"Planning ahead and preparing for success outdoors is a key part of achieving it," said Mark LaBarbera, a nationally known sportsman, conservationist and editor of 10 fish and game cookbooks who credits Glass with helping him understand the science behind "the silent secret." He said, "Hunters are the original 'loca-vores' who have been harvesting their own organic, high-protein, low cholesterol meals close to home long before it was trendy."
Whether your passion is turkey, deer, elk or other game and fish, if you treat it like you'll eat it, Glass said, you can overcome "the silent secret" and enjoy your best meals ever. He's talking about bacteria and other factors that quietly and negatively affect the taste of fish and game. It risks the flavor, pocketbook and safety for every hunter, yet the science and solution is a mystery to so many people who harvest their own meals.
"Follow a couple of basic guidelines and you will never have a problem with gamey tasting meat," Glass said, adding "Gamey tasting meat is the direct result of poor handling. Once the animal is down, deterioration starts immediately. Bacteria begin multiplying and the breakdown process is underway. The meat is actually starting to rot."
Fortunately this process can be controlled with sanitation and refrigeration, he said, adding "Clean it and get it cooled as soon as possible."
Maintaining proper temperature helps control the rate of bacterial growth and the natural breakdown process, he said, noting several factors affect this, including heat, moisture, bacteria and flies.
Heat and moisture create the perfect environment for bacterial growth. It allows pH levels to rise. Bacteria, protozoa, microorganisms, maggots, mold and mildew all require certain pH levels to survive. All of these living organisms continuously threaten the edible quality of our game meat after the harvest, he continued.
Start by controlling the heat. Keep game meat cool and dry by reducing the core temperature of the animal below 40°, we can control or at least slow the growth rate of bacteria. LaBarbera said, "My buddy old Doc McMillan does the best job I've ever seen at controlling the heat. He taught me how important it is to remove the animal's skin, hide, fur or feathers as soon as possible, while still following the law. Part of the pre-hunt prep is knowing the regulations about transporting game. Last season, Doc had his deer registered, skinned and boned before the other hunters were back in camp.
Part two of the solution to the silent secret is understanding and controlling moisture.
Glass said studies revealed that the breakdown of animal tissue is fostered when the pH level is 6.5- 8, but the decomposition slows drastically with a pH of 5.5 or lower. Blood has nearly the same pH as pure water (neutral pH 7-7.5). Moisture levels also determine the rate and level of bacterial growth, as water provides a perfect neutral pH environment for growing unwanted bacteria and microorganisms. Drain all fluids in the field. "Easier said than done," said LaBarbera. "Anyone who has wrestled with big bucks, thickets, downed timber and four legs that don't cooperate, knows that it's not always easy to completely drain the fluids. But it is an important part of the solution to tasty meat."
A third key to solving the silent secret is to control other contributing factors. For example, flies and other insects quickly locate a carcass in warm weather and deposit eggs onto exposed meat surfaces. Within 24 to 48 hours those eggs transform into maggot larvae, which quickly grow, feasting on your trophy.
LaBarbera said, "Even us old-timers found it interesting to learn that flies are sensitive to acidic pH levels. Steve suggested that they require pH levels of 6 or higher to survive."
According to Glass, the preferred range for blowflies is 6.5 to 8, but the higher the pH the better for them because they not only feed on meat but also on bacterial growth, and they thrive on the effects this growth has on decomposing flesh. Therefore, the cooler we can keep the meat, the more acidic (lower pH) the meat surface, the better prevention of flies and maggots.
Glass said the core temperature of a deer is 101° Fahrenheit. Usually the outside air temperature is less than that, so field dressing the animal immediately exposes it to the outside air, which in turn, will allow it to cool down.
Glass said, "If it's warm outside, you might as well ring the dinner bell because everything has access to it now. At 32°F it takes 20 hours for bacteria to double. At 40° it takes six hours and at 60° it takes only two hours. You can see where this is heading. At 70° it takes one hour, and at 90° every 30 minutes the bacteria on your game meat will double."
To put this in perspective, one bacterium kept at 98.6°F, if left for only six hours in an enclosed environment, can multiply into 131,072 bacteria.
"That's incredible! Yet people still continue to treat the animal like it's an old piece of luggage," said Glass, "throwing it in the back of the truck or on a trailer and leaving it exposed to the outside elements for hours, if not days."
He admits that the growth of bacteria at lower temperatures can be a good thing. "It's called aging," he said, "But would you eat a steak if it were hung in a cooler for three days at 35°F? You bet! And it would be great. However, would you eat meat if it were hung outside in 60°, 70° or even 80° weather? Not a chance!
It's the hunter's responsibility to provide the best quality care for the animals they harvest each and every time. It makes no difference if you're 5 miles or 500 miles from home."
Glass also came up with another solution.
He invented the Trophy Bag Kooler™, and recently expanded the models for 2012 to help turkey hunters and others.
All of the models are industrial strength portable storage units that protect against the silent secret. The patented technology was scientifically developed and hunter tested on big game and other animals, keeping them cool and clean while being transported.
One of the side-benefits that came to light during the testing by a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation was that the ComboKooler™ models also could be used to keep banquet food hot," he said, "which was better than the traditional plastic coolers they tried and melted. Our Trophy Bag Koolers can be used year-round to keep cold food and drinks cold and hot meals hot. And they have a huge capacity, yet fit in the back seat, bed or trunk."
The ComboKooler™ was added in 54 and 105 quart sizes to accommodate turkeys, quarters, and other meat, completely sealing them in hi-tech layers. All models are available in tan and blaze orange.
Key features, Glass said, are the thermal radiant barrier energy shield technology along with anti-microbial properties, plus water-resistant 600D polyester outer shell designed to last for years. He said the large Trophy Bag Kooler™ has dual-purpose antler flaps and drawstring leg holes with slide locks to help eliminate flies.
The Trophy Bag Kooler™ can maintain temperatures of 36° or even colder. With any cooler, he recommends using his KoolerGel™ or double-bagging ice to help keep moisture to a minimum and slow the growth of bacteria.
Having the animal stay cool will also insure that it will be ready for taxidermy by preventing slippage of hair on the hide. If you skin the trophy as quickly as Doc McMillan, you can keep the hide cool in one of the ComboKoolers. The Trophy Bag Kooler™ is made in the USA in Oklahoma. Suggested retail price for the Trophy Bag Kooler™ ranges from $169.95 to $209.95, and for the ComboKooler™, $149.90. Don't spoil your hunt. For more information, visit www.trophybagkooler.com.