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Overnight Meat Still Good?
I have an argument going on with someone right now in regards to letting arrow shot deer go overnight. Let's just say that the shot was good and the deer expired. You back out just to play it safe and you come in to find the animal exactly where you thought the very next morning first thing. This is done on thousands of hunts year after year and I have no problem with it and feel that the #1 factor is that the temperature would have to be 40 or below. I just want some other opinions to show this person that the meat would still be good given that the hunter guts the deer as soon as they find it in the morning. Any butchers are welcome to add any comments explaining or anyone else with good insight would be appreciated. The friend's argument is that the only reason that people do it is to recover the rack and that is it. He feels that all of those that do it do not eat the meat. Thanks
I have helped find several day old deer for freinds and never have seen anyone toss the meat. Even as warm as it's been overnight is ok.
Done it a few times when it was over 40 and never had an issue..maybe lost a little that I could have salvaged had I recovered right away..but all in all, when in doubt..wait.
I HAVE SEEN 3 DEER RECOVERED THE FOLLOWING MORNING, AND JUST FOR YOUR FRIEND, TWO WERE DOES.
It depends. In the south it's rarely that cold. Overnight temps during archery are 75+. And it depends on how long you think the deer lived after the shot.
I don't like to leave deer out overnight under those circumstances, and I don't think I'd trust the meat either especially if I determine that the deer expired shortly after the shot as in a liver shot.
Helped a friend recover an overnight deer last year, with temps in the mid 60's . I also helped him butcher it an eat it. MMMMMMMM Good. Have never had any problems with venison that has been recovered the next day.
You have to factor in the temp and estimated time of death (is the carcass stiff or still limber, warm yet or cooled down) and check out the carcass for any whiff of spoiled meat or decay. I'd say as a rough rule that if it doesn't get below 50 to check it out closely, but this isn't a definite thing. If the deer didn't die until shortly before you find them, then the temp doesn't matter as much. I live in MN where it probably gets colder earlier than most places and we have still lost a few deer over the years. The latest I remember was a small buck I shot (with bow) on gun opener, which is during the first week in Nov. It was a very warm and humid stretch and when I found the buck the next morning I could immediately tell from the smell when gutting him that it was too late. It was pretty clear that he died soon after I arrowed him as he was quite stiff and his insides were already cooled down. If he had lived a number of hours longer he may have been fine. The meat was already darkening, too.
No way would I keep that Deer if It was over 40 during the night, besides the Coyotes would already solved my worries by eating every thing that might Be worth packing out, I had a Elk a couple years ago that I lost alittle meat, the Neck meat went sour, and got down below Freezing, I like to Have them on the ground and Cut up in 12 - 18 Hrs, and in the freezer. Just My personnel Feelings,
If you are unsure of your shot or certain it was a poor shot, you should wait. When in doubt...back out! You can't recover meat from a deer that is still alive.
My son shot a deer September 15 during youth season. We recovered him the next morning. Got down to upper 40's that night. Meat was still excellent - had tenderloins for supper.
Had to leave an elk overnight that was gut shot. Temps were only in the 40s. The body cavity looked swollen and thought we had a problem but it was just fine. Odor is not always an indicator. I had an elk start getting a little green on the outside and thought I had lost it. The butcher said it might turn out just fine ounce they got the super cold air on it. I was not very optimistic but it turnrd out fine. Now I don't know if he had to cut a lot of meat off it or not. He claimed that people have different ideas about what maybe good. I've also taken in elk that had been refrigerated and smelt terrible after 10 days and I mean bad. It was at a friends locker and she said it was fine. Now if you cut it down to the bone of the hind quarters and it smells sour you ot a problem. If you hae to let it set overnight bone it out as soon as you get it. Better to try and do all you can to salvage as much as you can. Back straps I think would be fine.
I guess I'll contribute a little something to the discussion, since it is one of my personal pet peeves. I'll try to simplify things a bit though.
You'll hear many people talk about meat that "went bad" or "spoiled". Those terms don't really tell you much, but here is what usually happens to hunters:
When an animal dies, the little microbes that are naturally in the meat don't immediately die. They continue to live until the temp drops low enough to kill them or they run out of nutrients.... At any rate, these little guys are still alive and producing waste products. If the temperature of the dead animal stays at the right level for too long, the waste products of these microbes will create a greenish color in the meat and kind of a corned beef smell. THis is referred to as "Sour" or "bone sour" and is very commonly found in the center of the round or at the point of the shoulder. Hunters who neglect to remove the esophagus will definitely know what this looks like...
