Being the hunting and outdoors enthusiast that I am, I have came to realize that I have an obsession with trying the latest and greatest products that become available each year. Some of these products may be to help draw an animal in to close range such as a new grunt call, or it may be a new scent product that big bucks just can’t seem to resist. There is also the new gear that is designed to make the harvest of the animal an easier task, such as a new rifle or newly designed ammunition. One can’t forget about the latest designs in optics allowing for the hunter to see an animal at a longer distance, while at the same time make it easier to make a successful shot. Whatever the product or scenario, I guess you could say that I am a sucker when it comes to wanting to try it out and see if it really does give me the edge to become more successful.

During this past couple of years, I have taken this obsession of testing new gear to a different level with an essential piece of gear, designed to make before and after the hunt more enjoyable. It wasn’t until I tried it out for myself that I truly realized how much of an impact it could create on making the hunt a more enjoyable experience. That specific piece of gear that I am referring to is a high quality cooler.

In years past I have used coolers, however, I wouldn’t say I so called “got my money’s worth”. I would only ever use a cooler on one of two occasions, when I was camping or in the summertime when it was hot outside. This is probably the reason I also had the mind set that one would have to be crazy to buy a “high dollar” cooler just to keep a few drinks cold, I would often state that “I don’t use a cooler that much to justify buying a higher quality one”. With the gaining popularity of coolers recently, I finally gave in and decided to see what the hype was all about. Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, it is not hype. I found that there is truth in the saying of “you get what you pay for”. I recently obtained an 85 can, large cooler from Cordova Outdoors and decided to use it throughout the fall while bowhunting whitetails, and to continue using it throughout the firearms portion of the season. I never realized how much I would use one until I experienced the benefits of the Cordova cooler myself.

This particular cooler is a hard, rugged cooler that seems to withstand a lot of abuse. It has strong metal handles on the side that can withstand being banged around in the back of my truck all season, along with all my other hunting gear, plus the handles make it a breeze to load and unload when at hunting camp. When it comes to using the cooler before and after the hunt to make the hunt more enjoyable, this is where the Cordova shines. Before the hunt, I have loaded the cooler with at least a week’s worth of sport drinks, water and a few sodas along with having kept a few snacks on the ice as well. Chilling foods, such as a rolls of venison sausage and lunch meat for sandwiches, was a breeze. I never realized how convenient it would be to have easy access to those items. Allowing for me to grab lunch and a drink without having to get more ice throughout the week of hunting was great. Having food and drink at easy access also allowed for me to get back into the stand faster, giving me more time to actually hunt. Three bags of ice the night before season began lasted me 6 days without having to get more, which in turn saves money and time.

After the hunt, I have found that the Cordova cooler worked great when processing all of the meat from our harvest. I was able to quarter up the deer, then store it safely in the cooler with ice water. I have always liked to let the meat soak for a couple of days in ice water with salt added to it. This draws out all of the blood that is in the meat itself before actually cutting it up and packaging it for the freezer. In my opinion, by soaking meat in iced salt water, it helps to remove the gamey taste, providing a better tasting meat when cooking. Before I was introduced to the Cordova cooler, I always soaked meat in bowls of water in the refrigerator, and was tasked with changing the water 2 to 3 times a day or in a regular cooler in which I would have to add ice to 2 to 3 different times throughout a 2 day period. With the large Cordova cooler, I was able to put all of the meat in one cooler with ice water, and leave it for 48 hours without having to add ice or water. This resulted in less time spent preparing the meat to freeze and will allow for a less gamey taste when ready to cook.

Try this recipe the next time you’re preparing wild venison. First, cut venison into small steaks approximately a ½” thick, and 3” X 3” in size. Next, take a red onion cut into small 1 ½” X 1 ½” pieces. Place 1 piece of onion onto 1 piece of venison, sprinkle a small amount of Lawry’s seasoning or favorite desired seasoning. Proceed to wrap with 1 piece of bacon held together with 2 toothpicks. Place on an electric, wood pellet, or wood smoker. Smoke at 220 degrees for about 2 hours or until bacon looks completely cooked on the outside.  The bite size pieces are mouth watering with an unbelievable taste.

After this past fall, I know that i will always carry my Cordova cooler with me while on hunting trips, fishing trips, camping trips and even as I have caught myself doing lately carrying it in the back of my truck throughout a regular work week. Having access to a cold drink or quick snack is very convenient. This high quality cooler has also found a home when I am processing wild game such as deer, elk, turkey, or upland birds. Having a quality cooler keeps the game fresh, safe, and as mentioned before makes for a better tasting game when having the luxury of soaking in a bath of ice water. It is amazing what I have been missing out on by using alternative routes, when in reality a high quality cooler is something that every outdoorsman should have.

Heath Wood has been published in many major hunting magazines, websites, and blogs for over the last 15 years. His favorite topics include deer, turkey, and predator hunting. Wood has also appeared on Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World TV, Hunters Specialties' The Stuff of Legends and the popular DVD series Cuttin' and Struttin', as well as the NWTF's Turkey Call TV. Heath enjoys helping introduce newcomers to hunting.

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