Mathews Inc.
Leaving elk overnight
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
Ironbow 11-Jan-23
cnelk 11-Jan-23
Bob H in NH 11-Jan-23
Franzen 11-Jan-23
butcherboy 11-Jan-23
huntabsarokee 11-Jan-23
Cheesehead Mike 11-Jan-23
Beendare 11-Jan-23
Cheesehead Mike 11-Jan-23
SBH 11-Jan-23
Beendare 11-Jan-23
Ron Niziolek 11-Jan-23
wyobullshooter 11-Jan-23
Cheesehead Mike 11-Jan-23
HDE 11-Jan-23
WV Mountaineer 11-Jan-23
Grey Ghost 11-Jan-23
soccern23ny 11-Jan-23
Ron Niziolek 12-Jan-23
LBshooter 12-Jan-23
DonVathome 12-Jan-23
Treeline 12-Jan-23
RonP 12-Jan-23
soccern23ny 12-Jan-23
Old School 12-Jan-23
cnelk 12-Jan-23
Bob H in NH 12-Jan-23
Lost Arra 12-Jan-23
midwest 12-Jan-23
JSW 12-Jan-23
Rgiesey 12-Jan-23
wytex 12-Jan-23
Jaquomo 12-Jan-23
Ziek 12-Jan-23
Bowaddict 12-Jan-23
Native Okie 12-Jan-23
butcherboy 12-Jan-23
Ambush 12-Jan-23
Jaquomo 12-Jan-23
Grey Ghost 12-Jan-23
Z Barebow 12-Jan-23
Jaquomo 12-Jan-23
Grey Ghost 12-Jan-23
Cazador 12-Jan-23
Corax_latrans 13-Jan-23
swede 13-Jan-23
Ziek 13-Jan-23
Mule Power 13-Jan-23
[email protected] 13-Jan-23
bowyer45 13-Jan-23
bowyer45 13-Jan-23
bowyer45 13-Jan-23
[email protected] 13-Jan-23
Cornpone 13-Jan-23
Jaquomo 13-Jan-23
HDE 13-Jan-23
Lost Arra 14-Jan-23
Cheesehead Mike 14-Jan-23
swede 14-Jan-23
Ziek 14-Jan-23
butcherboy 14-Jan-23
Elkslaya 14-Jan-23
HDE 15-Jan-23
Ironbow 16-Jan-23
Jaquomo 16-Jan-23
Basil 16-Jan-23
Basil 16-Jan-23
bigeasygator 16-Jan-23
darktimber 16-Jan-23
butcherboy 20-Jan-23
Mike Ukrainetz 20-Jan-23
Jaquomo 20-Jan-23
welka 22-Jan-23
Jaquomo 22-Jan-23
HDE 22-Jan-23
Orion 22-Jan-23
Jaquomo 22-Jan-23
Ron Niziolek 22-Jan-23
azelkhntr 22-Jan-23
butcherboy 22-Jan-23
welka 25-Jan-23
Beendare 25-Jan-23
Jethro 25-Jan-23
BTM 26-Jan-23
Jaquomo 26-Jan-23
Ironbow 26-Jan-23
BTM 26-Jan-23
Jaquomo 26-Jan-23
Live2Hunt 26-Jan-23
Cornpone 26-Jan-23
Cazador 26-Jan-23
6pointbull 26-Jan-23
Jaquomo 26-Jan-23
From: Ironbow
11-Jan-23
Friend of mine shot a bull last night in our late season. The hit looked good on video, but he was unsure so he left him overnight. It was 45 degrees when he shot him and got to 30 overnight. Any chance of losing some meat?

From: cnelk
11-Jan-23
Always a chance

From: Bob H in NH
11-Jan-23
Especially the parts touching the ground

From: Franzen
11-Jan-23
Based on my limited experience it will be pretty likely. However, I think wet conditions can play a part. Wet or dry?

From: butcherboy
11-Jan-23
If the bull is dead and has been for a while it’s more than likely. It’s the body heat that spoils meat. If the bull lived longer and has only been dead for a few hours then the meat will probably be ok. Areas to really check are the neck, behind the front shoulders, and the hip sockets. That’s usually where you see or smell it first.

11-Jan-23
This year a buddy had a hunt in November in northern Wyoming. He said it was cold less than 15 with some snow on ground and wind. Guy in the group shoots a bull near dark and think it falls over but at almost the same time a different guy in the group starts having chest pains and left arms numbness. They immediately get him to the truck and call an ambulance and high tail it out to meet the ambulance something like 30 miles away. They can't go back to the morning to look for the bull but died probably right away at same spot. Ended up having spoilage on parts of it even in those temps. He said some smelled very bad and easy to tell it was spoiled. Good news is the guy lived although I am not sure I want to visit that medical center.

