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How Long Can Dead Deer Sit Before It Spoils?-Hunting 101

Whether it is hunting season or you are deer hunting for survival you need to know about food safety. This is especially so with deer hunting or other wild game as you can easily get swept up in the thrill of shooting a prized buck and forget to do the needed dirty work of bleeding out and field dressing your prize.

What About The Question In The Title Of This Article?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight answer. In fact, I could only find one website that gave a straight time, which was around 12 hours for average temperatures and 24 hours during cold and dry weather conditions. This article also said that you still should separate the entrails from the meat.

Because of many variables like the weather, condition of the deer, and so forth, there is not a rule of thumb or consensus on how long an un-gutted deer can last before it gets spoiled. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any reputable site giving you even an estimated time.

Factors on How Long A Harvested Deer Should Last Before Spoilage

Some of the major factors, on how long you can wait, are the weather conditions, how and where a deer was shot, and the condition of the harvested deer. Below are summaries of each of these factors:

  • Temperature-The ideal temperature for venison is between 30 to 40 degrees. Between 70 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. However, meat spoilage will be a concern when it is 40 degrees or more outside.
  • How Was the Deer Killed? Certain shots will result in venison meat spoiling quicker. A gut shot deer is a prime example.
  • Did The Deer Have A Full Stomach? This cannot be controlled by you. But, shooting a deer that just ate can lessen the meat quality.
  • Was the Deer Quickly Cooled Down? The longer it takes to start field dressing the deer and cool it down the more chance of meat spoilage.
  • Overall Weather Conditions? Increased micro-organism growth happens when a deer gets wet.

This article mentions deer. However, the information also pertains to any types of wild game animal. I.E. Elk, Moose, and so forth.

How Do You Know If Venison Is Spoiled?

As with any meat (any food also), you need to know the signs of rotten meat. Spoiled venison is detected by examining the smell, texture, and color.

If in doubt throw it out!/ I realize this is cheesy!


Spoiled venison smells pretty much like any other rotten meat. So, if it does not smell abnormal you need to still check the texture and color of the meat.

Color and Texture

Fresh and edible venison meat is dark red with a brownish tint, and the meat texture is smooth with a slimy feel. On the other hand, spoiled venison is dark red and instead of a brownish tint, it has a green-like shade. Other signs of spoiled meat are when the blood is brown rather than dark red, and it has a smooth texture.

Preventing Deer Meat Spoilage

Field Dressing A Deer

Deer Being Prepper For A Field Dressing

The perfect temperature for bacterial growth is between 70 to 120 degrees. However, bacteria growth is still a concern if the temperature is 40 Fahrenheit or more. Between 30 to 40 degrees is the sweet spot. So, the number one key to preventing meat spoilage is to cool your deer down ASAP.

This means that, depending upon the temperature, if you kill a deer, you may need to cut your hunting session short for that day and either go home to field dress and cool it down or take your deer to the meat processor.

How Does Field Dressing Cool Down A Deer?

When a deer is field dressed its entrails or internal organs are removed. This results in preserving the venison, cooling down the animal’s carcass, and cleaning out the blood from the stomach.

Final Thoughts

In normal times, knowing how to properly handle a harvested deer is very important, as you do not want to subject yourself or your family to food poisoning. Normally, food poisoning may make you wish you were dead. But, it will not kill you.

When the SHTF though you will need to be on your A-game. And, if because you failed to take the necessary precautions and get sick, you definitely will not be at your best.

So, when you get your buck, during deer season, or if you are survival hunting, unless it is between 30 and 40 degrees, start field dressing and cooling down your deer ASAP.


The Gut Hook Blade

Bone Collector 7.5" Gut Hook Blade Black Bone Handle Hunting Knife with Leather Sheath (Flat Head)

The Gut Hook Knife Blade is an invaluable field dressing tool, that can be recognized as having a hook at the top of the knife. A gut hook’s specialty is to split a deer’s skin and pull it back like a zipper. This hook will also have less chance of slicing into the animal’s muscle. (Slicing into the muscle can possible affect meat’s quality)

What Is The Best Shot Placement For Deer

Where a deer is shot is, arguably, the number one factor in how delicious the venison steak will taste. And the quicker the kill the better.  Shooting a dear through the nearest should and into the other side should instantly kill the deer.

Avoid The Gut Shot

a gut shot should be avoided, at all costs, for the following reasons:


Shooting a deer in the gut will most likely NOT kill the deer instantly. Instead, if you cannot get another shot off, the deer will runoff. You will then have to follow its blood trail in the hopes of finding the wounded animal before the meat goes bad.

In summary, a gut shot could result in you missing out on your kill, and, to top it off the wounded deer could end up spending his last few hours of life in excruciating pain.

Meat Quality

A deer take a long time to bleed out when it is shot in the stomach. Instead, blood accumulates in the deer’s body cavity, which can ruin the taste of deer meat. The worst-case scenario, for a gut shot deer is that the blood will spoil, which results in the deer meat being spoiled.