Citric acid spray should find its way into the kill kit of every big game hunter. When it comes to bringing home the highest quality wild game meat – especially during the early season hunts – don’t forget this small item. It’s easy to overlook, but absolutely irreplaceable.
As we build our kill kit for the big game seasons, we immediately think of game bags, knives and other essentials. However, how often do you remember to pack a citric acid spray? Have you ever used it? Here are a few reasons you should…
1. It’s Naturally Anti-Microbial
Citric acid is naturally antimicrobial and kills bacteria.
Harvesting an animal outdoors is by its very nature an uncontrolled environment. Sun, heat, moisture, dirt and debris are all factors that we have to deal with. Every time we have an animal on the ground, it’s a race against the clock to move that animal into a cool and controlled environment as quickly as possible.
The more we can limit contaminants, the better. That’s why it’s critical to keep hair and dirt off the meat, placing it in high quality breathable game bags where it’s protected and allowing air circulation.
Like a game bag guarding that meat, citric acid spray provides an extra layer of protection. Food-grade citric acid spray kills bacteria and limits further bacterial growth. These properties are naturally occurring and food-grade citric acid will not affect the flavor of the meat.
2. It Repels Insects
The next major reason to use a citric acid spray is because it provides a natural insect repellent. On those early season hunts when flies and yellow jackets are abundant, a protective layer of citric acid will help keep pests off the meat.
Just like dirt and hair, insects can contaminate meat and cause accelerated bacterial growth. Not only does citric acid spray help battle bacteria, it also helps keep insects away. By spraying the meat with citric acid and then protecting it in game bags, you’re taking extra steps to keep meat safe.
3. Keeps Meat Safer, Longer
The major benefit to this anti-insect and anti-microbial treatment is that it buys you more time in the field. This is critical on early season hunts or anytime you’re dealing with warm weather. Even on some of our November hunts here in Colorado, warm daytime temperatures can put meat at risk.
We recommend applying a citric acid spray anytime you’re dealing with bugs, warm weather or both. It won’t affect the taste of your meat and you won’t notice the extra weight in your kill kit. In fact, our citric acid spray kit weighs only 2.9 ounces. That includes an applicator bottle and enough citric acid powder to make 2 quarts.
As soon as you have an animal on the ground, that clock is ticking. Keep bugs off, stop bacterial growth and give yourself more time to safely transport that meat by applying a citric acid spray.
How to Use Citric Acid Spray
Citric acid spray can be applied either at the kill site or at camp.
During periods of hot weather or when flies and yellow jackets are most abundant, application at the kill site can be beneficial. Before you begin field dressing the animal fill the applicator bottle with citric acid powder up to the fill line, and then add drinking water. Shake the bottle until the powder is dissolved. Also before you begin field dressing, get out your game bags to have them ready.
As soon as one quarter is skinned and removed from the animal, spray it with the citric acid. It can be helpful to place the quarter on a tarp to keep it clean while you do this. Then, immediately put the quarter into a game bag. Repeat the process with each quarter and with the loose meat like backstraps.
When applying citric acid back at camp, follow the same process to fill the applicator bottle. In the evening when the temperature cools and when flies have disappeared for the night, remove the game bags from each quarter. Spray the meat with citric acid and let it dry overnight. This is also the best time to clean your game bags and hang them to dry overnight. Then in the morning before the flies reappear, put the clean, dry game bags back over the meat.
Caribou Gear game bags are easy to clean in the field with just a few drops of dish soap and cold water. For instructions, see this blog post and video. For more tips on warm weather meat care, see our previous article on that subject here.
Contact Us With Questions
If you have questions or need help before your next big game hunt, please ask us! We’d love to help you be prepared. Click here for all of our contact information.
By Ryan McSparran
Ryan is an outdoor writer based in Colorado, and is proud to be a part of the team at Caribou Gear.