Now, what about food safety? Sour meat is not really a food safety concern, just a taste/quality concern. The microbes that cause sour are in the meat naturally, and don't create toxins that are harmful. Mild cases of sour can be cured by opening the meat up to oxygen and letting the meat get some air for a while. Once the smell and green color has left the meat it will probably taste fine. More serious cases will always taste funny. All that being said, if I get a little sour in my meat, I trim it out to avoid the chance of flavoring a whole bunch of hamburger.
Rotting meat is not a concern in an animal that has only been dead for a short time. Rotting is a process by which external bacteria and fungi start to decompose the meat. This process takes a long time and is not a concern when leaving deer overnight. Some of the things that rot the meat can be harmful to humans and may produce toxins that would be harmful to humans, so rotting meat is a food safety concern.
As I said this is a bit over simplified, and maybe I am splitting hairs, but a little understanding about what makes that green color and smell in soured meat can help people make decisions about following up on deer and getting things cooled out.
Glad us Ole Coyote's Can eat anything, lol. Personally I will try anything twice. Second time just to make sure the first time was correct, lol. Have left deer over night many time, usually cover with leaves and urinate around the area trying to keep coyotes away, so far works great! At my age sometimes you just can't drag anymore and need a few hours rest to give the ole ticker a chance to calm down. Anyway if I die draging a deer it won't bother me or anyone else, sure beats dying in a bed having some disease eat you up in small pieces! Stay well!
Overnight here is usually in the 70's, sometimes very high 70's. Almost never in the 60's except for the very high elevations which can go down to the 30's in places. We haven't had too much trouble if:
1) You get on it first thing in the morning, first light. Unless it expired in the deep dark shade every minute after the sun comes up makes a difference. If it died in the open the sun will ruin it fast.
2) You didn't push the animal. If the last time you saw it it was doing 40 mph 3 ridges away, you're going to have problems even if you do find it. If it jumps and trots a little then walks away, you see it bed, etc., much much better. Just like you get hot when you exert yourself so do they. We have fish (ahi tuna) that will burn and ruin the meat if you have to fight it too long. They build up too much internal heat.
3) Open it an bone it out ASAP if it's at all legal. By boning you are opening up the deepest meat to cool. Bone can work to insulate and hold in heat. If you have to pack it, put the meat in cotton game bags and moisten the bags. Evaporation will cool it several more degrees. Keep them in the shade and in the open air. Don't even think about any plastic until it's cooled to refrigerator temps.
4) glacier was right on. Any meat exposed to body fluids and other contamination too long can "sour". It becomes the wrong kind of "marinate". You might lose a shoulder or neck sometimes but usually the hams, backstrap, etc. will be fine. Any doubts or discoloration we usually just cut it out.
We very rarely lose any meat to spoilage.
It takes far more for spoilage to occur than even most hunters realize. My father processed deer locally for years, and thus, I have cut up alot of venison. Some willingly....others not so willingly:^)
First off....DO NOT mistake abdominal odors for meat spoilage!!!! I have seen and been told of deer discarded because when they "opened it up" it was "bad". That's absolute crap, and if anybody does that they should be fined for failure to recover a game animal. Abdominal gas stinks...just like yours. And it starts to build the SECOND that a critter expires. If it's bloated....open it with the tip of your knife....let it drain out....and remove the entrails. The meat is fine.
(I recommend gutting the deer, and then moving the deer AWAY from the area to butcher or debone. A smell can get into your nose, which will convince you that the meat has the same smell. Remove yourself from a "bad" gutpile:^))
I have recovered around 20 deer & elk for myself and others over the years the "following" morning. If it is a chest cavity hit....the meat will be fine. It doesn't have to go below 40deg either. It can be 70 degrees overnight and the deer will still be fine.
If it is an abdominal cavity hit? Whether it be entrance or exit...things change a bit. If found right away in the morning and the overnight temps are cooling enough to produce a heavy dew (not sure the exact temp, but through experience), it will be fine. BUT...do not eat any of the organs. Leave the liver, heart, and unfortunately the tenderloins with the carcass. And every deer that is left to the "limits" I would recommend getting the skin off immediately, debone it, and get it in the freezer ASAP. Don't hang it. If temps allow a frost...you are golden regardless.