11-Jan-23
I've left 3 bulls overnight, 1 of them died immediately and the other 2, I backed out after the shot because I didn't want to push them. I believe the 2 that I backed out on both died within no more than a couple hours after the shot. All 3 were in September with night time temperatures in the 30's. Maybe I got lucky but I did not lose one ounce of meat on any of them. The one that I knew was dead I probably should have processed immediately but I had just backpacked in over 6 miles at 11K feet with a 60 pound pack and I was exhausted. I was at a water source quite a ways from camp at last light filtering some water with no serious intention of hunting and he bugled nearby. I called him in and killed him. I was solo, my kill kit was back at camp and I realized that as exhausted as I was, cutting him up in the dark would be very difficult and probably not safe. In hindsight I probably shouldn't have shot him but it worked out fine. I was back at first light and took care of him.

This past season one of the guys I was hunting with shot a bull in the evening and they weren't sure of the shot and backed out. We were back right after sunup the next morning and found him. He went less than 100 yards and died immediately. Again, the nighttime low was around 30 and no meat was lost. That bull died propped up on some brush with his legs sticking up in the air so ground contact was mainly on his back which probably helped with cooling. When I boned out his hind quarters the meat was cold.

From: Beendare
11-Jan-23
I never understood guys leaving them overnight…especially in Grizz country.

Are guys afraid of the dark?

11-Jan-23
Not at all afraid of the dark but sometimes it's justified depending on the circumstances.

From: SBH
11-Jan-23
Not afraid of the dark....but ya Grizzlies in the dark with a possible dead elk on the ground......yep, call me afraid. I've been bluff charged before and run into them all too often.

I've had to leave them overnight before due to questionable shot, knowing they would die but also knowing it would take time. Bump them and you'll never find em. Even in warm Sept temps I have not lost meat. We're only talking 8 hours tops if you find em quick in the morning and if they didn't die immediately its even less time on the ground.

From: Beendare
11-Jan-23
IME, a guy is better off getting it out of there in the dark before the G Bears find it.

From: Ron Niziolek
11-Jan-23
It's dangerous enough breaking down a bull in grizzly country. Darkness amplifies that danger. Yep, I'm scared of the dark:)

11-Jan-23
I don’t have to worry about grizzlies, but over the years I’ve left 3 overnight. Has nothing to do with being afraid of the dark, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. If you’re unsure of the hit or have a sparse blood trail, yet continue to press on, if that elk elk is still alive there’s a strong chance you’ll push that elk and never see it again.

As to the OP’s question, anytime you leave one overnight there’s a chance of spoilage, but as Cheesehead Mike points out, sometimes it’s the best option. I did have some mild spoilage the last time this situation occurred. I now stop hunting earlier in the evenings than I used to for this very reason.

11-Jan-23
I don't have to worry much about grizzlies but some of the areas I hunt are on the fringe of their territory. Any time grizzlies are a possibility I'd much rather break down the bull in the daylight, especially when I'm solo.

Another thing to consider is that a dead unprocessed bull laying on the ground probably does not give off much bear attracting odor in a short amount of time overnight, at least compared to the odor given off by other elk that are still alive. It takes me at least a day to pack the meat out and sometimes multiple days. If you process the bull at night and pack out the first load, it seems that the odor of the blood and processed bull with hide removed and the bloody meat hanging in the trees with the wind and thermals carrying the scent long distances may be more likely to attract bears and may actually increase the odds of a bear being on the carcass or meat when you return for the second load. I'd much rather keep the scent to a minimum over night and then have the entire next day in the daylight to process and pack the meat out or at least move it a substantial distance away from the carcass.

Also, some of us are no longer spring chickens and we've had to come to grips with our limitations on how much we can do solo at night and still come out in one piece.

As a side note, one time I was breaking down a bull solo in the daylight on the fringe of grizzly country. A pine marten joined me and made repeated trips to within a few feet of me grabbing scraps and stashing them. I kept my head on a swivel and also kept an eye on the marten as he surveyed our surroundings. I knew from past experiences at bear baits that fishers at the bait always noticed the approach of bears before I was aware of their presence.

From: HDE
11-Jan-23
Just to shed a little light on how an animal can hold heat, I recently shot an oryx off range in NM. We "field dressed" since it was dark when he died (long story for another day).

