Curtis Pocklington grew up deer hunting with his family in Minnesota each fall since he was just a kid. “We had a cabin on some private land,” he tells us, “and then we would use [the venison] to feed our family for the entire year.”
Eventually, Curtis’ wife “tired of Minnesota winters,” so they relocated to Arizona. “It was a whole new learning experience, as far as hunting goes,” Curtis explains. In Arizona, you need to win a lottery for hunting permits, whereas in Minnesota, you can simply buy a license to hunt at any sporting goods store or gas station. So, when Curtis acquires a permit to hunt in Arizona, he does but in the meanwhile, he’ll commute back to Minnesota annually to hunt with his family.
This year, that’s exactly what he did. Curtis ended up with about one hundred pounds of boneless venison meat, which he brought back to Arizona with him. He didn’t want to freeze it, but needed to keep it cool. Generally, Curtis will “use whatever he could” to stash the meat, from multiple coolers to borrowed fridge space. He likes to process his own meat, making lots of sausages and jerky. So not only did Curtis require storage for the meat; he needed space for hanging, chilling, smoking and curing.
He knew he needed “something simpler.” So he began his search for a larger, more permanent cold storage solution. After exploring a few options found on Craigslist, advertising used commercial equipment and larger refrigerators, Curtis stumbled across some hunting forums that recommended CoolBot. He watched a few videos of various hunters building out their CoolBots and thought it was a pretty cool idea.
“I thought, I can do that,” he tells us. “And it turned out even better than I thought it would.”
Once he decided on the CoolBot Pro, Curtis reached out to his dad to assist with the build. He printed out the DIY build instructions for the 8×8 cooler from CoolBot’s website, and began to modify them slightly to fit in his garage space. His customized cooler ended up being 6x6x8 feet (outside dimensions). They framed the walls in just one day with supplies from Home Depot, then worked casually on the rest of the build over the course of a week, installing the double foam insulation floor, ceiling and walls.
Curtis used foil tape to tighten up air gaps and plans to finish the cooler’s interior walls with FRP in the future. In trying to figure out what he wanted to do with the floor, Curtis gave his processing hobby a lot of thought. “If you’re hanging elk quarters to dry age, there’s blood dripping on the floor,” he explains. “I didn’t want to stain the grout between tiles. I knew I wanted something solid with no seams or leakage. And, it’s hard to find these days, but I found one store selling sheet vinyl. So I did one solid piece of vinyl for the flooring for easy clean ups, and there are no seams for the blood to get between or to soak into the floor underneath.”
“I just followed the CoolBot build instructions to a T. I wired up two outlets, one in the ceiling for a light and another on the wall. I tried to keep everything clean and compact,” says Curtis. “For the rail system, I used ceiling rafters with large plywood on top, with metal plates to hold foot long eye bolts that I ran all the way through the ceiling. I bolted onto huge metal plates with a nut and washer, so it’s pretty solid in there. Then I sprayed insulated foam where each bolt is to seal it really tight.”
Curtis was thrilled about the CoolBot Pro features, which allow him to monitor his cooler’s temperature remotely through the WiFi, so he’d be “alerted to any power outages or fluctuations in temperature.” “I didn’t want any surprises,” Curtis tells us. He already experienced one such surprise about a decade ago, when he lost an entire chest freezer full of wild game meat, which spoiled after the GFCI receptacle got tripped. “Everything spoiled,” he says. “I was so disappointed. So when I saw the CoolBot Pro had the notifications through the WiFi, I thought that was great. In case anything did happen, it will let me know that.”
Curtis got his CoolBot cooler in November and it’s been up and running for nearly two months now. “It works great!” he reported. “The temperatures were below 34° in less than ten minutes.”
In the short time that he’s had his cooler, he’s already used it a ton. “I made about 25 lbs of venison brats,” he tells us, which ends up being about 85 brats that he stores in a huge plastic tub in the CoolBot. Curtis says that the cooler isn’t only dedicated to strictly wild game, but it’ll also be helpful for when his wife comes home from the farmers’ markets with lots of produce.
And he’s already made some modifications since the build. While making summer sausages, Curtis realized he wanted more rail space. “Instead of having just six hooks to hang stuff, I decided to take a long threaded steel rod and run them through the I-hooks. So now, instead of having three places on each side, I could just have a rail to put the hooks on wherever. I put really small S-hooks to hang the sausages to let them cure for 12 hours in the cooler. I like to mix the meat and stuff the sausages and then leave them overnight in the cooler and smoke them the following day. Instead of using huge hooks for hanging animals, I use the small hooks to hang the sausages.”
Plus, Curtis’ CoolBot is making him the most popular guy in the neighborhood, as he’s offered up his spare cooler space to other hunter friends and community members to hang their elk quarters and wild game to cool or dry age, or simply to store until the meat is ready to be processed.
“It’s a big space and I’m glad I have it,” Curtis concludes. “I think I’ll use it a lot.”
Curtis has been sending some progress photos to his friends and hunting buddies who have expressed interest in building their own CoolBots. “When people see it, they get interested in it, especially when they find out about the cost,” he tells us. “It’s not that expensive and anyone can do it, even if they don’t have construction experience. The plans on the website are great. If it’s something you need, there’s no reason you can’t build one.”