hours a moose decaying in the woods might start to smell. 

Sometimes when a big bull is left in the heat for six to eight hours, on a truck or in the woods, its shoulders can turn green from all the body heat. Typically, Grant said, he can trim any decaying part off the animal and the moose is still edible.  

"They need to understand it but not fear it, unless they're pushing their luck with time limits," he said.

The moose hunt lasts through Saturday.

With files from Shane Fowler