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February 29, 2008


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Had to leave my deer overnight this year.

Found good blood, lung blood. Thought I was fine to go in after him about an hour after the shot, got to where I saw him cross a CRP fenceline, and saw him get up, stiff legged and hobble around, back humped up...thought the blood lied to me and i gut shot him...

Left him for what ended up being 14 hours, temps in the high 30's...didnt have any choice...found him the next day and he was barely stiff, hadn't been expired long...

got him open and it was double lunged, but WAY BACK, and WAY HIGH on the lungs...and the arrow stayed in the whole way...made it about 500 yards all together...

he eats fine though, no smell when gutting, no issues here...and im convinced if i would have pushed him again, i would have never found him...almost didnt as it was...

This is a great topic of discussion. I personally believe it is a situational decision that has to be made at that time. Under the right conditions an animal can be left overnight and be good. With that said I would like to add another factor for decision making. Rain. Must track if it is raining or going to. This is why I sometimes don't bowhunt if it is raining. I lost a deer in the rain when the blood trail was washed out and swore to myself it would not happen again. As much as I love to hunt the rain it is not worth it to me to lose a deer. I also lost a bear one year after leaving it out overnight. On my annual spring hunt and very warm out. I shot the bear right at dark and there was sign (hair, small drops of blood) at the hit sight. Then nothing for about ten yards where I found a small clump of lung. My buddies and I tried to trail but never found anyother sign. We grid searched that night and never found the bear. The next morning the bear was found quickly by grid searching. Dressing it out everything seemed fine but the next day when I went to process the bear the meat had obviously spoiled and unfortunately went to waste. And lastly another option where legal would be a blood trailing dog. A good dog can find deer quickly. There is a website about this that is great. deersearch.org
I think. Sorry if this seems long winded but could write even more. Nick

I've left them over night several times with bow hits..only once did I loose it to an animal,a black bear. But then again I've had black bears steal them right off the meat pole back at camp a few times too.

I did this once, several years ago.
NEVER AGAIN. I follow in the dark now.
Early bow season in VA, right at dusk hit a doe as she came around a tree at 30 yds. She stepped out I let fly, she bolted as the arrow struck. Gritty blood for a while, then nothing. I left, came back with a coleman lantern, picked up the trail for a time, then lost it. Went back in the morning, she wasn't more than 25 yards from where I quit earlier. But the meat was ruined.
Temps were in the 40's, but she was gut shot, and it doesn't take long for those juices to begin to digest a carcass.

Short of freezing solid I don't think any temperature would've saved that meat.

As luck would have it, I've been able to recover all my deer the same day.

I have helped friends track bow shot deer the next day and unfortunately the meat was spoiled on a few of them (close to 1/2). It's a tough position. Do you push a wounded deer and lose them for good or wait till the next day and potentially waste the meat?

I wonder what the percentage of bow shot deer are lost and/or lost to meat spoilage?

Might be a good topic for another post.


Have any of you hunted in Africa? I have several times. Shoot an animal an it goes undressed into a truck that hauls it to camp. Dependant upon how many animals vs skinners are in the shed it can be several hours in temps over 80 F before the animal is skinned and hung (usually in an unrefrigerated shed). Often the next day it is placed in the lapa for dinner. I've never eaten any game meat in Africa that had the slightest hint of being spoiled.

I shot a doe on Oct. 6, 2006 and I came back an hour and half later and the 'yotes had already started eating a hind quarter. I think Hanback is right on the money. If it's not raining you should at least wait a bit and then come back and start the search. If it's a good, fatal hit then you should find plenty of blood and the animal quickly. Good lights are the ticket, as well as the buddy system of tracking.

I left one deer overnight- a pretty nice buck that I took a marginal shot on when I was in college. I shot him right at the end of shooting hours and the arrow took out the left lung but angled back into the liver. I gave him a couple of hours, went out and jumped him less than 50 yards into the recovery. Took up the trail the next morning (exactly 12 hrs later) and found him a total of 450 yards away from where I shot him. The night time temps were in the upper 30's. I think you need to evaluate all aspects of the hunt (shot placement, weather conditions, etc) before making the decision to stay on the trail or leave him overnight.

Speaking of GOOD LIGHTS....what are the opinions of the blood trailing lights on the market?
I have a Sure Fire handheld flashlight that takes an add on blue lens that is suppose to aid in blood detection...it works to some degree.

Here in South Dakota, it's impossible to leave a deer overnight. The coyotes are a venison hunters worst nightmare. I track all my deer the night of the shot until my legs are jelly. Don't find the animal that night, we're out the next morning on the trail and gridding the area. Friends and I are taking care of the coyote problem one at a time this winter.

Like most of you have said, every situation is different. The one time I left a deer overnight was a couple years ago. A good buck I had been hunting was quartering to me just a hair and I drilled him behind the shoulder and exited back lung/liver. I knew the temp was going down into the upper 20's that night (which is pretty rare in South Mississippi) so I backed out. The next morning I went out and found him in about 5 minutes. He didn't go 100 yards. I probably could've found him that night but didn't push the issue because I knew it would be a clear, cold night. Coyotes aren't much of an problem down here.

I agree with Nick about dogs finding wounded deer. This year a buddy of mine made a marginal hit on a doe and his black lab was at the camp. This dog had never trailed a deer in her life. We took her to the blood trail and she found the deer within 10 minutes. I guess her instincts took over - it was amazing. We started bringing her to trail every deer (even if we found it first) and she's turned into a deer tracking machine. Give your dog a try next year. You may be surprised.

