Getting 2 Cow Elk Home

JStol5

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Apr 9, 2022
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I would drive if I was you. Also- I have a great recommendation to get wild game processed in LA area. PM me if you’d like the name.
 
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I have no personal experience but in Feb. aren't most cows pregnant with pretty well developed calves inside? Not sure if that means less meat on the cow.
They'll likely be pregnant but their physical condition will vary greatly based on winter conditions and quality of feed available. I shot a really fat cow about 5 years ago in late January, they'd been raiding the hay stacks for months.
 

woods89

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Op, I flew home with almost all the meat from a mature bull in 2021. I'll give you my system, as it worked well for me.

We had 3 days to hang quarters before I flew home. We hung them in a spray foamed mini barn my buddy has on his place, and they tested at mid 30s with a temp probe 1 day before departure. I bought 2 70 qt Coleman coolers at Walmart, boned out the meat the day before I left, lined the coolers with plastic, and loaded them to 95 lbs per. I was flying Southwest, and they will let you fly with 100 lbs per if you pay overweight fees. I still had some meat left over, so some went in a soft cooler in my duffel, and I left a bit with my hunting partner.

I checked my rifle case and duffel as my 2 free checked bags, and paid oversize and overweight fees on the 2 coolers. I think the lady behind the Southwest counter knocked some fees off, because I only paid $225 to check the 2 coolers. She was terrific to deal with. I flew non stop DEN-STL and everything showed up in good shape. The meat would have been good in those coolers for a long time, as long as the lids stayed shut.

A few things I would keep in mind.

- I had room left in a 70 qt cooler at 95 lbs. Next time I will buy a couple 55 qt coolers, and likely avoid the oversize fees. I'd rather have them completely full.

-Have some cash with you. I had a couple shuttle drivers that went above and beyond. One of them loaded all my luggage into his shuttle as I was taking pics of my Turo rental. I think I made it worth his while.

-It's not too expensive to ship gear home Fedex. I'd definitely do that to make some room if you need to.

-I'd definitely be more nervous with connecting flights. Although if you tape your cooler lids shut, and its frozen or at freezing temps, it will stay good for days.

-Don't buy fancy rotomolded coolers for this. It's not necessary, and a 55 qt rotomolded is really bulky.

Best of luck!
 

EdP

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. Use a double rifle case with your buddy. This will give a shared case and a shared piece of luggage and 4 totes of meat. Anything you can't wear or fit in your carryon goes in shared luggage until it weight limit then the rest gets mailed home.

The economy of this makes good sense but personally I would be too risk adverse to do it. One rifle case lost and you have no rifles there. Two rifle cases gives you twice the assurance of having a rifle to share between the two of you. It's the old "2 is 1 and 1 is none" philosophy.
 
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Apr 21, 2015
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I’m going to assume the walk-in is a cooler and not a freezer.
In most freezers it would take a day or more to freeze a bunch of meat.

Do you have a big freezer in LA to store the meat if you get it there?

Given your “situation” I recommend you locate a processor in the general area of your hunt that will process, freeze, and then ship the meat to you.
You could keep the back straps, hearts, tongues, ect… with you and haul them back as luggage. That way you have some to enjoy right when you get home.
 

MattB

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Sep 29, 2012
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Tickets are purchased. Costs are sunk. Worth considering next time.
I fly a lot for hunts but would absolutely drive for what you are doing. Reasonable one day drive each way and you eliminate the risk of lost bags coming and going. No brainer.

You can likely get credit to be used for future flights from your airline.
 
Joined
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Dallas
The economy of this makes good sense but personally I would be too risk adverse to do it. One rifle case lost and you have no rifles there. Two rifle cases gives you twice the assurance of having a rifle to share between the two of you. It's the old "2 is 1 and 1 is none" philosophy.
I put 2 rifles in my double rifle case just about every time I fly with a buddy for a hunt. Never once had a lost bag and it saves a lot of money on checked bags.
 

SDHNTR

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Extra baggage on your flight is much cheaper than shipping/freight costs. Take as much as you can in your carry-on bag too. I have a big ice mule backpack cooler. There’s been many a time where I’ve looked half dead stumbling through an airport with 80#+ of frozen meat in it.
 
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Apr 23, 2021
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Great option, but assuming each elk has about 170lbs of meat even boned out we will have around 350lbs of meat or 7 of those boxes. We will prob have a rifle case and duffle with our gear so that's 9 checked bags total between the 2 of us. That's going to be about $500 extra plus the boxes. I'm hoping for a better option.
If you just do the boned out quarters, backstraps, and tenders, you won't be yielding 170 pounds. Your outfitter can keep the neck, rib meat, etc. Like others have said, if you're Hell bent on flying, just pack it in HD freezer bags into your choice of duffel bags, boxes, or storage boxes.

It takes a few hours, but anyone that knows how to work a knife can field dress, cape, and process/debone an elk on their own. Ideally, your guide will have a stainless steel table and a hoist with a gambrel. And if time permits, a walk in cooler to freeze everything before flying is ideal.
 
Joined
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I flew home with a cow in November, there was no other option for me. Even with two free bags, it cost me about $650. I also had a full winter camp, gear, rifles, etc.
Fly with the totes as suggested by Realunlucky, you’ll likely get it back under $300. Read the airlines policies and figure out what is cheapest, fewer oversized bags or more in reg bags. Drive in the future, that’s a short drive.
 
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Apr 23, 2021
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Dallas
The more I think about it, the more it just makes sense to drive. Assuming it's not something Spirit or Frontier, you can likely take a cancellation penalty and have a future credit with the airline. You already said it'll be over $400 for a rental. You're looking at several hundred dollars in bag fees, as well. Assuming you have a truck or SUV (or even a hitch carrier), you can get everything in your own vehicle and be on your own timeline for getting home without the major PITA of having to check all of that meat (and all of your guns/gear).

14 hours is not short by any means, but certainly seems like the better option.
 
Joined
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My nephew and I drove from IL to AZ to hunt cow elk two falls ago. 22 plus hours of driving. I couldn't figure out a way to make it make sense to fly and rent a truck. I shot a cow and it nearly filled a small cube freezer and used my Honda generator on the way home to keep it frozen. I will drive the next time I get drawn as well.
 

GSPHUNTER

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Jun 30, 2020
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We shot two cow elk in Nov. We had a 14 hour drive home which we broke into two days. We boned them out and packed them in coolers full of ice and elk. first a wire rack to keep the meat off the bottom of the chest then layers of ice and meat until the coolers were full. We wet aged them like that for ten days, making sure coolers were tilted and drain open to drain any water and made sure meat was fully covered with ice for the entire ten days. Last year we let them wet age for 14 days before we took them to be processed. Works great. Two other guy were driving from NM to Iowa and packed their elk the same way for their trip home.
 
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