Mike: Guys on TV shoot bucks late in the day. The animals run off and the hunters do the famous “back out” so as not to push them. I think I have even seen you do this on Versus. The guys always come back in the morning and find their bucks dead. My question: If a deer has been shot and left in the woods all night for 12 hours, is the meat really okay to eat? How long before it spoils? Even if it is cold out I'm not sure I would eat it. Help me out? Jim
Jim: Great question. BTW, I can’t recall having left a buck all night on a Versus show. I do remember one episode where we tracked and found a MT 8-pointer with Coleman lanterns, that was pretty good.
Anyhow, I never like to leave a deer overnight because no matter the weather, there is always a chance the meat will spoil, or coyotes will find it. If I shoot a buck with a bullet or a saboted pill, or if I know I got two lungs with a broad-head, I always follow the deer in the dark. I agree with something you allude to: Some hunters are too quick to leave them overnight.
But, if you hit a buck so-so or poorly at dark with a broad-head, esp. in the guts, you have to wait, lest you jump the deer and drive him off your property to be lost.
How long? If the temp will stay in the mid-30s or lower you should be able to leave him all night. The meat should be okay, but no guarantees; if it has spoiled, you will know by the rancid smell when you gut. But if the temp will be in the 40s or 50s or up that night, the meat will almost certainly spoil if you wait 12 hours. Go home for 2 to 4 hours, come back with a buddy and powerful lamps, pick up the blood and try like hell to find your deer. Most of the time you can.
How many of you have left deer at dark? Was the meat okay? Has a coyote gotten one? Let's talk and learn more.