Preserving Meat in the Wilderness


If you kill anything much larger than a squirrel you won’t be eating it all at once.  If you manage to kill large game like deer, you could have meat enough for months.  But without a refrigerator, the meat will spoil if you don’t properly preserve it.  One of the oldest methods of preserving meat in the wilderness is jerking.  Here’s how to jerk your meat and get the most out of your kill.

  • Be prepared prior to hunting. You don’t want to drag a deer carcass through the woods, butcher it, and then have to build a rack, gather wood, start a fire, etc.
  • Prepare by building a tripod about head height or taller, make two racks on the tripod (one about chest high and the other at should height) of sticks that are about a finger width apart and secure so your meat doesn’t fall off. Gather enough firewood to burn a fire with low heat for 24 hours or more.
  • Consume the fatty portions and the organs first. These portions won’t last so make the most out your kill by eating these right away and saving the lean meat to jerk.
  • Cut the lean meat into thin slices. The thinner you can get them the faster and more thoroughly they will preserve.
  • Carefully lay the thin slices on the racks with space for air to move between them.
  • Manage the fire so that the heat is sufficient to dry the meat without cooking it, and so that it produces smoke continually.
  • As the meat begins to jerk you may need to rotate the meat that is closer to being done to the top rack and bring the meat from the top that is progressing slower down to the bottom rack.
  • When the meat has taken on a dark hard appearance taste some to see if it is done.

If you keep your jerky clean and dry it can last for months even in the wilderness.  But be careful about eating jerky made from scavengers since the meat has not been heated to the point where it will kill parasites.  You may want to boil it prior to consuming.

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