We opened him up by splitting the pelvis, skinned back the front shoulders and separated the shoulder blade from the ribcage the way you'd quarter it, all the way down to the spine. We propped him up on his back and left him overnight for packout the next morning. Throat was split all the way up to the jawline and neck skinned partially back.

The next morning when breaking him down, the backside of the neck closest to the ground was just a touch warm where the hide is the thickest. Rapid cooling took place after as the temp was around 35 deg. Overnight temps were in the high 20's.

11-Jan-23
I don’t know all the variables. But, my guess is when meat is lost during cold nights, it’s due to the ground still being warm. Or, due to the snow insulating the meat from the cold ground.

One thing I do know is all you hear is backing out. But, in September elk hunting, you’ve gotta weigh a lot of things against your decision to back out.

A bumped elk is no better than a spoiled elk. And, each situation is different. So, look at it with the variables presented.

From: Grey Ghost
11-Jan-23
I agree with WV. Backing out to leave a wounded animal overnight has rarely worked out well for me. Between coyotes, spoiled meat, and weather that eliminates a blood trail, I've usually regretted backing out overnight. I think it's way overrated.

When I was younger, I didn't care if it took all night to trail, field dress, and pack an animal out. Now, I intentionally avoid evening hunts, when I'm solo, because I'd rather not deal with that. If I have hunting partners to help, I'll gladly hunt until dark, but I still won't back out overnight on a wounded animal unless I completely lose the trail and have exhausted all other possibilities.

Matt

From: soccern23ny
11-Jan-23
If Grizzlies in dark eating your dead /dying elk you just shot at dusk is a reason for you to not recover your game than you shouldn't be hunting at dusk.

Did you friend check for blood or just the video? Insane to only look at video and not follow the blood trail for a bit

From: Ron Niziolek
12-Jan-23
Thanks so much for the tip soccermom. Advice on recovering game from someone who probably hasn’t killed anything with a bow, priceless.

I’ve seen partial spoilage on exactly one elk that was left overnight. That was from one of mine. Over the years, I’ve followed up on a few of mine and several from others the next day. I’ll take those odds when solo in bear country.

From: LBshooter
12-Jan-23
Never had to worry about it, but watch the show "the last Alaskans"Heimo left a bull moose over night on the river bed. He built a huge bond fire and stated that griz doesn't like the smoke or fire, his Moose was perfectly fine the next morning. Now, never having to do it but it sounded like a good idea.

From: DonVathome
12-Jan-23
I have had very similar experiences as cheesehead Mike - leaving 3 elk overnight one died right away. I also lost no meat.

From: Treeline
12-Jan-23
Always a chance that you will lose a little meat on an elk or other critter left over night.

On elk that either buddies or myself left overnight, it is pretty rare, though. A buddy of mine actually shot a bull last season at 8:00 in the morning and didn’t find it till 1:00 PM the next day. It was fine.

Better to give them time and find them in the morning than to bump them in the dark and lose the whole animal, though.

From: RonP
12-Jan-23
in non-grizz country, if there's a trail to follow i would and have pursued it just as i would if it were light out. i may wait an hour or more depending on the hit, but i am not leaving it overnight unless there is some unusual circumstance.

in grizz country, i would avoid getting myself in that situation. the bon fire is an interesting idea but i am not sure it would work 100% of the time especially in Wyoming, Idaho, or Montana where there is no season.

From: soccern23ny
12-Jan-23
@ron...

"Probably" is the key word there.

Choosing to not recover game because of conditions that exist that existed before you took the shot is unethical IMO.

If you dont want to recover game at 10000ft don't shoot game at 10k feet. If you dont want to recover game at night dont shoot game at dusk. Etc

From: Old School
12-Jan-23
Ron - no doubt, soccermom, the keyboard warrior/expert.

Let the guys who’ve actually killed something with their bows speak - and especially the ones who hunt regularly in griz country or on the edge of griz country. Lots of tough guy keyboard warriors with “sage advice”. Who’ve never packed out an elk in or around griz country. I killed one in the evening in “the Bob”. Plenty of griz and we waited till morning for obvious reasons. Also lost no meat on that elk.

My son and I are the ones Cheesehead is referencing and I can absolutely say without a doubt that we did the right thing - sparse blood trail and sharp quartering to angle on the shot. Maybe we just got lucky but if I had to do it all over again I’d do the same thing.

Levi and I took pics of the blood and arrow, shared the story with Mike back near camp and he recommended waiting till morning which was exactly what we were thinking. Turned out just fine.

From: cnelk
12-Jan-23
Soccerboy - do you come by being stupid naturally? Or do you practice it?

