Tracking Wounded Whitetail Deer
Author: David Selman, Tracker-Outdoors.com
Ethical hunters should always do their best to deliver a clean lethal shot that
ends the life of game quickly. We should "pass up" shots that are less than
sure. There are occasions however when our best intentions require us to track
game. Out of respect for the wildlife we hunt, we should make every effort
possible to find the game we have shot. From the moment we raise our hunting
weapon of choice the tracking process begins. When the arrow is released or the
trigger is pulled pay close attention to every detail. Watch the deer carefully
after the shot and study it's reactions, a grazing shot, rib shot, heart or lung
shot can make the deer jump and run off at full speed. A gut shot deer often
holds it's tail down and hunches it's back as it leaves the scene. A deer that
has been shot in the gut or paunch is usually the most difficult to recover.
Wait 2-3 hours before trailing a deer you believe was gut shot. Always follow up
on any deer you take a shot at. Never make the assumption that you missed
Here are some tips:
Notice the direction the deer or other game was traveling when you shot.
Notice where the game is standing when you shoot.
Look carefully for the exact area of the entrance wound or for a protruding
shaft of an arrow after the shot.
If the game runs after the shot, note the spot the deer was standing and the
direction of travel as it ran.
If you know you hit the deer and it runs off, wait at least 30 minutes before
Before you begin trailing, mark the location from which you shot.
Always walk in the direction your bullet or arrow traveled, checking for nicks
in vegetation or any other signs that your shot was possibly deflected.
Carefully inspect the area that the deer was standing when the shot was made.
Look for blood and hair at the scene. Lots of hair usually means a grazing shot
, while a little hair means a body shot.
If there is mostly brown hair the shot was high, mostly white, the shot was low.
If there are bone fragments at the scene there is a possibility of a leg hit.
Mark this area and don't disturb it, you may have to return later.
When you find the blood trail always walk beside it, not on it, do not destroy
If you lose the blood trail , go to the spot the last blood was found an mark
Look for any other sign that may indicate the direction of travel of the deer
(i.e. up turned leaves, broken vegetation).
Search in a circular pattern around the last spot of blood you found. If you
still cannot locate the game, go get help. Every effort must be made to retrieve
a wounded animal before resuming the hunt.
You cannot predict the behavior of a wounded deer. Once you start trailing, move
quickly to avoid giving blood time to dry and become harder to find. Always be
ready to shoot, never assume the animal is dead.
Blood Sign Heart, lung or large blood vessel hit: Fine droplets sprayed on both
sides of the trail for 75 to 100 yards, sometimes several feet up on trees and
vegetation. Usually a clean kill and the deer should not travel far.
Gut shot Food particles and putrid smelling blood. Blood trail is difficult to
find at the location the shot was made. Bloody spots appear in about the first
50-75 yards and steadily decrease. Do not follow this deer too closely. Allow
2-3 hours before trailing. The deer will bleed to death when it beds down if you
don't chase it.
Leg, back muscle, neck, or body cavity hit Large spots of blood at the spot
where the animal was hit, turning to continuous drops that diminish after about
150 yards. Bleeding continues while the animal is moving but stops when the
animal lies down.
Good Hunting, Tracker Outdoors
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