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Thread: Temperature/leaving a deer overnight?

  1. #1
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    Temperature/leaving a deer overnight?

    At what temperature is it safe to leave a deer laying overnight? That is, what is the maximum temperature that the meat of a deer will still be good at if you feel the need to wait till the next morning to find it?



    I'd guess 55-60 degrees that a deer will remain good for about 7-8 hrs, but I want to know about everyone else's experiences.


  2. #2
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    Good question. In my own mind I would have concerns with anything above 50 deg. but I am very interested in hearing some opinions on this.
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  3. #3
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    Lot of it may depend on where the deer is hit. A paunch shot deer may be ruined or spoiled at 50 degrees. A deer that has bled out or does not have alot of blood left in its body cavity may be fine.
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    I would say lower 40s. I think the average household fridge run around 37'-42' so I would say if its in this range it would be the same as being chopped up in the fridge.

    I do agree though that if you gut shot one you should wash the meat well or cut around it if you leave it lying overnight.
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  5. #5
    my wife shot a deer this season...it was at about 8pm, temp was 70's. Followed up next day. Found it at 9:30 am or so. Temps during the night and morning were in the 50's. Deer was sort of gut shot, bloated and stunk when dressing. Dressed it and butchered it up. Meat around gut area was tainted the rest good. I think if it was a clean heart shot or DL all the meat may have been better.

  6. #6
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    imo it just depends. what time you shoot the deer. where you hit it. what time does it die. generally speaking, if I shoot a deer right at dark and it's in the 50's and it's gonna get down to around 45 or below, I feel comfortable in leaving it. If it's 70 and gonna get down to 45 and I shoot the deer at 4 pm, I don't. but it depends on the hit, what weapon, etc
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  7. #7
    40 and under.

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    I always hang my deer in a shady /cool area to drain and cool down the meat (head down for me…most will say head up). Use a couple of sticks and prop open the ribs to make sure that air is circulating through the chest cavity, this helps with the cooling. Bacterial growth increases when temperatures reach above 40 degrees and will spoil quickly when temperature reaches above 50 degrees. I have left deer hanging overnight in 60 degree weather but stuffed the chest cavity with ice.
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  11. #11
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    Where I work at we must temp meat everyday when it comes in on trucks. The temp that we have to reach is 41 degrees and after it reaches that point it goes straight into a cooler that averages around 37.

    So 41 and below is something that you should look at when trying to keep meat but I think anything much higher then that, say 46 and up, would be risking it.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by core-lok1 View Post
    At what temperature is it safe to leave a deer laying overnight? That is, what is the maximum temperature that the meat of a deer will still be good at if you feel the need to wait till the next morning to find it?

    I'd guess 55-60 degrees that a deer will remain good for about 7-8 hrs, but I want to know about everyone else's experiences.
    Who knows... it's really contingent upon the circumstances and variables of each situation... I've left elk quarters (uh- like last week) hanging in the shade and breeze for over 48 hours where day time temps hit the mid 60's, but night time temps were just below freezing... and the meat was perfect... All you can do is all you can do... do your best, make a good shot, try to get him out as quick as you can... in the end what matters is that you give it your all... and hope to have some good meat to show for it in the end...

    Good luck and happy hunting...
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  13. #13
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    Even if the temps are in the lower 40's the internal temp of the meat will remain at unsafe levels.

    The standard in butchering is to get the internal temp of the thickest part of the meat to below 41 degrees with in 24 hours of slaughter.

    I start the clock when the shot is taken.

  14. #14
    I wouldn't leave a deer to lay unless I absolutely had to...and it must be a heck of a reason why (white-out conditions, broken leg, etc.)

    If you had a less-than-ideal hit you're going to be risking stomach acids or waste tainting the meat, which will cause it to spoil sooner.
    Also, a whole animal, still in the hide will retain a LOT of heat. Even in 40°F weather, it's going to take a VERY long time for much of that meat to cool to even 65°F...which means the enzymes and bacteria are going to be breaking down the meat much more quickly than meat that was properly cooled.

    Larger game, such as elk, can bone sour very rapidly if not cooled immediately...especially around larger bones such as the femur. They also take even longer to cool if left to lay whole.

    A skinned and dressed carcass will fair 50°F weather much better, and longer than a whole animal would.

    I'd say stock up on flashlights and batteries and find those deer, rather that waiting around and risking it. A few hours of lost sleep and difficult tracking is a better deal than a complete animal wasted, IMHO.

  15. #15
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    I'd say you could let one lay overnight in the upper 40's or lower 50's. I wouldn't let one hang after cleaning unless the temps didn't get out of the 30's.

  16. #16
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    The rate of cooling at the deepest point will vary according to many factors including the efficiency of the cooler, the load, carcass size and fatness. As a general guide a deep muscle temperature of 6–7° C should be achieved in 28 to 36 hours for beef, 12 to 16 hours for pigs and 24 to 30 hours for sheep carcasses. Failure to bring down the internal temperature quickly will result in rapid multiplication of bacteria deep in the meat resulting in off-odours and bone-taint.
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/T0279E/T0279E04.htm

    I'll look for more sources. Everything I find indicates that leaving an animal overnight is not dangerous. The key is handling the animal properly during field dressing and processing while rapidly cooling the meat. According to the above you have 24 hours+ to properly cool the beef and sheep after slaughter.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by twogun View Post
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/T0279E/T0279E04.htm

    Everything I find indicates that leaving an animal overnight is not dangerous. The key is handling the animal properly during field dressing and processing while rapidly cooling the meat. According to the above you have 24 hours+ to properly cool the beef and sheep after slaughter.
    I think the part you are not considering is that a dead animal has a lot of heat to disperse. So, for quite a long time, the meat is sitting there in a heated condition. The animal's fat and hair is a big time insulation to letting the body heat out, not to mention the ground underneath. That is different than stating you have 24 hours to get the core temp of the meat completely down "after slaughter".

    If I know a deer is dead, I will not leave it unless it is 30 or less. Gut shot is different, given that the death (beginning of meat spoilage) will not happen until sometime into the night, and probably close to morning.
    Last edited by Robin@AimLow; September 30th, 2008 at 04:15 PM.
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  18. #18
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    Shot a deer last week at 6:00pm. Recovered it in the morning. Temps where in mid 50-60's. He was shot high and back which caught gut and liver. I could smell it when I approached him and gutting him it got bad. Got him to the butcher and he said it was fine.
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