From: Bob H in NH
12-Jan-23
Left one cow elk overnight. Rifle shot at dusk. We lost blood trail. Spent 30 minutes looking for next blood after about 300 yards of tracking. Backed out

Fou.nd her in the morning stuck in some rocks at a weird angle, lost a front shoulder due to all the blood collecting there. No other meat spoiled

From: Lost Arra
12-Jan-23
>>A bumped elk is no better than a spoiled elk.<< Very good WV.

Where I hunt (no griz) an elk left on the ground overnight WILL get hit by coyotes so spoilage may not be the issue but with an eaten ass end and guts all over the place it might as well be spoiled. If blood is decent I stay on it but no last light shots for me.

I was a little concerned one night cutting up a cow in the dark after seeing what I assumed were two mountain lion caches (young mule deer) earlier in the day.

From: midwest
12-Jan-23
I’ve been on a few elk recoveries that were left overnight in early September and we never lost any meat.

Pretty sure Ron N. is just afraid of the dark. That’s why when he chases elk until dark in the thickest g-bear country in the lower 48, he just curls up in his game bags and spends the night on the mountain so he doesn’t have to walk out in the scary darkness. ;-)

From: JSW
12-Jan-23
I've left 3 bulls overnight and not lost an ounce of meat. I've been with other guys who did the same. I even had a friend who "gut shot" a bull and we didn't find it until noon the next day. I thought we were probably screwed, but we had coolers full of ice and cold water. We took it apart as quick as we could and cooled it down immediately. Didn't lose ounce of meat. I've probably boned out 20 animals left over night, mostly because of a poor hit right at last light. I've never lost any meat from an animal found the next morning. Not once.

It doesn't make a difference if it's cold outside. Whether it's 20 or 80 the hide holds the internal temperature unless you gut it and open it up. A bull elk will not cool out more than a few degrees overnight, even if it's really cold, especially on the side against the ground.

Shot placement dictates when you attempt to recover an animal, not the position of the sun. Countless fatally hit animals have been lost because they are followed up too soon. Know where you hit and how to follow up.

From: Rgiesey
12-Jan-23
I’m scared of the dark and grizzly bears. Maybe that other guy only takes shots that succeed with one hundred percent certainty. Ha. I’ll take Ron’s assessment as good enough.

From: wytex
12-Jan-23
Pretty easy to see who actually hunts in bear country.

From: Jaquomo
12-Jan-23
I'm right there with Jim (JSW). Only time we've ever lost any meat was a little bit around the shoulder once on a big bull we didn't recover until late morning. The rest of the meat on that one was excellent.

One thing is certain - thousands of pounds of prime elk meat are lost every year by following up too soon in the dark with flashlights.

From: Ziek
12-Jan-23
Too many variables to have a blanket policy. You ALWAYS risk losing meat one way or the other if you leave them overnight. But that still might be the best decision. I've spent many nights processing an elk alone, and returning to camp in the wee hours. But on a few occasions, I've left them overnight. Never had much meat loss, but almost always there were areas that were still warm, no matter how cold it was. Make good shot decisions, and be prepared take care of them as soon as possible, if at all possible.

From: Bowaddict
12-Jan-23
I have also left 4-5 bulls overnight and never lost meat to spoiling. I hunt higher elevations where it’s usually cooler which helps. All tasted delicious also! I’m one that will not give up evening hunts for elk, my hunting time is too precious and I’ve had a lot of success then.

From: Native Okie
12-Jan-23
I killed an elk this week on a special hunt in SW Oklahoma at 5PM. I gutted it and left a shirt on it all night. It was almost 70F at the shot and dropped to 40F overnight. No lost meat and the meat was cool to the touch when I cut it up.

From: butcherboy
12-Jan-23
I’m glad most of you haven’t lost any meat. It only takes that one time. I leave meat overnight all the time hanging in a tree. I’ve only left a few full carcasses on the ground overnight but they were gutted, front shoulders opened up, hip sockets opened. Animal was also propped up onto its back. The neck was still warm the next morning but everything else was cool. The only time I would leave something would be on a bad shot. Give it some time to die but that’s a chance as well since the hole will plug up and the animal can get up and walk a few hundred yards pretty easily with no blood trail. It’s always a chance no matter which way you play it.

From: Ambush
12-Jan-23

Ambush's Link
You need this for cheap insurance. I think they plagiarized Kevin Dill's custom build.

From: Jaquomo
12-Jan-23
I think sometimes people confuse warm meat (the next morning) with spoiled meat. The smell test doesn't lie.

Love having soccermom lecture actual hunters on "ethics". Priceless! Sweetheart, you should stick to climate change threads. At least you can quote fake statistics there.

