With a hunter’s successful harvest comes the need to adequately store meat.
This storage must be done at a suitable temperature. This has led many hunters throughout the years to question how to build a walk-in cooler for deer.
Luckily, we have just the information you are looking for.
Why A Walk In Cooler?
If you have ever been present at a deer camp that featured a walk-in cooler, you have likely been blown away by how convenient this was.
Here are its benefits:
Cool Your Meat Faster
Walk-in coolers are of benefit to a hunter in several ways. One such benefit is that they allow you to cool your game meat faster.
The faster that you cool your game meat, the better the quality of your end product.
This also reduces the risk of meat spoilage.
Age The Meat
Another advantage of a homemade walk-in cooler is that you can hang your deer to age the meat for better quality.
For years, it has been tradition to hang a field-dressed deer for 2-3 days in cool temperatures.
In years past, this has typically been accomplished by hanging deer outside in the cool outside air.
However, in southern states, this is of little possibility due to unsuitable temperatures.
The presence of a walk-in cooler solves this issue by providing year-round, well-regulated temperatures for reliable hanging.
Schedule At a Later Time
Additionally, they reduce the urgency to completely quarter a deer immediately.
You can simply field dress a deer and hang it in a walk-in cooler for processing at a later time if your current schedule does not comply, or you simply do not feel up to the task.
How to Build a Walk-in Cooler for Deer (DIY):
The process of building a do-it-yourself walk-in cooler is not necessarily difficult.
However, several steps should be adhered to in order to ensure that your unit cools efficiently.
1. Select Your Cooler’s Location
Before building your walk-in cooler, you must choose where it is to be located.
This needs to be a site that is within close proximity of an electrical source.
This minimizes the effort required when securing power for your unit.
It is also wise to choose a location that is of level footing.
2. Choose Your Unit’s Shell
You must now select a structure in which your cooler is to be housed. The option of framing and building a structure from scratch is a possibility.
However, the consensus among builders of do-it-yourself coolers is that this is simply not cost-effective, nor efficient.
Instead, the most feasible route to take is purchasing a multi-use outbuilding. These are available at nearly any hardware or farm supply store.
These units come pre-fabricated and are the perfect working shell for your cooler.
3. Measure Interior of Structure
Now that you have a structure selected to house your cooler, measurements must be taken.
Measure all interior walls in length and height, as well as overall width and length of the structure.
Write these numbers down and keep them with you, as they will be used when purchasing supplies.
4. Gather Supplies For Your Build
It is now time to purchase all the needed supplies.
It is important to wait until a decision as to the building in which your cooler will be housed has been made.
This is because the size of this structure directly affects the number of supplies that are to be purchased.
5. Gather Tools
You will now need to gather a select number of tools to complete your project.
1. Measure Opening For A/C Unit
You will begin by installing your window A/C unit that will be used for temperature control of your cooler.
This is done by measuring the dimensions of the A/C unit that is to be used.
You will then add a half-inch to these measurements for clearance, and mark the resulting outline on the wall of your structure in the desired location.
2. Cut Opening For A/C Unit
Next, you will cut along the previously made markings to create an opening for your A/C unit to be placed.
This is best accomplished with the use of a jigsaw.
If you prefer, an angle grinder with the use of the proper cutting disk can be used to cut through any exterior metal.
3. Brace Your Opening
You will now gently lift your A/C unit into place, test fitting it into the newly provided opening.
If the fit is satisfactory, you will then reinforce this opening structurally.
To do so, you will take your 6 ft. 2x4s and cut them to length to encompass your newly made opening.
Both the top and bottom boards will be cut to length to run from the two closest framing uprights on each side of the opening, and then secured via screws with the help of your drill and driver bit.
The remaining segments of these boards will be used to brace vertically between the top and bottom boards.
They will run to each side of the opening and be secured on each end to the boards above and below with screws.
4. Install Your A/C Unit And CoolBot
Your A/C unit can be installed and fitted within the opening that you just created.
Adjust this unit for a secure fit. You must now place your CoolBot controller within your structure and plug it up to the A/C unit per instructions.
This controller overrides the A/C unit's temperature controls, allowing you to achieve sufficient temperatures for cooling meat.
You must also route any wiring as desired, drilling a hole through the structure's exterior if necessary.
5. Seal Any Openings
To retain maximum refrigerant capabilities, you will now need to seal any opening where cold air could escape.
This is accomplished by using cans of spray foam insulation.
Areas of concern include gaps around the A/C unit, holes drilled for power supply wiring, and structural gaps around roof joints.
You will also need to seal your doorway by applying stick-on rubber weather stripping around its circumference.
6. Apply Insulation Board
To complete the insulation of your structure, you will need to apply insulating fiberboard to the entire interior wall space.
Use your previously taken measurements to determine the size at which the fiberboards are to be cut, making sure that no portion of the wall goes uncovered.
Before installing these boards, test fit all pieces to ensure an adequate fit.
After you are satisfied that all material has been cut the proper size, secure the fiberboards to the entire interior of your structure using construction grade adhesive and a caulking gun.
7. Add Additional Framing As Desired
If the rafters of your structure are not adequate to support the weight of a game animal, you can install reinforcements as desired.
This can be done with the help of additional 2x4 material and framing screws.
The process for this procedure is case-specific and varies greatly depending on the framing of your particular structure.
If in doubt, contact an individual with contracting experience for case-specific assistance.
Built For Success:
If you have ever wondered how to build a walk-in cooler for deer, apply these simple steps and make your dream a reality.
As you hang your first game animal within, you will be satisfied with a job well done.
Feel free to comment, or ask any questions you might have.
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