One of the most important aspects of a successful deer hunt is finding the animal after making the shot. It’s obviously ideal when a deer goes down within site but it doesn’t always happen that way.
Tracking a wounded deer isn’t something that should be taken lightly. I don’t want to make it sound like it takes a forensic scientist but there are some tips you should follow to help increase your chances of recovering your deer.
A good tracking technique starts the second you pull the trigger. Adrenaline will try to keep you from paying attention but it can be crucial to actually tagging your kill. Watch the deer’s reaction to the shot as this can be a sign of where you hit it.
Notice how it reacts and how it runs off. If it runs a ways off and then stands there hunched up, I can tell you from experience that you’ve hit it in the stomach or guts. Not the best scenario at all. It probably will die but it could take up to several days so you need to get another shot into it if you can.
Limping or running on three legs may indicate a leg shot. A high jump and kick followed by a high speed run can indicate a vital shot. Sometimes though, it is just hard to tell where you hit the deer even if you are paying attention.
Gun shots are usually harder to tell than an arrow shot. I have arrowed a few deer that ran out of sight but as I sat quietly and listened I heard them crash in the crunchy leaves soon after. This helped me in knowing that the deer was down and I could go recover it.
After every shot tune in your spidey senses until everything has calmed down and then evaluate the situation.
If a deer does run off and you are not sure where you hit it, even if you felt like it was a good clean shot, it is best to wait. I know that is asking a lot, especially if it’s a big buck. For some hunters, it’s like asking a 2 year old not to eat the ice cream you just set down in front of them.
Chasing after a deer that may not be hit well will only make the tracking job harder and could easily cause you to lose the deer all together.
A wounded deer will almost always bed down once they feel safe. Many times, depending on the shot, they will die in that bed even though it might take several hours.
A clipped lung or nicked liver is a good example, but there are so many variables that you just never know, which is why it is best to wait.
I’ve been on track jobs against my will less than an hour of the deer being shot. Not because I didn’t want to help a buddy but because they were unsure of the shot placement.
Not being able to talk them into waiting, we ended up catching up to the deer and pushing it, in some cases we even saw the deer get up and run off.
Once a deer beds down for awhile the blood can clot and you won’t find a blood trail from there on. Needless to say we’ve lost some deer that probably would have died where they first laid down if we would have waited. So when in doubt, back out. I cannot express that enough.
After you’ve waited or you’re sure of a good shot find the first signs of blood. If you were bow hunting, finding the arrow can be helpful. The look and even smell of the blood can be good indicators of the shot.
Any hair that may be on the arrow can also give a sign of where the deer was hit. Following the blood trail should be done in a careful manner. You definitely do not want 3 or 4 guys just barreling ahead and stepping all over the trail. It can thin out very quickly and you’ll mess up any spots or blood drips that may have indicated the deer turned.
If you have a huge trail with blood everywhere that is one thing, but following a less obvious blood trail can be more tricky. Throw darkness into the mix if you’re tracking at night and it can be downright exhausting.
We have tracked deer for hours literally on our hands and knees. One trick to use when the blood sign is hit and miss is to place a marker at the last found blood spot. Use a tissue or something to mark the last spot before you move ahead to find the next one. Going back to that spot and following a different path has paid off many times.
It is also a good idea to bring your weapon with you in case you jump the deer. Be sure you are within legal hunting hours though and that you are meeting your state’s hunting requirements. Practice safety as well like you always would carrying a weapon.
Sometimes even after you’ve waited to track the deer there is always a chance you could jump it. There is nothing worse than jumping a wounded deer or walking up to a deer lying there still breathing and not having at least a knife on you.
Today, there are many new hunting products on the market that can aid you in tracking a deer. The Bloodhunter by Primos is a blood trailing flashlight that uses colored lenses to help illuminate the reflective properties of blood to the human eye.
I have used the bloodhunter flashlight and can honestly say it does help the blood show up better at night than a regular flashlight. There are also sprays that will help illuminate blood but I have not tried any of them personally. If you have tried them, let us know how they worked out for you in the comment area below.
The key factor to remember is to be patient, quiet, and methodical when tracking a wounded deer. We would all love to be as humane as possible and put a perfect shot on every deer we harvest. When that doesn’t happen we can at least be as ethical and respectful as we can in recovering the deer and putting some food on the table.
Thanks for reading and happy tracking!