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Retrieving downed animals

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Unread 04-03-2009, 04:37 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Timaru New Zealand
Posts: 18
Retrieving downed animals

Hello, Just wanted the get peoples thoughts on leaving shot animals over night or not.
Most of the places I shoot long range the animals are on their way back into cover at daybreak but on their way out at night and give a better shot opportunity. Trouble is retrieving the meat.
If the night is cool (ie just on freezing) do you have any problem leaving animals shot just on dark to sit and collect in the early morning for the meat? Thanks guys.
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Unread 04-03-2009, 06:06 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Spokane , WA.
Posts: 186
Re: Retrieving downed animals

I've done both. leave it for a first light retreival or spend most of the night skinning and gutting by head-lamp. I think it depends on alot of things like:


-can you safely get to the animal in the dark? (cliffs? water? etc.)

-what is the likelyhood of loosing you meat to pedators?

-maybe you can get more help if you wait and do it in one trip.

I think having to wait until morning is perfectly accceptable if the currcumstances dictate. IMHO the important thing is to retieve as much of the animal as possible out of respect to it and the sport, no matter how it has to be done.
" People sleep peacably in their bed at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf " - George Orwell

I am the way I am because I watched the movies "Red Dawn" and "Tremors" at a impressionable age.
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Unread 04-03-2009, 06:36 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Great Falls, MT
Posts: 9,807
Re: Retrieving downed animals

Pulling the trigger is the easy part, the work involved (time and effort) after the shot is a different story ... and I always take that in consideration. I always make sure that the harvest is taken care of appropriately and immediately . Having said that, no I have never left my harvest overnight, regardless of temperature.

I am not a trophy hunter so I do not have any problem not taking the shot regardless how big the game is. IMHO, it takes more discipline not to take the shot. In my 30+ years of hunting, I've only harvested 1 big game animal past noon. Just my luck, I guest!

I voted for my "FREEDOM", "GUNS", and "MONEY" - keep the change - UNK.

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"Leadership Rule #2: Don't be an ***hole." - Maj Gen Burton Field.
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Unread 04-03-2009, 07:56 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Townsend, Montana.
Posts: 8,651
Re: Retrieving downed animals

Personally, I have only left one overnight. My first bow kill. It was a rather large Iowa WT Buck. He was not leaving much of a blood trail and even though I waited 2 hrs to track him, I was scared if I spooked him up I would never find him again. So we returned at first light. He was only about 100 yards from where we quit the night before. It was cool enough but he was stiff and a bugger to skin. Plus, I gotta say that was the worst deer meat I ever ate. So for me, unless like mentioned above, it is a safety matter I will be up all night if so need be. But I will probably have a couple friends on call to help. That is what hunting buddies are for and I would gladly return the favor.

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Unread 04-03-2009, 09:22 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 7,232
Re: Retrieving downed animals

Originally Posted by Jason View Post
Hello, Just wanted the get peoples thoughts on leaving shot animals over night or not.
Most of the places I shoot long range the animals are on their way back into cover at daybreak but on their way out at night and give a better shot opportunity. Trouble is retrieving the meat.
If the night is cool (ie just on freezing) do you have any problem leaving animals shot just on dark to sit and collect in the early morning for the meat? Thanks guys.
Here in Texas even the coldest weather is not cold enough to leave a deer on the ground
over night because the ground insulates the animal and spoilage is almost a sure thing.
Plus varments may/will find it and ruin it.

If you can retrieve it and field dress it that is another story because you can insert a few
bags of ice in the body cavity untill the next day and it will be fine ( The skin and hair acts
as an insulator for the meat and holds the cold in).

I personally Believe in processing any game as quick as possible1 to 2 hours from kill to
cooler. so if a shot is iffy in the evening I won't take it !!!!

I have lost only one animal to spoilage (A mule deer ) It was snowing and I got lazy
and field dressed it and hung him up to finish the following day ,big mistake, it soured
over night and was uneatable because I left the skin on.

So my recomendation is= If you shoot it, track it until you find it and then clean and process
it before you go to bed.( You can allways sleep in the next day without worring about
the meat).I have seen and smelled many kills that were left on the ground by a lazy hunter
only to hear later on how the meat was tough and strong so they just ground it up and
made sausage out of it.

Knowing that I am going to work untill I get the game In the cooler has made me more
cautious about the shots made in the evenings and some times I just pass on a shot and
take pictures if the weather is bad and I feel lazy.

Just my thoughts on the subject
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Unread 04-03-2009, 09:54 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Skagit Valley WASHINGTON
Posts: 160
Re: Retrieving downed animals

I have never left one of my kills overnight, but have left the skin on overnight when I was younger. EVERY deer that we didn't get the skin off right away has been the gamiest and toughest meat we have had. The most important thing is to get the meat cooled all the way through as quickly as possible. The food safety standard for cooling meat is to get the INTERNAL temperature below 70 degrees within the first two hours and then below 40 (or 41 depending on what health code you fall under) within the next four hours. Now in real hunting situations, I don't carry a stem thermometer and it might take 6 hours just to get the animal back to the truck, you could be hours from the nearest town, it could be 50 - 60 degrees, etc. So here is my rule that I do everything in my power to follow - make a good shot and a quick recovery then gut and skin the animal as quickly as possible and then break the animal down into smaller pieces if possible, and if not at least open up the chest cavity and the shoulders. If you do this right away it will quickly lower the temp of the meat even on a warmer day, but if you leave the skin on it will insulate (that's a big part of how they stay warm) the big muscles and keep it well above 70 degrees for several hours even if the temperature is around freezing. And as was stated before, get the meat off the ground as the ground will insulate the meat that it is in contact with and cause that section to turn pretty quickly. You wouldn't buy prime grade tenderloins at the grocery store and then leave them in the trunk of your car for several hours, so do your best to take care of the animals you harvest.
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Unread 04-03-2009, 09:56 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Michigan
Posts: 2,232
Re: Retrieving downed animals

We always try to get them out, hung up and skin off.

However, in the west sometimes it's not possible. Large Muley's and all Elk (especially the bulls), will spoil if the hide isn't pulled (even in VERY cold weather), as the hide is too good of an insulator.

The neck meat and hind quarters on a bull elk will still be warm then next day if not skinned, even when left in snow.

If I have to leave an animal in the woods, I'll open them up and prop the cavity open with sticks. I'll get them up off the ground, even if it means just placing them on a couple of blown down logs (makes a huge difference compared to laying flat on the ground).

Last year, we where only able to take 1/2 of the 5 pt bull we got before the weather (blizzard) and dark caught up with us. We deboned all the meat and layed the LARGE pieces over branches. When we got back the next morning, the meat had a little snow on it, was not frozen and was just like being in a cold frig all night (perfect). I was told that by de-boning and 'hanging' the chunks, the predators will focus on the skeleton and leave the meat alone.

When I've had to leave Muley's in the woods, I always try to hang them (head down), to get the largest portion of meat up off the ground and away from most predators.


If some is good and more is better, then too much is just right.

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