I agree not to shoot if you cannot at least gut the elk, I have left many elk gutted overnight, I also prop open back legs, skin top back leg and logs under so air circulates. You will not loose meat this way if temps are 50 or below IMO. Definetly ok when temps are 40 or below. When I hear stories where people claim to have lost meat this way I simply do not believe them - not possible - and yes it is an exact science! How do you think good cow steaks are aged 30 days! Granted size, wind, varying temps and changing temps make it impossible to figure out but estimating is pretty easy.
Had I known elk was on the other side of a creek I would could have easily picked a different one - but again she crossed the creek but just a bend no way I could have known creek was between me and her.
No way I could cross without getting severe frostbite, very very cold, 2' deep running, 15' across, 2-3 mile hike to any road/vehicle.
And also keep in mind I did not freeze that meat for days. Next day was mid 30's we were there 2 or 3 more days AND had a looong delay in flight with meat at Denver airport inside for 4 or 5 hours. Also meat in carry on bags on 2 flight, and at home put outside overnight. So even after that meat was not frozen for 4-5 days.
Granted I bet I really pushed it but bottom line is all meat was 100% ok.
The only elk I ever lost I found right away, bow NM in AM with frost in AM. Gutted him and had a long hike out and drive around to get back in. Problem was my guesstimate for sun was off and what I thought would be shade was not. Elk laid in blazing sun with tons of bees and flies. Yuck. Then long hike out and drive to butcher.
I ate the meat but it was clearly partially spoiled, tasted not good, I ate all or most of it but not good.
Like I said I was not worried until during long hike in it occurred to me that I was gone from her for much longer then it would seem!
It still seems odd to me by the time I got her gutted it was 20 hours from when I shot her! Dark early, respected other hunters and did not head in for first hour or two and looong hike in. It just never occurred to me I could shoot an elk at dark head in early but be gone almost a full day!
Again this post is as an fyi knowledge is power.
Also a good thing I now bring on all hunts is a small infared thermal reader. I think it cost me $10 and weighs less then an ounce. Point at surface push button and read temp. I always have big cookouts at my house after a hunt so people can eat fresh never frozen meat so this things is GREAT for checking meat and getting it right to 33 degrees for best aging.