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If you are out and get a "clean" kill on a deer, meaning that you have hit only its vitals, how long do you have to field dress the deer?

Also, beyond that how long do you have to get that deer processed? Under the conditions that I am thinking the deer would just be at camp. How long would you have with it there?

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tough one. until.. meat spoils, ideal time... and by processed... do you mean in the cooler for aging, because done properly you hang the meat for a while before you actually "process" it –  Russell Steen Feb 24 '12 at 1:04

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According to USDA Guidelines, meat should be refrigerated within two hours. Obviously a gunshot wound is far different from exposed meat, but the principle is the same - get the meat cold as soon as possible. The skin is going to act as packaging for the meat, but you don't want to leave it out all day.

Once the blood has stopped pumping, there is nothing keeping the bacteria at bay. The "danger zone" for meat is 40 degrees - 140 degrees Farenheit. If you're hunting at night in the winter or fall, this may buy you all night long - but within a few hours of sunrise, you'll need to protect it.

When I've dressed my own turkeys and chickens, I make sure that the entire process - from slit to pluck to evisceration - is done within three hours.

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