By Robert Hanneman, September 2013
Hunting season has finally arrived! In the last few issues of The Huntin’ Fool magazine the consultants have shared their gear lists and which new items made those lists. Huntin’ Fool members spend a lot of time and money researching and planning how to harvest trophy animals, but after your success are you prepared for proper care of the meat? I have had the opportunity to use just about all of the different types of game bags on the market (even homemade ones like pillow cases and old bedsheets sewn together!) This article is to inform you of the quality game bags available on the market today. I had the opportunity to review the top game bags available. No matter if your preference is cotton, canvas, or synthetic game bags, this article will help you find what you’re looking for.
Alaska Game Bags
In my opinion Alaska Game Bags are the king of the cotton and canvas game bags. They manufacture both Alaska game bags and Northern game bags that you will find on the shelves of most sporting goods stores. They have every type of cotton and canvas game bag you could ever need. If you can dream up a game bag, they can also custom build it for you. The Alaska Game Bags are form fitting, pre-rolled bags that come in a number of sizes to accommodate everything from antelope to moose. For $15 you can get a four pack of the smaller deer-sized bags that are 48" long, and for $30 you can get a four pack of the larger elk-sized bags that are 60" long. If you are looking for heavy duty bags, then I recommend buying the guide model. For the last 5 years I have mainly used the Alaska Game Bags guide model. I have found them to be very strong, and mine only needed to be replaced after being used 2-3 times. I would machine wash them, although I do not recommend washing any game bag in your wife’s washing machine while she is home, in bleach and laundry detergent, dry them in the dryer, and then reroll them for the next trip. I have never had any issues with the stitching tearing out of the bottom of the bag, even with hanging heavy bags for multiple days.
The Northern game bags are not pre-rolled. They are inexpensive and are available in the same size bags as the Alaska game bags. In my opinion, the Northern game bags are one-time-use bags, and I do not a recommend using them on a backpack hunt due to the lack of protection and durability.
The Transport bags are the best canvas bags available, in my opinion. At one time all I ever used for carrying my meat were these Transport canvas bags until I realized how heavy they were for backpacking and switched to a lighter style. I continue using the Transport bags to keep the meat clean during transporting. Anytime I am transporting meat on a four-wheeler or the back of a truck I put the meat, which is already in a lightweight game bag, into the Transport bag to further protect it from the dust on the roads. A few of the guys I know in Alaska will put their moose meat that is already in a game bag into these transport bags for protection, then drag it to and from the raft on float trips. The transport bags are available in the following sizes: 24"x30", 36"x48", 36"x72", and 50"x96". Most of these bags can be purchased for $15-$30. However, if you’re looking for a specific size, a custom bag can be built to fit your needs.
For someone who wants to use only cotton or canvas, I highly recommend Alaska Game Bags. If you are looking for a tough, reusable, rolled cotton game bag, then you cannot go wrong with their guide model bags.
Caribou Game Bags
Caribou Game Bags are constructed from a custom synthetic nylon blend of fabric that is extremely lightweight, breathable, stain resistant, washable, and durable. With that combination these bags should last you for a number of years. The first time I ever used Caribou Game Bags was on my wife’s high-country Mule deer hunt in Wyoming. We were hunting with friends who had just purchased Caribou Game Bags and wanted to try them out. My wife harvested a great buck a few miles from camp, and my friend, Lee, brought up a horse to pack the buck back to camp. We put half of the quartered-out buck into each game bag, then tied the bags together and put them over the saddle. I had my doubts about the bags holding up but was surprised to see they worked out fine. My brother is also a big fan of Caribou Game Bags. He purchased a small deer pack a few years back and has used those same bags on seven different animals and has been very impressed with the results.
One of the features that I really like is that no other game bag has a fluorescent orange reflective light attachment on the bags. This allows me to check the meat at night from a distance, which is a plus when you live in bear country like I do. Another thing I like is the lock loops on top of the game bags. For a guided hunter you can take the ID tag and zip-tie and label your meat and zip-tie the lock loops together to keep from having your meat switched or misplaced while in a large hunting camp.
For washing Caribou Game Bags they recommend soaking the bags in a bucket of cold water and dish soap for 30 minutes and then rinsing them. Continue this process until most debris is removed from the bag. Next put them in the washing machine with detergent and bleach. Finally, hang the bags until they are thoroughly dry before folding and storing them.
Caribou Game Bags can be purchased in any of the following packs or bags:
Large pack for moose and buffalo — $104.99. Package includes four 60"x28" quarter bags, one 48"x28" cape bag, one 60"x28" rib bag, one 30"x23" parts bag, one 20"x12" camp meat bag, and seven ID tags.