From: Grey Ghost
12-Jan-23
I surprised more of you haven't had problems with coyotes when leaving animals overnight. They haven't been as big of a problem with elk, but almost every deer I, or someone I know, have left overnight has been almost completely devoured by the time we found them. Perhaps it's a just a regional thing that's unique to where I deer hunt.

Matt

From: Z Barebow
12-Jan-23
“One thing is certain - thousands of pounds of prime elk meat are lost every year by following up too soon in the dark with flashlights.”

Ding ding. Same goes for deer.

“If you dont want to recover game at 10000ft don't shoot game at 10k feet. If you dont want to recover game at night dont shoot game at dusk. Etc”

Using your soccer logic, I should give up bowhunting because I have difficulty seeing blood. 40+ years of unethical behavior on my part. How dare I!

From: Jaquomo
12-Jan-23
Matt, same goes for deer in my area. We've only had one issue with a black bear that was eating the innards of a bull that was gut shot. Otherwise no issues. But we don't have grizzlies except in a couple WY spots I hunt. They make me afraid of the daylight.

From: Grey Ghost
12-Jan-23
Lou, when I outfitted and guided in my area, I made a point of telling my clients to make late day shots count. Otherwise, the coyotes would find them before we did. Sadly, some of them didn’t heed my advice, and they drove home with a rack only, if they were lucky.

Matt.

From: Cazador
12-Jan-23
I’ve never had to leave one overnight, but I’d rather leave one over night than all day due to a bad shot early AM. The heat of the day is much more damaging than leaving overnight. Example bad shot 7 am, give him 6-12 hours depending on shot, meat quality will suffer in most cases.

13-Jan-23
“ Choosing to not recover game because of conditions that exist that existed before you took the shot is unethical IMO.”

JMO, there’s a lot to be said for taking in the totality of the situation before deciding whether to shoot or not; I think that’s all that Soccer is trying to say. If you know that an imperfect hit will need more time than you have available, then you’d best be perfect. Or pass.

And I will state without reservation that in my experience, bumping them complicates the hell out of things. I hope to never do it again..

From: swede
13-Jan-23
I have killed and butchered over 30 elk. There were two that I shot in the evening and did not get to until the next morning, shortly after first light. I took both to a butcher shop. I said nothing to the butcher about when they were shot, but the butcher smelled them and was suspicious. After opening to meat to the bone he took them in, and they were fine. This last September I shot a 5X5 in the evening. I backed out and went to camp, had dinner and got my equipment and my brother to help. As it was going to take a while to hike in and butcher the elk, my brother suggested we wait until morning light to field dress the animal. I said, "No way". Leaving an elk out all night is too risky for such a valuable animal. At the absolute least, find your critter, gut it and prop it open. I went the gutless method and left the elk out all night in game bags. It was perfect the next early morning.

From: Ziek
13-Jan-23
Just to be clear. "Leaving it overnight" means not recovered. We frequently leave them field processed (quartered or gutless method) and hanging overnight. Never had a problem with that.

From: Mule Power
13-Jan-23
I’ve quartered elk in late gun season and figured it was ok to just lay them on the ground because they were on top of 8 inches of snow. I didn’t lose meat but they melted the snow all the way to the ground and were still really warm on the side touching the ground.

Anytime you leave elk you should be going back before first light in hopes of finding it at the crack of dawn. They hold some serious heat!

13-Jan-23
I remember a Larry Jones video of him bow shooting a big bull, found it quickly, skinned and gutted it and had to leave it until the next morning. Temp was below freezing. To make a point, he took a meat thermometer and pushed in to the neck of the skinned elk. The temp read 70 degrees. "Bone sour" was the term he used that can happen deep inside the animal near the major bone mass as this is the last areas to cool. Sort of rotting from within.

From: bowyer45
13-Jan-23
Having said that, Paul, how could an elk ever make it till morning if it was not skinned and at least quartered? I never left one overnight, but have worked till midnight a few times.

From: bowyer45
13-Jan-23
Having said that, Paul, how could an elk ever make it till morning if it was not skinned and at least quartered? I never left one overnight, but have worked till midnight a few times.

From: bowyer45
13-Jan-23
If you're hunting warm Septembers bone it and bag it , then get it off the ground, it will last for 24 hrs from my experience. I feel the meat will age very fast in 70 degree temps, probably fully in 24 hrs. Keep it out of the bloody juices as that is what will spoil your meat even if it is 40 degrees.

