If you are an avid outdoorsman and hunter, then you may soon be gearing up for bear hunting season in the fall. Knowing how to kill a bear is one thing. But knowing how to care for the meat and process it so it can be stored and consumed later is a completely different skill set. It’s important to note that there are many different ways of processing wild game, whether you choose to smoke it, dehydrate it into jerky, or cook it on the spot.
Things You'll Need
Make a plan for processing the meat before you go hunting. It’s important to consider how you want to cook the bear as well as having access to a spacious refrigerator or freezer. Also make sure that you have supplies such as tarps, knives, and buckets for carrying away fat pieces and another set of buckets for red meat.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for 30 seconds before handling any raw meat.
Use your knife to cut away as much of the fat as possible from the bear meat soon after the kill. Leaving fat on the bear will increase the likelihood of the meat becoming rancid later in the processing. The outer layer of bear fat is similar in consistency to jelly, while the inner fatty layer is more firm and similar to beef tallow. Use your knife to shave off the fat, leaving only the red bear meat.
Use a hacksaw with a new blade to cut the sternum, splitting the rib cage. Use a knife to cut one- to two-pound filets, which are the strips of meat connecting the rib cage sections to the spine. Leave the filets intact for bear steak or cut the bear meat into two-by-two-inch cubes.
Remove the rest of the meat from the ribs by sliding your knife around the outside edges of the rib cage. Cut this meat into cubes as in the previous step or pass it through a meat grinder to process it into ground bear meat. Cut away the meat from the legs by slicing your knife into the flesh and running the knife alongside the edges of the bones. Repeat the process for each of the limbs. Slice the hindquarters into top-round and bottom-round roasts.
Cure the meat cubes before passing them through a grinder by adding curing salts and setting it in a mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap in your refrigerator. Set the refrigerator’s temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the meat to cure for at least four days, remixing the meat and curing salts every day. Add six pounds of curing salt, three pounds of sugar and three ounces of potassium nitrate for every 100 pounds of wild game.
Use your hands to form ground bear meat into burger patties or stuff it into sausage casing. If you are making sausage, you may choose to mix it with ground pork and spices for added flavor and tenderness.
Freeze any bear meat that you are not ready to process immediately. Use a vacuum sealer to prevent moisture from remaining inside the freezer bags. According to the University of Georgia, add only two to three pounds of raw meat to a freezer per cubic foot of freezer space. Keep the freezer set below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take the bear to a butcher for processing if you are not able or do not have enough people helping you to cut off the fat within the first four to six hours.
Cooking a chunk of flesh as a roast or in a crock pot is an easy way to cook bear meat without going through the grinding and processing.
References and ResourcesHunt Only: Just the Bear Facts
BowHunting: Bear Recipes
NJ: NJ Butchers Create Gamey Delicacies with Bear Meat After Hunt
University of Georgia: Freezing Animal Products
North Dakota State University: Wild Side of the Menu No. 3 - Preservation of Game Meats and Fish
ResourcesState of Alaska Epidemiology: Five Cases of Trichinosis - Why Bear Meat Must Be Thoroughly Cooked
University of Georgia: NCHFP Publications