What is a Meatpole?

The word itself does sound questionable, and can be intriguing to those who are unfamiliar with the term. A meatpole is quite literally as it is stated: a pole for meat.

“A meatpole is a pole where meat is hung in a hunters’ camp.”

– Wiktionary

To elaborate further, a meatpole is a beam or a “pole” that is put up, usually between two trees or posts, that is for hanging meat. This meat has been gathered by a hunter or a camp of hunters. The meat is hung for various purposes, most often for cooling, skinning or butchering the carcasses. Some hunting camps also use it as a way to tally their total harvest, or simply as a display of their hunting trophies.

Since cameras have been around, many hunters and groups have taken pictures in front of their meatpole at a hunter’s camp (usually a deer camp). This takes place after the hunters in the group that were successful have hung up their meat.

Sawyer County, Wisconsin. 1911

The First Meatpole

There is no way of telling when the first meatpole existed. It has been custom for some time to hang meat up after a hunt for butchering or for display. So the idea of a “meatpole” (or a gathering place for hanging hunted meat) has likely been around for many centuries. Actual recorded evidence of meatpoles dates back to around the 1600s, although it is likely they have been around for far longer than that.

However, it seems that the popularity of the meatpole spiked once the camera came into existence, especially in the United States. Hundreds of black and white photos of deer camps can be found in U.S. History books and on the internet, and many of them have some sort of meatpole or “buck pole” in the camp displaying hanging deer. The majority of these images have the group of hunters positioned in front of the row of deer, expressing pride in their successful hunting endeavors.

What Makes It a Meatpole?

The meatpole itself has been seen in many forms over the centuries, and still can be seen in many different forms today. Meatpoles are even present in today’s video games, such as Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption.

The forms of meatpoles vary. Some prefer a simple beam or board between two trees, which is the most common. Whereas others set up an entire structure out of wood that holds a horizontal post for hanging the meat.

Put simply, if it is a horizontal “pole” that can hold hanging meat, then it qualifies as a meatpole. As previously stated, most meatpoles are for deer, but not all. Just about any hunted animal can be hung on a meatpole. But usually the idea behind the meatpole is that it is for larger animals that need to be hung up in order to make the skinning and butchering process easier for the hunter.

Meatpoles will likely be around for a very long time, if not forever. As long as hunting is around, it seems meatpoles will be too. No hunter’s camp is complete without a meatpole!

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