13-Jan-23
That was Larry's story. Having said that, there are exceptions. My story is, Actually, I found a three year old bull the following mid morning that I shot it the evening before, It had laid in the woods for over 14 hours, temps near freezing. At 10 am, Skinned and debone, and bagged elk, hung in a tree and went out to get packer and came back 6 hours later. Did not lose any meat! No bad smell. Good to go. I am sure there are other cases where some meat was lost. I am sure also, one can ask their local game butcher their stories about the elk they received that were thought to be perfectly good.

From: Cornpone
13-Jan-23
I've killed a few whereas I killed and gutted but waited until morning to take care of. Never lost any meat...but they had been gutted. BTW...with those few I never left them alone. Rolled in a sleeping bag and stayed with them concerned about coyotes and black bears. Colorado...not grizz country.

From: Jaquomo
13-Jan-23
Talking about two different things here. Hopefully Ironbow will come back on with the outcome.

From: HDE
13-Jan-23
I suppose to go back to the OP's question; yes, there is a chance.

From: Lost Arra
14-Jan-23
Sometimes bone sour meat is not immediately apparent in the field. As Paul mentioned, ask a good game processor about meat he receives as unspoiled. My one and only overnight spoiled elk (plus coyote damage to a ham) did not smell spoiled. I packed it out. I didn't mention it to my processor but he called me and said he was packaging the backstraps only but the rest was sour. He said the backstraps could be spoiled too and I would know when they thawed. He was correct and he didn't charge me for packaging or disposal. Of course he's processed our elk for over a 10 years.

14-Jan-23
I totally disagree with the statement "leaving overnight means not recovered".

That statement makes no sense. If you recover the elk, then it has been recovered regardless of whether the sun set and rose again before the recovery or if the sun was up the entire time prior to recovery. What difference would it make if you shoot a bull in the evening and you recover it 8-10 hours later in the morning vs shooting a bull early in the morning and not finding it until 8-10 hours later in the evening. Would a bull that took you all day to find also be considered "not recovered"? The fact that the sun was down during the time lapse between the shot and recovery vs the sun being up during the time lapse between the shot and recovery is insignificant in regard to whether or not the elk was recovered.

Also, in regard to recovering meat, I've killed 3 bulls that took me 4 days to pack all the meat down off the mountain solo. One of them was a morning kill, one was a noon kill and one was an evening kill. The evening kill laid down within sight with his head up. I watched him at least an hour until it got dark and quietly backed out to not kick him out of his bed. He was dead in his bed the next morning. It took me 4 days to pack all the meat down to my base camp. Regardless of the fact that I left him overnight and the meat hung in trees until I could retrieve it all, I did not lose any meat to spoilage.

From: swede
14-Jan-23
I think Ziek was saying an elk left out in the forest or field is still vulnerable to two or four legged critters and spoilage. I field butcher my elk as soon as I can but will leave them out until morning on occasion. I am always a little nervous about my meat even though it is in game bags sitting on a rock or log.

From: Ziek
14-Jan-23
"I totally disagree with the statement "leaving overnight means not recovered"".

I meant that we are talking about two different things. An elk left overnight without finding it, vs one found, cut up and hanging. Once hanging, leaving it overnight shouldn't be an issue if night time temps are around 40º or less. The difference between day and night is, during the day you should have some idea when it died, because you are actively looking for it. The OP stated they didn't look for it after the shot. Either day or night, it's not recovered until you find it. In my mind, if you recover it there is NO reason not to take care of it at least to get it cut up, either quartered or gutless, and off the ground. Having said that, there are good reasons sometimes to back out until morning. However, if you do that it may have only gone a short distance and died, laying there for the entire night risking meat spoilage.

From: butcherboy
14-Jan-23
Zeik nailed it 100%.

From: Elkslaya
14-Jan-23
I killed a bull once that I didn’t find until the next day despite my best effort the previous afternoon/evening. The bull left no blood trail but only tracks here and there. He filled up with blood and when I found him and went to work, the smell was so bad I knew I lost the meat. Would it be ethical in that circumstance to keep hunting?

From: HDE
15-Jan-23
Once hanging, you don't even need overnight temps 40 deg or less. They begin to cool once a chunk of meat or quarter is removed from the animal's core body temp.

Overnight temps in early Sept on a unit in SE Utah, overnight temps at 9,000' rarely get below 50 overnight and have yet to lose an animal to spoilage when properly quartered and hung.

From: Ironbow
16-Jan-23
We lost every ounce of meat. I will elaborate later on how it happened just as a lesson for others. I am very disappointed. My buddy made every mistake in the book on meat care.

From: Jaquomo
16-Jan-23
Bummer, but please do elaborate. This could be a learning experience for many.

