Cow or Calf?

RICMIC

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Feb 21, 2012
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Two Harbors, Minnesota
I am looking for some input from those of you who have shot both cow and calf elk. How do they compare as far as the quality of the meat? The reason that I am asking is that I have a late season type 6 tag in WY that is pretty much a slam dunk as I can access the public land where the herd winters through a friend's ranch, and I already have a bull elk filling my freezer. Our MN deer season was the pits, so I do have plenty of guys who would appreciate the meat if I took a cow, but if a calf is really much, much better eating, then is that a better option??
I fixed a sirloin tip roast from my mature bull at the deer camp this year, and everyone said it was the best roast of any kind that they had had. I've also never had a bad deer, of any age. I think that much of how your meat turns out is tied to the field care and the preparation for the table. The bull was shot in ideal conditions for aging, and was "dry cooled" for 9 days before it was frozen, but that won't be an option for me in Mid-January....it will be shoot it, cut it, package it, freeze it (outdoors).
It does offend my sensibilities some to shoot a young animal though, so I may have to get past that.
 

wy-tex

Very Active Member
May 2, 2016
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SE Wyoming
A nice fat cow. A calf will be about as much as a big deer. Don't shoot the lead cow , she may be the oldest one in the herd.
Good luck !!
 

JimP

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Mar 28, 2016
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If you don't need the meat I would go with a calf. I know quite a few hunters that put in for cow tags just for the chance to shoot a nice young one or even a yearling.
 

go_deep

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Nov 30, 2014
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Wyoming
I've never ate a piece of elk that has tasted bad. If you got room in the freezer, fill it with the biggest cow you can find.
 

ScottR

Eastmans' Staff / Moderator
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Go for a young cow....

Once a cow has been through the rigors of child birth multiple times her body will be more beat up. The young ones tend to eat a little better on things like pot roasts etc. However, I have never eaten a bad elk...
 

RICMIC

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Feb 21, 2012
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Dry cow. The dry ones have a darker coat than the rest of the cows.
I can ID the lead cow when they are on the move, but I will likely try to sneak up on them in their bed, so I will have to see about the "darker coat". The herd likes to lay part way up the mt., and it is possible to make a long shot right from the ranch, but I would prefer to do a sneak up an avalanche chute to get above them. Unless I was lucky and it slid all the way down after the shot, I'd have to make the climb anyway.
 

kidoggy

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Apr 23, 2016
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I would shoot a cow over a calf. more meat, trumps, better meat.
plus I doubt you will notice a difference anyhow!

never shot a cow that didn't taste great.I did once get a bull that was tough as eating a leather boot. tasted ok but it was sure tough to chew. don't know but figured maybe he got beaten up in the rut. judging by the broken tines ,he was a scrapper.
ended up grinding and jerking most of it
 
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JimP

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The worst eating elk I ever shot was a young cow and one of the best was a 7 year old bull. You just never know until it gets onto a plate how it is going to be.


My last elk which was 12+ years old is like chewing on a boot. That is until I grind the meat up for jerky.
 

Hilltop

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Feb 25, 2014
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Eastern Nebraska
I have had one really tough cow out of approximately 20 taken through the years. She was the lead cow that my wife shot 3 years ago. My big bull was tremendously better than that lead cow taken in the same area 3 days apart. A smaller to medium sized cow should be a safe bet. I have eaten calf a couple of times and they are good but not much different than most of the younger cows I have taken.
 

RICMIC

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Feb 21, 2012
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Two Harbors, Minnesota
whichever one gives you the eaiset pack out.
The easiest packout would be a clean miss, but I try to avoid doing that. For some reason, cow elk have been a protected species for me, as I have missed 6 shots at 3 different cows, and hit 9 shots at 4 different bulls. The cows were all in the early stage of my western hunting career, so hopefully I am fully trained at this point.
 

kidoggy

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lol. sounds like someone needs more time at the shooting range.

or is it a case of the shakes?
 

Ikeepitcold

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Feb 22, 2011
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Elk is some great eating. I have meat from a young bull and plan on cooking up a lot of it for Thanksgiving. We do a big game feed and a small turkey. By the time everyone destroys the game meat not many are hungry for turkey
 

Winchester

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Mar 27, 2014
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The easiest packout would be a clean miss, but I try to avoid doing that. For some reason, cow elk have been a protected species for me, as I have missed 6 shots at 3 different cows, and hit 9 shots at 4 different bulls. The cows were all in the early stage of my western hunting career, so hopefully I am fully trained at this point.
Yep, sounds like you are good to go now!
For me, I think any elk tastes great so I'd probably shoot at which ever one presents the best (safest/easiest) shot.
 

ScottR

Eastmans' Staff / Moderator
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Yep, sounds like you are good to go now!
For me, I think any elk tastes great so I'd probably shoot at which ever one presents the best (safest/easiest) shot.
It's funny how that works...

I don't believe that you are alone in your experience.
 

RICMIC

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Feb 21, 2012
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Two Harbors, Minnesota
lol. sounds like someone needs more time at the shooting range.

or is it a case of the shakes?
After 6 years in the Marine Corps, and 30 years as a cop, including the experience of being shot at with ill intent; I have never had the shakes or buck fever. In the case of the cows, it was either a quick off-hand shot, or a rifle that didn't hold its zero. The rifle took some work, but is now a dinger, and I have learned to take the time I need to set up the shot, even if it means that the shot isn't taken. As for the bulls, all were DOA shots, but I keep on shooting as long as they are still standing.
 

kidoggy

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no offense meant RICMIC. just having some fun at your expense.

it could be ,I may have missed a shot or two in my day also.least that's the sort of "stories" my hunting buds tell.:rolleyes:
 

B&C Blacktails

Active Member
Mar 1, 2015
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Since it's a late season tag the cows are most likely bred already and could be on the lean side, seeing how all of their energy is going to growing the fetus. I have taken a calf before and was the best 120 pounds of meat I've ever chewed!

Like some have said, bulls and cows of all ages are great table fair if processed properly, eat just great but they can't compare to a yearling elk.