Also....just because there is bone sour in one leg, does not mean the other leg is spoiled. The side on the ground will sour first due to blood pooling and ground heat. Yo may find a deer late, and it may be 1/2 soured and no good. But the upper side of the carcass may very well be perfectly good meat. You have to skin and check it.
That all being said....Elk changes things due to their internal body heat. Elk can bone-sour quickly. But again...ground side will sour first. And with elk, you can have bone-sour on the inside...and outer roasts off of that same quarter can be perfectly fine.
If a deer has been left to it's limits....DO NOT take it to a processor. If they find ANY sour, they will tell you it's bad and discard or refuse to take the entire animal most times. They are concerned about contamination...and/or liabilities. You must process yourself in that situation, and debone and inspect as you go. At times you may end up only getting packs of cubes & burger, because what could be salvaged was not large enough for entire "cuts". But good "aged" venison cubes or burgers on the grill are better than meat for the crows...IMHO:^)
Glacier and RL thanks for the good advice. When I read your advice about processors it made a lot of sense. All of the deer I referred to above (there were about 3 that we lost during that time period, which was around 20-25 years ago when I was still back on my Dads farm) were brought to processors and they told us they were bad - we took their word. I've been very lucky (note I said lucky and not good!!) that I haven't had to deal with an overnight animal in many years-I've been pretty strict with shot selection since I went traditionl in 1990. The small buck I shot above was a gut shot with chest penetration and the intestinal fluids probably did sour the top layer of muscle exposed to the goop, which was the only meat I checked-didn't skin it out. I did slice the meat and it did have a bad odor itself, not just from abdominal gas (deers, not mine LOL!). I learned something today.......
Coyotes are always an issue so I follow up shots and never leave them overnight. Just the thought of spoiled meat spoils my appetite
I can't believe we are having this conversation. Without having to go into a whole chemistry lesson, intestines and trapped fat underneath the hide create gasses beginning the spoilage in meat. Personally, I want to process my game animal immediately if possible. Check with your local beef processing plant about why they quickly process meat down to quarters for immediate hanging and cooling. The only thing I can advise is to become a better shot and begin processing right away.
"I can't believe we are having this conversation."
Ummm...I think the conversation ended 16 years ago.
“Ummm...I think the conversation ended 16 years ago.”
That’s 16 years of global warming! This topic is more relevant now, than it was in 07…lol!
If I left a deer overnight here I might get the eyeballs and ears, but the coyotes would be sleeping with a belly full of venison.
Not sure but any meat as old as this thread would be petrified by now
Many guys that claim the meat was no good are lazy slob hunters that should never be shooting deer. Our ancestors lived on meat that was DAYS old and did just fine other than having untreated parasites.
In my life I have left several animals over night. Even elk in early September with night temps in the 60s. Never have had any meat sour. In fact I did not know what that wild smell or look like.
This year my son sheep was shot poorly and we could not find her. It was just over 24 hours when we found her. The night temps were in the 40s and when we found her it was just over 60. We worked fast. But sadly the Front shoulder she was laying on and the back strap that side had already started to turn. We peeled off the rest of the meat as fast as possible. By the time we had the meet into the cooler less than an hour after we found her, we lost another 75% of the meat. It sucked hard. However it was simply amazing how fast it changed. It went from yeah that is still good to nasty sour in minutes.
So out of over 150 animals I or my immediately have taken, there have been 30 that have sat over night. None of the 30 overnight spoiled at all. The only meat we lost was on an animals that took us over 24 hours of hard work to find…
"Our ancestors lived on meat that was DAYS old and did just fine other than having untreated parasites."
Our ancestors also had. an average lifespan of around 40 years.
I never like to leave a critter over night. I've seen too many bad results.
Elk in Grizz country- those bears find them
Elk overnight- their hide insulates them so well the meat can sour...same with deer
Deer overnight- the coyotes find them
So many negatives...put a good shot on them and most go down in sight.
I swear, I think some hunters are afraid of the dark the way some guys approach this stuff. I've packed a bunch of critters out at night....and spent a lot of years doing hog depredation at night, there are no boogymen...and you are probably safer packing meat at night than driving on a busy freeway.
Overnight no spoilage if temps are under 60. Maybe higher I just cannot recall leaving something that died overnight in temps over 60 - I think it would be ok.
Other factors, a small 80# doe and a breezy night is different then a 300# buck no wind.
I have left 2 elk overnight with no spoilage, I was worried but it was ok. One was the best meat many of me and my friends have ever eaten.