From: Basil
16-Jan-23
Idaho back country elk in September sometimes see day time temps in the 80s. We would hang the bags by a creek at night. Daytime in the shade or maybe cover with sleeping bags. Amazing what you can get away with once it’s cooled & skinned over. In grizzly country not sure how well that having your sleeping bag smell like elk quarters would go these days ;-)

From: Basil
16-Jan-23

From: bigeasygator
16-Jan-23
On the first elk hunt I was on (a drop camp rifle hunt in the Flat Tops Wilderness) we lost essentially an entire elk under similar conditions. One of the people I was hunting with shot one up a draw at close to last light, started after it, but then decided to come back to camp with the plan being a few of us would go back the next morning to deal with it. Temps were well below freezing that night. By the time we got to it and got it in a position where we could start dealing with it, most of the meat had soured. Without breaking it down, that heat just doesn't dissipate. Lesson learned the hard way for us. Sounds like it was a similar outcome to you, Ironbow. But keen to hear the details.

From: darktimber
16-Jan-23
As to the original question…I would never leave an elk overnight out of convenience. If the shot looked good, look for the arrow and look for blood for a short distance at the very least. Grizz country….I don’t know. I live in WY and hunt alone, probably wouldn’t shoot one at last light. Grizz scare the crap out of me!

I’ve left two bulls overnight. Both were mid-body shots and quartered to more than I thought. I’m thinking one lung/liver hits. Didn’t find arrow on either and minimal blood. First was at last light, found the next morning by 7 am within 100 yards, no meat lost.

The second was shot at 520 pm. I waited a hour and half to look. I could swear the bull was still bugling and crashing around. I go look, no blood, and see the bull on his feet at 0730 pm. I back out and find at 7 am the next morning, 50 yards from where I last saw him. He died rolled up almost on his back against a big log. I lost exactly 12 lbs of meat from around the hip sockets, processing myself and using the sniff test. I felt bad, but better to lose 12 lbs than 212 lbs, because I bumped him in the dark. The overnight temps for both bulls was in the low thirties.

You just have to try your best and do what you can with the information presented to you. I have never lost any meat on skinned, quartered, boned and bagged meat, even after multiple days with warm temps.

From: butcherboy
20-Jan-23
Just curious on what happened?

20-Jan-23
I guess ironbow is MIA?

If an elk or moose dies right away at last light and then lays overnight with guts in, even at 30F, meat spoilage is variable. The larger the animal the more likely to spoil and how it lays affects it too. If it is gutted first thing in the morning, skinned out, legs taken off, deep cuts put in all the thick meat and hung up to cool or laid on branches where it has air circulation then it is usually ok. You need to be able to push your hand into the knife cuts and feel the meat temperature near the bone to see if it’s cooled before putting it in your pack or even stacking it in your truck. It needs to all get to shaded air temperature asap. Don’t just throw it in your pack or good meat can go bad while being carried out.

You can smell your finger tips to see if it’s too late. Separate any questionable meat from good meat or it will spread. Thick neck meat is the worst place where it begins, deep knife slashes are essential or saw the whole neck off and separate it. A big 8 yr old moose compared to a 2 yr old elk can be very different. After you get the meat home it is best to hang it in a 30 F cooler for 2-3 days and any part of it that is spoiled will turn green and very stinky! We have our own walk in cooler so we don’t even bring it to the butcher until after 2 days minimum. Don’t throw it in a freezer right away or you may have frozen but rotten meat. Don’t cut it up right away and package it. It can be hard to tell at first. Sometimes it will just taste a bit off but not really rotten.

I hope this helps. We’ve killed a critter or two. And we still hunt the evenings even though we may have to leave the occasional animal overnight.

From: Jaquomo
20-Jan-23
Great advice from Mike.

From: welka
22-Jan-23
For those worried about animals getting to it if you leave it dressed in the field overnight (or even if you pack some and leave some), just leave your sweaty base layer on the carcass and tinkle around the meat and you won't have any predators hit it.

From: Jaquomo
22-Jan-23
Nope. Pee has no effect on predators or prey animals. That's an old wives tale. And we once left a nasty sweaty tshirt by a caribou overnight, and a bear ripped the t shirt to shreds, but left the caribou alone.

From: HDE
22-Jan-23
^^^ so I can take a piss anywhere I want along a trapline and still catch fox, coyote, and bobcat????