Medium pack for elk — $84.99. Package includes four 48"x28" quarter bags, one 30"x23" cape bag, one 30"x23" parts bag, one 20"x12" camp meat bag, and six ID tags.
Small pack for deer — $69.99. Package includes four 38"x21" quarter bags, one 24"x21" cape bag, one 30"x23" parts bag, one 20"x12" camp meat bag, and six ID tags.
Solo Hunter Carnivore II — $54.99. Package includes five 24"x21" meat bags, one 48"x48" plastic tarp, and five ID tags.
Full Carcass bags — Large for elk costs $47.99 and is 110"x46", Medium for Mule deer costs $37.99 and is 86"x40", Small for antelope and deer costs $31.99 and is 72"x32".
Single quarter game bags — Large for moose costs $16.99 and is 60"x28", Medium for elk costs $14.99 and is 48"x28", Small for deer costs $10.99 and is 38"x21".
Camp Meat Bag costs $7.99 and is 12"x21".
T.A.G. stands for Technologically Advanced Game Bags. These bags are made from a synthetic fabric called Game-Vent. It is a special nylon material that has been produced to provide proper ventilation, strength, durability, wick moisture away from meat, and dry quickly. T.A.G. bags come in three different pack sizes, each with their own stuff sack. New for 2013 is the BOMB pack, which stands for Boned Out Meat Bags. It comes with six bags and a stuff sack. You get four 14"x34" bags and two 14"x20" bags in the BOMB pack. This pack is all you would need to bone out an entire bull elk. The BOMB pack sells for $49. The next pack is for deer and elk sized game. This pack comes with five 24"x44" bags and a stuff sack for $65. The last pack is for moose sized animals and comes with six 28"x60" bags and a stuff sack for $79.
The following individual bags can be purchased: 28"x60" for $15, 24"x44" for $13.50, and 14"x20" for $3.
I am eager to try the T.A.G. bags out this year. T.A.G. bags were the lightest weight game bags in this review, and the stuff sack took up the least amount of space in my pack. For someone who is a fanatic about weight on a backpack hunt, T.A.G. bags would be a good choice. I will admit I was amazed at how strong and durable these lightweight bags were.
The recommended way to clean T.A.G. bags is to spray the stains with a spray and wash and then wash them in a washing machine with a small amount of bleach. One downside to these new synthetic nylon bags is that they are extremely heat sensitive, so keep them away from open flames.
Gote Gear Bags
Honestly I had never heard of Gote Gear game bags until this year. I learned of them from a good friend who has used them for years with great results, so I ordered a few for this review. I was immediately impressed when I noticed that the Gote Gear game bags are made right here in the U.S.A. Gote Gear makes three different size game bags, all in blaze orange. A whole animal bag is 72"x36" and costs $48, a quarter bag is 44"x32" and costs $24, and a bone-out bag is 29"x14" and costs $12. These highly durable game bags should last a hunter many successful hunts. I also like that they are machine washable. They are made out of a synthetic micro-mesh that will wick away moisture. The fabric is tightly woven and works well, keeping dirt and flies off your meat. They use quality stitching throughout the bag. The quality of the construction is evident when you load these game bags. It is obvious that they are built to handle the heaviest of loads.
These lightweight bags each come with a sewn-in webbing strap with buckle to hang the bag. I personally cut the webbing straps off my bags as I always carry parachute cord, which makes them more packable and lighter weight. Of all their bags, I liked the bone-out bag the best and plan to try them out on one of my backpack hunts this year. The only thing I wish Gote Gear would do is add a smaller quarter bag for deer-sized animals. I think a 38"x22" bag could be a perfect addition to what they already have on the market. After I get back from my backpack hunts this year I’ll know more about these bags and will let you know how they performed.
I ordered a bunch of all of these game bags for all the consultants in the office to use this year on their hunts. This season will have all of The Huntin’ Fool consultants using many different types of game bags from this review to find out which ones worked the best. Since none of these game bags are incredibly expensive, I’ve given you some basic information for you to choose which ones might work best for you. Give some a try this season and get a feel for yourself. You can look for our gear lists next year to see which game bags each of us liked the best and will be continuing to use. We all owe it to the animal to properly take care of the meat from the field to the freezer. One of the first steps in that process is using a quality game bag. Good luck this year! I hope this review helps you choose some game bags to use, and I hope you’ll be using your fair share of them this season!