Some of us have no choice but to track them the night that they are shot due to having to go to work the next day. If this is the case then you should still give them a few hours before taking up the trail.

As Deano mentioned above, we have a yote problem in Indiana. I was bow hunting with a buddy and he shot a doe mid morning. He hit her a little further back than he wanted so we waited couple or three hours. Trailing took about and hour and a yote had already gutted her. Sometimes its a real tough question here.

Good info. about the dog. I do know that in Indiana the dog must be on a leash at all times to legally aid in tracking a deer. I used the services of a man north of me two years ago. He has two Catahuilas (spelling?). Those dogs had an amazing percentage of recovering deer.

I was raised running deer dogs. Tracking wounded deer was a regular ocasion. Dogs are good, but if a deer is gutshot, your probably gonna run him out of the country. We always used beagals, We use "catahoula's" for hogs.

Don't have time right now to read all the above comments so Ill come back and read them later. THe only deer I left over night I never found. Shot a monster(AT least 10 maybe more points) real tall wide heavy white rack. BEautiful buck, biggest one I had ever had a shot at, the second biggest I'd ever seen in the woods. THe biggest being a double drop Id seen about 2 weeks earlier in the same thicket this one came out of(never had a shot at him). Anyway, shot him about 30 yds broadside, first shot at a deer with the bow. Wasn't real sure where I hit so I climbed down and found my arrow. COvered in blood, clean pass through. Am still almost positive it was lung blood so we waited about 30 minutes and started to trail him. HE had blood pumping, I mean pumping out of both sides for at least 150 yds. GOt to a field easily visible from the road and not too far form the road. Never found the deer. Lost the blood just before the road, looked across the road nothing. Came back the enxt morning, nothing. Never saw the deer again and I'm almost positive someone picked him at the road, will never know though. Wigh like heck I could have found him because he may very well have been the biggest buck I'll ever have the chance to shoot. BTW, never saw the double drop again either. Would love to get him though, really rare in VA.

**Wish like heck...

i hit a doe one night right before dark . i marked the spot where she went in the thick stuff with a lumenok. i came back about an hour after dark and we used his beagle and we found the deer in 10 minutes. The dog was incredible. That was in alabama. I hit a 9 pt in montana and made a good shot but tracking was difficult. So we opted to wait till morning. I didnt sleep all night. I thought the coyotes would have eaten him for sure. We tracked him on our knees for quite some time the next morning and finally found him piled up in a ditch next to a culvert. He wasnt even stiff yet. Believe it or not the meat was fine. I hunt for the trophy and hunt for the meat also but in reality there are quite a few hunters would rather take a chance at looseing the meat rather than loose the trophy to someone else by running him onto another property by pushing him.

I hunt MD and have for years. I have left 3 deer over night, only one was spoiled.... well eaten by yotes!! I have left 2 bucks longer in the mornging then I should of. One giant 140 class 8 pt that I went to get my buddies to help me track. When we got to a construction site found where the buck died, boot prints and drag marks to the local road. Of course none of the workers saw anything.... The second buck I shot in the shoulder blade and left for a couple hours to find that he went 300 yards to a soybean field and that some one left me a nice gut pile. As discusted as I was, I did the right thing and moved the gut pile out of the farmers crop field. Both would still be my largest bucks to date and that was nearly ten years ago.... back to back years.

Big Daddy, I used a Primos Blood hunter this year and had awesome luck with it. Night and day difference, just took a little getting used to thats all.

the deer i shoot with my bow have never gone over 100 yards if i hit them good and with my slug gun they usually don't go half a yard but you have to look at the stats most of the time you leave em over night if its a bad shot so naturally you have a worse chance of finding them if they are indeed left over night thats why i love mornings during the rut perfect to a dot;>

The only experience of leaving a deer over night I've had, was my dads doe he hit two years ago on the second to last day of the season right at dark. We pulled out and came back the next morning. Turned out it wasn't a fatal shot and we never found her, but I think we made the right decision. Although, it was getting down into the sigle digits that night and we don't have much of a coyote problem in northern MN.

Dogs are a great way to recover marginal hit or just plain old hard to find animals. I have been raising and using dogs for blood tracking several years now. I have tracked many here in Ga that were left over night. Some I would not hesitate to put on my table others it was obvious that they had already started to spoil. United Blood Trackers is a national tracking organization out there that promotes the use of tracking dogs, for those interested in learning more about trackign dogs. They have a great find a tracker page for those needing the services of a tracking dog, http://www.unitedbloodtrackers.org/find-map.php.

I agree with the original answer by Mike. I will never again leave a gut shot deer overnight.
About a week ago I shot a buck just in front of the hind quarters (I wanted to puke after the shot). The shot was made at about 7pm. I called a buddy and he confirmed what I had read about this too...that we should leave it for at least 8 hrs. Unfortunately, the weather was very mild (mid 50s) and the following day was to get up in the low 70's. We found it at about 7am the next morning. Also it had actually died within minutes after the shot because I had hit an artery and it bled out on the run only about 100 yards from my tree stand. So, it sat, dead, in the mild temps all night. I called around to a few meat processors and none of them thought the meat would be any good since it had been dead all night.
Next time, (hopefully there will never be a next time!!) I plan on waiting 2 hours and getting after it.

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