UACES Facebook Deer-Camp Food Safety Important to Keep You Hunting
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Deer-Camp Food Safety Important to Keep You Hunting

skillet over open fire
Choose foods that need little or no preparation to reduce your chances of improper handling.


Hunting season is here! I have already started seeing pictures of game that has been harvested. Hunting trips let you connect with friends and family, give you a chance to take a break from work, and let you spend time outdoors with nature. Making sure that your deer camp practices food safety is important so that you can keep hunting.

Most of the same rules for food safety apply as they would in your home, but deer camp can create some challenges. The last thing you want is everyone sick because food borne illness struck the deer camp and there is only one bathroom.

The following tips can help you stay food safe while at deer camp, whether it is in a cabin, camper, or tent.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Most hot food eaten in the outdoors is cooked on a camp stove or open fire but that doesn’t mean you’re not in danger. Food cooked at camp needs to be consumed or stored in a cooler or refrigerator within two hours of being cooked. Cold foods also need special attention and need to be kept at 40 degrees or lower. Food should never be left out at room temperatures for more than 2 hours.

Use thermometers.

I am vigilant when it comes to using a thermometer to take the temperature of foods. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of cooked food before serving. There are cooking requirement for specific types of foods: Ground meats should be cooked to 155 degrees; poultry 165 degrees; steaks, chops & seafood 145 degrees, all other foods 135 degrees. Cooking on a camp stove or open fire can lead to uneven heating or charring. This can give you the false sense that something is done when it might be raw inside, so your thermometer is one line of defense against food borne illness. Temp your foods in the thickest part of the meat.

A refrigerator thermometer in your ice chest if you do not have a refrigerator will assure that those foods stay out of the temperature danger zone of 40-140 degrees. Keep it near the top/lid. This will be the warmest place. Your cooler should be 40 degrees or lower. Change ice often and drain excess water to help maintain this temperature.

Keep everything clean.

Deer camp is not time to forgo cleanliness. While the idea of being one with nature and getting your hands dirty, is enticing. That dirt could potentially make you sick. No matter what, always wash your hands before preparing or eating food. If there’s no running water available, plan to make your own portable hand washing station. It doesn’t have to be elaborate it just needs clean water, soap, paper towels, a bucket to catch the dirty water and a small trash bag.

Items used for cooking and eating also needs to be clean, including the cooler. It’s hard to beat eggs, bacon or sausage and biscuits, cooked at camp, right? Letting the cooking dishes sit until later invites pathogens. Instead, clean up after the meal: wash the dishes, let them airdry and be ready to go for the next meal. Never wash dishes in pure lake/river water. Natural water can be used but needs to be boiled or otherwise be ridded of pathogens (iodine tablets, filtered, bleach treated, etc.) before using on food contact surfaces. Also, avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and ready to eat foods separate.

Never drink from streams, lakes, or rivers.

No matter how clean the water looks, it could contain bacteria or parasites that can make you sick. These organisms can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted. Always filter, boil, or otherwise treat drinking water if you’re sourcing it from nature.

Choose foods that need little or no preparation.

This will reduce your chances of improper handling. Having steak, campfire chili or venison stew sounds wonderful, but can cause more problems than its worth if you do not follow food safety protocols. Canned or pre-packaged products can make life easier and safer around camp.

For more food safety information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609.

Here is a great Southwest Stew recipe made in a Dutch oven. Use ground venison or beef. Whichever you prefer.

Southwest Stew Dutch Oven Style

Dutch Oven Size: 12”

Heat: Top: 19-21 Bottom: 6-7

  • 2 pounds ground beef or venison
  • 1 1/2-cups onion, diced
  • 1-can tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-can corn, drained
  • 1-cup picante sauce
  • 3/4-cup water
  • 1-teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2-teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2-teaspoon black pepper
  1. In Dutch oven, brown beef, and onions, drain excess fat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.
  5. Serve with crackers or cornbread.

Serves 6-8

Is it safe to consume venison from areas with chronic wasting disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a disease that affects the nervous system of infected animals. There is currently little evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans. While some researchers have expressed concerns that exposure to CWD-positive deer and elk will increase the prevalence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans, this has not occurred in regions where CWD is considered endemic in deer. There is also no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep or goats.

Due to concerns about the development and evolution of zoonotic diseases, human exposure to animals potentially infected with any disease should be minimized.

Those processing and handling meat from animals killed in areas where CWD is present should limit exposure using the health and safety precautions outlined below:

  • Do not harvest animals exhibiting clinical signs of CWD or any other disease.

  • When processing harvested game, hunters should wear gloves and eye protection and  should avoid contact with tissues of the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord.

  • Do not consume brain or organ meats, especially lymph nodes from the head.

  • Bone out the meat carefully minimizing contact with the brain and spinal cord, as they constitute the bulk of the nervous system where PrPCWD accumulate.

  • Soak knives and other processing implements in a 40 percent household bleach solution (1/2 cup of bleach in 3/4 cup of water) for one hour. Be aware that bleach will degrade metal surfaces.

  • Given the limited health risks to humans, cleaning hands and arms with hot, soapy water is sufficient.

  • Using a clean cloth, wipe down processing surfaces with bleach solution followed by hot, soapy water. 

Read more about CWD in Deer

For information on regulations and testing options for CWD visit the AR Game and Fish webpage.


Have a safe and productive hunt and keep yourself, family, and friends safe! For more information, contact your local county Extension office.


By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Miller County Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609