How long before the deer meat is bad?


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Thread starter #1
I am a novice hunter...this is my first season. Considering it is going to be close to 90 degrees on opening day, how long after a deer is killed before it starts to go bad? I mean if I get one (HOPING) should I be in a dead run to try to get to it and get it out or what? Any advice would be appreciated. Also, my local deer processor told me that they will field dress for me that advisable or should I dress it ASAP to cool it down?
Gut it first, some people have someone do that for them, but how are you going to learn? If you skin and quarter it up it will fit nicely into a good ice chest and last all weekend with ice.(Gonna have to learn that too). I'm sure your going to get all kinds of answers here, so get ready. Personally I gut, quarter, chill my deer before the way home that way-nobody but me gets any of the backstrap!!!


Senior Member
Follow the deer up depending on the shot. Heart/Lung 30min to 1 hr. anything other than that I would wait at least 2 hrs on a marginal shot. If you have never processed your own deer I would suggest taking it to the processor and watching them clean and process the deer so you can learn the techique otherwise you may do something wrong and increase the amount of meat loss/spoilage. Good luck and shoot straight.


Senior Member
The key to having good venison is the care after the kill. Generally speaking it is best to field dress the deer fairly soon, cool it down, protect it from the blow flies, etc. The actual timing of this is probably dependant upon the outside air temps. The warmer it is outside, the quicker you need to get the deer dressed and cooled.

Keep the deer out of the direct sunlight and away from anyplace that would cause heat or keep the deer from cooling quickly. Laying/leaving the deer in the hot bed of a pick up truck or on the hot hood is a No No. Obviously, chilling the deer in a large ice chest or walk in cooler would be best if hunting during very warm weather.

Having an experienced deer hunter or processor show you how to properly field dress and process the deer will help a lot and speed up your learning process. It is not difficult, just a few basic things you to avoid such as don't bust open the guts, stomach, or bladder with your knife and spill those contents on the meat. After field dressing, wash the inside and outside down very well with lots of fresh water, removing any/all body fluids, dirt, hair, etc. I trim off any/all bloodied meat around the wound.

Properly field dressing, leaving hide on, and hanging the deer in a walk in cooler at about 38 degress for about 21 days is the best thing you can do for venison.

Good luck.



Senior Member
Several Hours

I've have sometimes had it take 2-3 hours from the time of the kill until it's at the processor without it being gutted... but it was probably 75-80 degrees not 90+.

Since you've never field dressed one before, I'd say if you can get it out of the woods and to the processor even ungutted in not more than 1-2 hours you'll be fine. Obviously, the quicker the better.

Another option would be to forget about gutting it. Just skin it and remove the front legs(shoulders), back legs (hams), and the backstraps. Remove any excess bone and fat and put it all in a big cooler and ice it down. The only thing you're going to miss by not gutting it is the tenderloins... which are worth getting but since you're a novice at this, let it go for now.

It will hold just fine this way for a few days. BUT, the key here is to drain the cooler and add new ice daily. Don't let the meat sit in water. It will spoil.

yeah I'd say it'd be fine unrefrigerated for about 2 hours after dead. If you gut it but dont want to quarter it up you can always buy a few bags of ice and pour it into the deer's body cavity. This will buy you a little time.


Deer meat is fine as long as the cooling process is going on. Once the body tempature reaches air temp. bacteria starts to grow. this normally takes hours. During early season, dont hang your deer at camp but take it to the cooler. The reason a lot of deer are not more tasty is the processors are bad to not let them hang. Deer are more tender if allowed to hang at a cool temp for a week. Most processors will have the deer butchered and wraped before you get back to camp. The first deer i took was an 8 pointer on the alcovy river in 1966. We gutted him with single edge razor blades.
It sounds like good advice that you are getting. I have before put a deer in the creek I was hunting next to because we were not through with our deer drives that day. The creek kept the doe very cool on a unusually warm day.

(Anyone out there know if this is a bad idea?)
Temps to remember as well, anything above 135 is good to serve food, and you want to chill at below 40, so keep it out of that range as much as possible, so what do i mean by that...... Get it to below 40 as fast as humanly possible.....
I alway's cary a large icechest full of bagged Ice, after I field dress the deer I pack bags of ice inside the cavity and between the hindquarters to cool the meat down and when I get it home I skin it and at least quarter it and place it in an Ice chest and Ice it down, this will give you the needed time to butcher and freeze the meat. Besides it will let allot of the blood drain from the meat.
you can go on the internet and find several sights on how to field dress a deer.also you can freeze milk jugs or 3 litter coke bottles and put in deer cavity while transporting to cooler. your meat will be the best if you gut it,then take to cooler.
All good advice. The quicker you get the meat cooling after the kill the better off you are.

As to how long you can go before the meat goes bad, several years ago one of the guys I hunt with stuck a doe on opening day morning of archery - 85+ degrees. He didn't find her until 3-4 that afternoon. She was in the shade, and the meat didn't spoil even after lying out in the heat for 5 or 6 hours.

I wouldn't recommend leaving your deer that long unless you can't find it. Chilling them down quickly is the key, especially during archery season when it is hot.
If the outside temperature is over 40 degrees, I try to never leave the deer laying more than 30 minutes after it dies. I get the deer back to camp ASAP where I take a few pics, then hang it by the hind legs. Then I skin it, remove the shoulders, neck roast (unless it's a neck-shot deer), backstraps, tenderloins, and hams. I ice them in a cooler and leave the drain spout open so the water drains off. Leaving it in water will turn the meat white which makes it taste bad.

Of course, a deer than runs off sometimes takes longer to recover. Several years ago, my dad shot a spike with his crossbow that laid for nearly 3 hours in the sun before we recovered it. We were afraid it might have started to spoil, but the meat tasted just fine.


Senior Member
Get it cool as quick as you can.. Definitely gut the deer and preferably quarter or atleast skin it out to speed up the cooling. I'm sure someone will help you with your first, besides, who else is going to initiate your first deer.

Good luck, be safe, and most of all......ENJOY THE HUNT


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Thread starter #15
Thanks so much for all the advice so far...any advice on a cooler to use. I am in Covington 212/81 area. Anyone ever used Capes Sausage Co? Also heard good things about hilman's in mcdonough
Thanks so much for all the advice so far...any advice on a cooler to use. I am in Covington 212/81 area. Anyone ever used Capes Sausage Co? Also heard good things about hilman's in mcdonough
To me the cooler you are going to use all depends on what you are going to do to the deer. If you are are going to quarter it up so it fits in the ice chest use one close to home. If you plan on just gutting it use one close to where you hunt that way the deer cools off quicker. I personally have not used hilmans but I know of a few people that have and they have no complaints. As for advice on a deer cooler some might not agree with me but I look at a cooler like I like at a resturant if it looks bad I'm not going to eat there so if the cooler looks bad they arent gettin my business. I work hard for my deer I want to enjoy it. Also I dont know if any body has told you to or not but it never hurts to take a few pairs of latex gloves with you for cleaning. Alos you can look on GON homepage for a list of coolers in your area they should have a link up by now.