From: Orion
22-Jan-23
Maybe not but a grizz or black bear doesn't give two chits if you pee or leave all your clothes around your elk carcass. If they want it they will take it

From: Jaquomo
22-Jan-23
I've only trapped beavers, muskrats and martens so can't say about a trapline, but coyotes that walk past or over my pee in the woods either pay no attention or sniff it and keep going. Everybody who pees out of their treestand has similar stories when predators walk past. Think about it - how would a coyote know what "human" urine smells like?

From: Ron Niziolek
22-Jan-23
Orion is correct. Grizzlies and most black bears would have zero issues taking the meat no matter how much human scent around.

From: azelkhntr
22-Jan-23
From: Elkslaya14-Jan-23 I killed a bull once that I didn’t find until the next day despite my best effort the previous afternoon/evening. The bull left no blood trail but only tracks here and there. He filled up with blood and when I found him and went to work, the smell was so bad I knew I lost the meat. Would it be ethical in that circumstance to keep hunting?

^^^ Thats a good question and the answer is, HELL NO! The state sold you 1 tag for one elk. You shot your elk. Any other elk you shoot after that is someone else's opportunity. That makes you no better than a poacher if you shoot another.

From: butcherboy
22-Jan-23
^^whatever! No better than a poacher?! My definition of a poacher is way different than yours that’s for dang sure.

From: welka
25-Jan-23
Always has worked for us and plenty of bear scat around. Maybe we just got lucky, but will continue - especially with smelly shirts. Good luck.

From: Beendare
25-Jan-23
I think of it this way- night time low temps are your friend in the Sept elk woods.

Getting the elk out and hanging …..or cutting it up with the hide off takes advantage of cold nights. I’ve seen elk left overnight with the hide on and the meat was still warm and souring the next morning.

I called a bull to a buddy shot on an 80deg afternoon, we were backpacked 6 miles in, it was not all coming out that day. We boned and bagged, found a spot with a large granite boulder in 90% shade, cut some 2” sticks to lay over the big flat rock and laid the meat over that for air circulation, then laid pine boughs over it.

That meat would have stayed very cold for days though a buddy packed it out with horses the next day.

From: Jethro
25-Jan-23
Was hoping Ironbow would have been back by now for an update.

From: BTM
26-Jan-23
A few times I've left a small radio on a kill overnight. (Talk station if I could receive it. A 24/7 Barbra Streisand station would be even more irritating!) Nothing disturbed the meat overnight, but the sample size is too small to definitively declare that such a tactic works.

From: Jaquomo
26-Jan-23
I tried that experiment with a carcass/gut pile I was sitting as a bear bait. Put the radio on a conservative talk radio station. The bear ate the radio. Guess he was a lib.

From: Ironbow
26-Jan-23
I will leave the full update this weekend. Been super busy. Thanks for the responses.

From: BTM
26-Jan-23
That's a hoot, Jaquomo! Wonder if he ate it whole. That would make for some interesting chatter as yogi walked through the woods.

From: Jaquomo
26-Jan-23
Na, he just bit it up and ripped it off the tree. But it was pretty funny to find it that way.

From: Live2Hunt
26-Jan-23
We have left them overnight. As far as spoiling, I would quarter and split the neck open. That esophagus area will start spoiling fast. As far as critters, we had snow on the ground one year. We quartered up and were coming in the next morning to get the rest. What we noticed was critter tracks (fox & yotes) in a ring about 30 yards or so out from the elk. I believe once you have human scent around, they will not come in. But, from others I know, grizz and brownies don't follow that rule.

From: Cornpone
26-Jan-23
I've killed a few that I left them overnight due to the lateness of the day. It was cool enough whereas I gutted and then slept with them where I was in my sleeping bag with a tarp cover. This was CO where I only had to be concerned with black bears and coyotes...no griz. No way was I going to have them chewed up...a couple buddies left them overnight to find remains in the morning.

From: Cazador
26-Jan-23
I can’t see how anyone would leave an elk overnight if found (excluding big bear areas)

I have found them prior to dark, and wait until dark before I open them up to avoid the bugs. I’d much rather kill an elk in the evening vs the AM, it’s not even close in terms of convenience.

From: 6pointbull
26-Jan-23
We have never lost meat if deboned, no matter the temps. Now losing meat to griz is another story. We boned out a 6x7 bull and moved it over the ridge from the carcas and still had no meat when we returned the next day. they even dragged the head and horns away. We went back the next week and found the head, however. The scary part is when we got back the next week, there were griz tracks in the snow that had followed us all the way back to our truck. Back to the OP, leaving meat out overnight on the bone can be a problem, but as others have stated does not mean immediate spoilage.

From: Jaquomo
26-Jan-23
Wow, did this thread take a sideways turn from the OP.

Ironbow, looking forward to your narrative about what actually happened.

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