I accepted a "gift buck" last year for complex reasons. The elderly hunter had shot him at dusk the night before and thought he'd missed (blackpowder) his nephew found the buck next morning about 9 AM and it was about 11 AM before I had him gutted and transported. Temps were 40ish overnight with light rain, up to near 60 before gutting. I processed the deer as I usually do, skin, quarter and rough-trim then dry age at 38 degrees in a cooler for 14 days. Kept the meat separated from others and labeled "Johnny's buck" (names changed ) so I could toss the while lot if it was off. That was some of the tenderest venison chops and tastiest burger I've had. (55 years hunting white tail deer, always self processed, maybe 200 plus of my own deer and another 60 to 80 for others)
"I never like to leave a critter over night. I've seen too many bad results."
I agree 100%. I think the whole "when in doubt, back out" mantra is usually code for "let's wait until sun up so we can get good video and pics".
That’s honestly one of the few posts you’ve ever made, that makes any sense at all.
We generally leave bears overnight, the meat is always good, only time it wasn't great the was on 2 of them, but both were so old that they had no teeth and it was very warm overnight on of them, both tasted bad, I think because of age. If the meat passes the smell test its good
I hate to call out other hunters....but I've seen enough posts on other forums where guys are reticent to hunt alone....or skeptical about being out after dark....and mention always being back at camp before it gets dark.
The problem with that in this case as mentioned is spoilage or loss of meat. Sure if you put a bad shot on a critter like a gut shot you might push them following up with lights in the dark. There are a few other cases where night tracking is a bad idea....but IME I've never had a problem packing meat at night except decades ago when we didn't have the LED headlamps and lights we have now.
Those old mini Mag lights were terrible...those suckers would go black with no notice....and the battery life- terrible.
I prefer to track fresh blood vs older, dried blood. A quiet tracking job that gently bumps a still alive deer will unlikely not chase the deer out of tge county. But you need blood, looking blind for a body without blood only works when you visually know you smoked the deer and it was too brushy to see it go down. My impression of some hunters that wait for the next morning to trail are; they are unprepared to track, maybe lacking a good light and enough batteries, are lacking in tracking skills or did not have the tome allotted to do the job (hence should not have taken an evening stand). If the deer dies somewhere I can't retrieve it that night, I can at least gut it, get it high enough to get air flow under it, leave enough clothes to discourage scavengers.
After a lot of years of elk hunting both for myself and guiding others, I only recall not retrieving 3 until the next morning. Have had to track a number of them after dark. After waiting an approriate amount of time for a particular animal stay on the track if possible til found and taken care of. Have left some overnight after breaking down and bagging up. A few late nights but all part of the fun. Of the 3 not retrieved til morning on two of them I left a front quarter that smelled bad. No reason to take it. If they smell bad they're not good. Just smell other parts and compare. A no brainer. Birds and coyotes appreciate it.
I did leave a nice whitetail buck in the woods years ago after gutting it. Left a jacket in the antlers for human scent. Next morning found that wolves had mostly consumed it! They didn't eat the jacket! So learned a lesson. Don't worry about leaving a jacket in the woods cuz they won't eat!!
I have waited till morning on a gut shot deer. I have never left a deer out all night after gutting it. Meat on the gut shot doe was fine. I don't remember how cold it was, but southern Michigan in October, so not that cold overnight.
I can think of 3 incidents I waited till morning. First one was 2007. Buck was shot back. We found him dead 100 yards from where I shot him. Hit was quartering to. Entrance was liver and broad head lodged in opposite hip. He had bedded because his legs were tucked under his body. Meat was perfectly fine. Over night temps were in the 30’s.
2nd one was a bull I short in Wyoming I 2017. Once again shot was back. Liver area. Went in the next morning and he was still a live. He lives roughly 21 hours. We found him at the 22 hour mark and he wasn’t stiff yet.
3rd one was in 2017 as well. Shot a buck but did not see where I hit him. We found him the next day 100 yards from the tree. It was a double lung hit. The meat stunk really bad when we deboned him. Over night temps were around freezing.
3 times with 3 different outcomes.
In my hunting grounds in Alberta, leaving anything dead, even for a few hours, typically means that there will be nothing left but bones.
Wyoming overnight antelope
Wyoming overnight antelope
Sometimes you have little choice but to wait when it turns dark with no blood trail but I don't like leaving them overnight for reasons as stated above. The biggest reason being predators.
Every deer I've helped find the next morning had been eaten by yotes.