Lots of thoughful answers so far. This is one of those personal ethics issues with no really right or wrong answer. Here's another legal concern with this situation: In my home state of Montana, it's illegal to shoot a deer and "waste" the meat. For example, you couldn't just shoot something (legally), bring it home (legally) and then decide you didn't want to use the venison. So, in the example "zork" has described, you couldn't just shoot the deer to put it "out of its misery" tag it, and then not use the meat. Personally, I wouldn't want to have to eat a deer that looked like it might be sick. But that's such a good question and has come up several times before, I wonder if anyone has asked the FWP people in their states what could be done legally to relieve this deer of suffering AND save your tag for a healthy one. Of course, the strictly legal answer might not satify a hunter's ethical standards.
I once did this with an elk that had been shot some time earlier in the day. It had a broken shoulder and was limping by me when I killed it. Luckily, the meat was fine.
Last edited by onehorse; 03-29-2009 at 12:48 PM.