How to Make a Deer Cooler With an Air Conditioner

by Jeremy Hoefs
Making your own walk-in deer cooler can preserve the quality of the venison for jerky, sausage, burger and steaks.

Making your own walk-in deer cooler can preserve the quality of the venison for jerky, sausage, burger and steaks.

Venison can be delicious table fare, but it takes a detailed approach to maintain the quality of the meat during the butchering process. After a successful hunting trip, many hunters leave their deer hanging outside in variable temperatures and conditions that can cause bacterial growth. This can spoil the meat. Making a cooler to store deer carcasses using a standard room air conditioner, however, can eliminate that problem by creating a controlled environment with temperatures under 40 degrees. The process involves converting an outdoor storage shed using a few basic tools and supplies.

Measure the dimensions of the shed that will be converted into a cooler. This will determine the ideal size of the air conditioner needed to adequately cool the area. For example, a 10,000 Btu air conditioner is needed for a 48-square foot cooler, 15,000 Btu unit should be used for an 80-square foot cooler and a 25,000 Btu unit is appropriate for a 140-square foot cooler.

Cut a hole in the side of the shed or structure that is large enough for the air conditioner.

Insert the air conditioning unit into the hole and ensure a tight fit. Make ceratin the weight of the unit is adequately supported. Insert a foam sealant or other insulation material around the air conditioner to seal any gaps.

Install insulation material, like strips of foam rubber, on the walls, floor and ceiling. The key to keeping the deer cooler at an adequate temperature is suitable insulation that has been properly installed. This will prevent the cool air from escaping through cracks and other openings.

Place hooks, gambrels or rail systems on the ceiling. Install enough hooks to hang the number of deer harvested per hunting season. Adding shelves or other storage can keep additional gambrels or equipment organized during the off-season.

Install a lock on the door. This will help prevent people or animals from accessing the deer cooler.

Hang a thermometer in the middle of the cooler to monitor the conditions inside. Ideal temperature should be between 32 and 40 degrees to prevent bacteria from spoiling the deer meat.

Turn on the air conditioner unit and set it to coldest setting.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure
  • Saw
  • Air conditioner
  • Insulation
  • Hooks and gambrels
  • Lock
  • Thermometer

Tips

  • Field dress the deer immediately after the harvest to remove the internal organs.This will slow decomposition and reduce the weight of the carcass, making it easier to transport.
  • Skin the deer carcass before placing in the shed to keep any hair from getting into the meat.
  • Allow the deer to hang for one week before starting the butchering process.
  • Use the deer cooler for other purposes such as a wine cooler, food and beverage cooler or additional storage during the off-season.
  • Use the gambrels and hooks to hang the deer by the hind legs with the head down.

Warnings

  • Hire a licensed electrician for any specialized wiring required for making your deer cooler.
  • Make certain the side of structure is solid enough to accommodate the weight of the air conditioner before attempting to install it
  • Consult your local and state game regulations for information on deer hunting laws and processing regulations.

About the Author

Based in Nebraska, Jeremy Hoefs began writing fitness, nutrition, outdoor and hunting articles in 2006. His articles have been published in "Star City Sports," "Hunting Fitness Magazine" and RutWear field journals, as well as on the Western Whitetail website. Hoefs graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Photo Credits

  • whitetail buck headshot. image by Bruce MacQueen from Fotolia.com