A couple of modified saucer sleds and two sizes of meat bags. I like to have at least six large bags and two or three smaller bags per elk. I use smaller bags for the tenderloin and back straps.
Modified Saucer Sleds filled with Dallen's 2010 boned out cow elk ready to be hauled off the mountain.
As a youth hunting in the mountains of Utah, we would always gut our mule deer then drag the deer back to the road or hike out and get my father's homemade single-wheeled elk and deer cart. Dragging the deer was a horrible ordeal if you had to go very far and the fur and hide would wear right off the deer.
As I got older and started hunting crazier areas hauling entire deer out by dragging or my father's big game cart were just out of the question. At that point I started looking into big game bags and boning out my deer and elk. Since I started boning out mule deer and elk I haven't turned back. It takes a few hours to bone out a deer or elk but it is much easier to get them off the mountain.
Here is a five-point bull I took in September archery hunting. I have placed the boned out meat in my homemade heavy-duty canvas big game meat bags. I hung the meat in the shade of some quakes to cool the meat down in preparation to haul it out the next morning.
At the time I started looking for some commercial big game bags and wasn't happy with the selection available. I then decided to make some myself. I chose some heavy canvas material to make the big game bags from. I like the canvas because it is strong, durable and breathable. A concern I have with canvas is that it can mold easily if it remains wet and can't dry, like could happen if the bags and meat get rained on and remain wet for hours.
I also like the heavy-duty canvas big game bags because when my pack is full carrying as much as I can on my back, I can also carry one or two canvas bags in my hands and with the material being so rugged I don't have to worry about tearing the bags up going through brush etc getting off the mountain.
To make the bags I use canvas material and strong nylon thread. My large bags are about 16 inches wide by 18 inches tall and my small bags as about 11 inches wide by 13 inches tall. I double stitch the bags inside out to start then double stitch them again from the outside.
Each large bag holds roughly 40 pounds of meat when full and my smaller bags will get about 20 pounds in them when full.
I have used the bags many, many times over the years and have never had any trouble with them not being tough enough or ever had any meat spoil.
In 2011 at the Western Hunting Conservation Expo I found some new big game bags that I might have to try on some future hunts.
April 2012: The have been testing some different commercial game bags. One game bag I tried was HideAway's Boned-Out Meat Bags. These game bags are made of cotton canvas and are well constructed. The only problem I could find with them is that they are HUGE. At 20 x 30 inches in size they are just way too large, unless you only fill them about one third full.
I like meat bags that hold no more than around 35 pounds of boned out meat in a single bag. Game bags at sizes that hold no more than 35 lbs of meat are much easier for me to work with. This makes it much easier to hang the meat in a tree and load in a backpack. It is really hard to work with loading a backpack with large portions of the weight in any single bag.
Caribou Gear's Camp Meat game bag. This is my personal favorite of commercially made game bags for hauling meat out on my backpack.
The other game bags I have been testing out are some of Caribou Gear's big game bags. They are made of a special lightweight, breathable, synthetic material designed to be light, tough and help keep your meat from spoiling. I tried two different sizes of the bags, a "small" version and the Camp Meat size. The Camp Meat game bag is 12 x 20 inches in size making it a nice manageable size to work with boned out meat. These game bags should hold around 30 pounds of meat when full. I ordered the Camp Meat bags after I purchased the "small" deer game bag at Sportsman's Warehouse. Caribou Gear's bag that they market for boned out meat is the Carnivore meat bag at 24 x 21 inches... still a little too large for my liking.
The small size Caribou Gear game bag was all that Sportsman's Warehouse carried. After I opened the package and saw how large the bag was I realized "small" was not the small I was thinking of. This bag is 21 x 38 inches in size, again just way too large for boned out meat, but great for quarters of a mule deer or even a front shoulder of an elk. After further review of the packaging on this bag it states that it is for quartered out deer whereas the HideAway bag states that they are for "boned out meat."
From what I have seen on the market and what I have tried, the commercial boned out meat bags of my choice would be Caribou Gear's Camp Meat game bags.