When all is right in the world, recovering a bow-killed buck is as simple as walking to the spot where you watched him tip over. Just about other situation, however, is complicated by a variety of factors: the suspected shot placement, impending weather and temperature, the presence of predators…. “How long?” can indeed be one of the toughest questions faced by a bowhunter.

So here’s the scenario: You’re on an early-season whitetail hunt. With about a half hour of legal light left, a nice buck walks into your shooting lane at 25 yards. Your shot looks to be in the center of the deer vertically but enough into the mid-body horizontally that it might be a gut or liver hit. You watch the buck runs off and disappears over the backside of a hill. You get down from your stand and find good-sized drops of bright red blood, but no arrow. You follow the trail a short ways, but the sign doesn’t get any better. The temperature is 60 degrees and is expected to drop only 10 degrees overnight. There are coyotes in the area, though not in great numbers.

Based on this information, how long would you wait?