If you’re planning your first or next deer hunt then a common question that gets asked is “What sizes cooler do I need for Deer?”
You don’t want your meat to spoil after a successful hunt and having the right sized cooler to fit all of your venison in is important. So what size cooler should you get?
For bone in deer you will need a minimum of a 65-Quart cooler which should fit a full bone in deer plus a couple of bags of ice. 55-Quart is too small to fit your deer + ice. It is also recommended that you bring a second smaller cooler for any extras you may have left over that don’t fit in your main cooler
There is a lot of different advice out there on what size cooler you need for deer, but the best advice comes from those with field experience who have already been deer hunting and had good, or bad, experiences with their cooler size.
Exactly What Size Cooler Do You Need For Deer?
When it comes to Elk the size of your cooler is much more difficult to measure but with deer all the recommendations from experienced deer hunters all seem to fall in the same ballpark.
48-55 Quart is too small and leaves no room for ice
65 Quart is the perfect size to fit a bone in deer plus a few bags of ice.
105 Quart is overkill and will give you more room than you need.
Below is a list of cooler size recommendations I gained from the Rokslide Forum and as you can see a lot of the recommendations are very similar.
- 65-Quart (full deer bone-in)
- 48-Quart (leaves no room for ice)
- 75-Quart (105 is overkill)
- 65-Quart (bone in deer)
- 70-Quart + 48-Quart extra
- 55-Quart (partially boned)
- 100-Quart (mule deer)
- 2 x 50-Quart
From these recommendations it’s pretty clear that everyone recommends 65-Quart or higher for a quartered deer.
This will give you enough room to fit in your quarters, as well as your other meats plus still leave you enough room for a few bags of ice, or milk jugs full of ice, to keep your meat cold for the journey home.
For boned out deer you can get away with a slightly smaller cooler – around 55-Quart for a partially boned deer or around 50 Quart for a fully boned out deer.
When buying a cooler make sure you double check the capacities. A Yeti 65, which is a very popular cooler, is actually only 57-Quart in capacity and will likely be too small for deer (see all Yeti capacities).
The below coolers are all great quality and should fit your deer. To see them on Amazon click the price links below:
Yeti Tundra 75 (75-Quart):
RTIC 65 (65-Quart):
Budget Option: Coleman Xtreme 62-Quart:
Handy Tip: Have a Second Cooler Just In Case
A lot of seasoned veterans also recommend having a secondary smaller cooler just in case you need it for any extra meat you have.
Generally this will be a cheaper cooler around the 50-Quart size and you can use it at the start of your hunt to either store dry good or to store your food/beverages/groceries.
That way you aren’t wasting any space in your car/truck but you’ve got that extra cooler handy if you need it.
For this secondary cooler a good cheap option is the Coleman Xtreme wheeled cooler.
Coleman Xtreme 50-Quart Wheeled:
Or if you want to get a more expensive high-end cooler then the Yeti 65 (57-Quart) or the Lifetime Cooler (55-Quart) are also good options.
Yeti Tundra 65 (57-Quart):
Lifetime Cooler (55-Quart): $97 (see on Walmart)
Do You Need A Premium or Budget Cooler For Deer?
Premium roto-molded coolers like Yeti can get expensive, so it’s common to ask whether or not you should invest in a premium cooler or can you get away with a cheaper one?
The main factors to consider are time on the hunt, travel time back home and the outside temperature.
The longer your deer needs to say in the cooler or the warmer the outside temperature the more likely you are to need a premium cooler.
A 65-75 Quart premium cooler can keep ice for over a week. This means after your hunt you can store your deer meat in your cooler with a few bags of ice or frozen milk jugs and it’ll last the full trip home.
A 65-75 Quart cheaper cooler will last anywhere from 1-5 days depending on the cooler, with 5 days being optimistic in warmer weather.
This means you’ll need to monitor your cooler more, top up the ice on a regular basis or just get your meat home quicker.
If you’re in colder weather and you’re going to cool your meat down significantly before packing it then a cheap cooler might be fine. But it a lot of cases a premium cooler is going to be better and with more affordable brands like Ozark and Lifetime (listed below) it doesn’t have to break the bank either.
Best Premium Cooler Options For Deer
There are quite a few quality coolers out there in the 65-80 Quart range that are perfect for deer. The more expensive ones like Orca will hold ice for longer (7-10 days) while the more affordable premium coolers will hold ice a bit shorter but still for a solid period of time (5-8 days).
Here are the premium coolers I would recommend for deer. Listed from highest recommendation first and going down from there.
All of these coolers are great, which one suits you will largely depend on your budget and what you want to spend.
Orca 75-Quart Cooler:
Yeti Tundra 75 (75-Quart):
RTIC 65 (65-Quart):
Lifetime 77-Quart: $147.00 (see on Walmart.com)
Best Budget Cooler Options For Deer
You want to steer clear of your run-of-the-mill budget cooler. These have zero insulation in the lid and don’t keep ice very well at all.
But there are some great budget cooler options out there that still keep ice for a good period of time but won’t break the bank.
Coleman Xtreme 70-Quart:
Igloo Supertough 72-Quart:
How To Pack Your Cooler With Deer Meat
It’s important to pack your deer properly in your cooler to avoid it spoiling and to ensure that your meat is of the highest quality, don’t get lazy here and you’ve worked hard up until this point.
This great article outlines the process in more detail but a key tip is to make sure you cool down your meat before putting it in your cooler.
Coolers are great at keeping items cold, but if your meat is warm it will also insulate that meat and keep it warm, making it more likely to spoil.
Unless you are wet aging your meat you’ll want to avoid moisture, as these are great places for bacteria to grow.
So rather than using loose ice that will turn into water in the cooler use milk jugs with frozen water inside or ice packs like Arctic Ice Bricks that will help reduce moisture.
Best of Luck
I wish you the best of luck on your next deer hunt and I hope this article helps you to find the right size cooler for your deer.
Until next time, stay cool!