How Long Before Deer Meat Spoils & How to Detect Spoilage

Killing big game, particularly deer, is a good way to gather food during a disaster. One killed animal will last you weeks which is why it’s important to know when it’ll spoil and how to prevent spoilage.

How long before deer meat spoils? The rate of spoilage depends on factors like temperature, weather, location, and meat storage. If the temperature is warm, the meat will last for as long as 12 hours. Cooler temperatures will make the meat last for at least 24 hours. This is only on the assumption that you immediately gutted the animal to prevent the spread of microorganisms that will cause it to spoil.

It’s also important to maximize the entire animal carcass and to avoid waste as much as possible.

Take The Deer Temperature

deer temp

The first thing you should do upon killing a deer is to take its temperature. The normal body temperature of a grazing deer at rest is 101 degrees Fahrenheit. The final temperature depends on what the deer was doing before it got shot.

For example, if the deer was running or being chased, you can expect its body temperature to shoot up. The maximum temperature should only be five degrees higher than the average. It’s still healthy meat at 106 degrees.

Temperature is important because it largely influences the growth of microorganisms that cause spoiling. Bacteria can grow in temperatures of 70 to 120 degrees. If placed under ideal conditions, their growth can double. If the temperature is dropped to forty degrees, most of the microorganisms will stop growing.

Factors That Affect Deer Meat Spoilage

There’s no fixed time-frame during which deer meat will spoil. Different factors affect its rate.


Aside from the temperature of the deer’s body, you should also take a look at the environmental temperature. This includes the air, the earth, and the bodies of water. The key to preventing the meat from spoiling is to cool it as soon as possible. The biggest danger is exposing it to high temperatures since this can encourage the growth of microorganisms.

Spoilage is a minor concern if the temperature measures forty degrees. Avoid leaving the meat on the ground if the ground is very warm. The ground may act as an insulator and cause the meat to spoil. The only time you should place the meat on the ground is if the ground is colder than the air temperature.


There are two main things necessary for the growth of microorganisms: oxygen and water. Exposing the venison to water sources, like rain or condensation from humidity, can cause the microorganisms to grow and cause spoilage.

Make sure to keep the carcass under some shade and away from direct sunlight upon cutting it open. Experts discourage washing the meat before refrigeration because it will enable bacterial growth. If you intend to hang up the meat, make sure to do so in a clean and dry area, sheltered from the rain.

Condition Of Deer

deer condition

The health condition and quality of the deer before it died also affects the rate of spoilage. A sickly and immunocompromised deer is more likely to spoil within a few hours of its death. Spoilage also occurs quickly if the animal was shot but wasn’t retrieved immediately. The open wound can be a site for bacterial growth which will just escalate once the animal dies. 

It’s advisable to go for deer that are healthy and in good overall condition. You should try to aim for a swift and merciful death to minimize spoilage and for ethical reasons. Avoid shooting the deer in the torso or the gut area. The intestines house numerous bacteria that can quickly spread once punctured.  

As soon as you kill the deer, remove gout and intestines. Be careful to not puncture the intestines to prevent the spread of bacteria to the other regions.

Signs Of Meat Spoilage

Smell And Texture 

This is the easiest way to determine meat spoilage. The meat will have a distinct and pungent smell. It will smell sour and putrid. Moreover, the meat will also feel slimy or sticky to the touch. There will be a mucus-like buildup on its surface. It should be smooth. However, if the meat has been frozen, it can be hard to tell if it’s spoiled just by using your senses.


Spoilage will cause the color of the meat to change. It will turn green, greenish-brown, dark brown, or even black, when it should be dark red in color.  

How To Preserve Deer Meat


Refrigerate The Meat

The easiest way to preserve deer meat is through refrigeration. Keeping the meat under 0°F will prevent the growth of most microorganisms. To prepare, simply cut the meat in sections. Place them in sanitary bags. Label the bags according to parts. It’s advisable to section them into chunks that are good for a meal so that you can just take out the number of bags you need whenever you cook. Store them in the freezer.

This should last for six months to a year. It’s advisable to eat the meat as soon as possible because old meat will become tougher and more unpleasant to eat. Allow the meat to fully thaw before cooking.


In emergencies, you might not have access to refrigeration because the electricity supply might get cut. In this scenario, you can preserve the meat by making homemade venison jerky.

Dehydrating the meat eliminates water which stops the growth of microorganisms. You can do this by putting the meat into a dehydrator for eight to ten hours. You may also use an oven. If all electrical sources are cut, you can do this by using a solar oven or by allowing the meat strips to dry under the sun.

Cut the meat into thin strips that measure about 1/8 of an inch. Lay them on a tray. Season with a brine solution and any other seasonings you prefer. The salt acts as an antiseptic by killing off more bacteria. Allow the meat strips to dry until they feel leathery. Seal in airtight bags and label accordingly.

Chris Green

Chris has always had an adventurous soul, and his love for the outdoors eventually led him to become a professional life skills advisor. He explains a multitude of different topics ranging from disaster preparedness and wilderness survival to self-sufficiency.

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