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You scouted the buck, studied his movements and behaviors, got in your spot, and waited patiently for him. The moment arrived and you took a good shot or thought you did. It did not drop dead in its tracks.
Surprisingly, he took off like a kite in the wind. Now it dawned on you that you will have to track him after taking a good shot. Do you have the knowledge and skills on how to track deer after the shot? In this article, we discuss how to track a wounded deer.
Table of Contents
How To Track Deer After The Shot
1. Do Nothing Right Away
After the deer is hit, resist the adrenaline rush to climb down from your treestand or your ground blind and take off after it. Only come down quickly if you see the deer lying lifeless on the ground for 10 minutes. Instead, do nothing for about 30 minutes. Relive the scene. Playback where it stood before it was hit. Remember the last place you spotted it.
Look for a landmark for the last place you saw the deer. Try to remember how it reacted after being hit. Visualize which direction it took off in. All the information you go over during this period will help you put the pieces together to track the wounded deer and find it.
A wounded deer will go about 100 or 200 yards after being fatally shot. Going after it too soon will only cause the deer to move farther away and increase the likelihood that you never find it. Waiting for an hour or more makes it easier to find it sometimes, even if it sounds crazy. A fatally wounded deer will dart off but find somewhere nearby to fall if you don’t immediately go after it. Without the fear of being pursued, a wounded deer will bed down and stiffen up.
2. Deer Initial Reaction
It is very important that you pay attention to the initial reaction of the deer after it is shot. How it reacts can give you some clues as to where it was hit and the severity of the shot. Additionally, be prepared to quickly take another shot if it is needed.
If the deer runs off with its tail tucked, that is a sign that it was a good hit. It will often give what is referred to as the “mule kick” by kicking out its legs.
If the deer hunches it back up, holds its tail down, and spreads its legs wide, it might be a gut shot. Pay close attention to the direction it runs in. Wait about 2 to 3 hours before you set off tracking it.
Legs Locked Up
If the deer’s legs are locked up after a shot from a rifle, you might have hit the shoulder.
If after you take a shot at a deer and it runs off with its tail still up, most likely you missed it. It will run a few yards and then look around and start doing what it was involved with before it heard the sound.
3. Study The Blood
Studying the color and quantity of the blood can give you a lot of information about where it was hit and the severity of the shot.
If the blood from the wounded deer is pink with bubbles in it, it is definitely a lung shot, maybe a double lung shot. The bubbles are the result of oxygen. The deer will not run for long and you will find it.
If the blood is deep red, it most likely is a shot in the heart. If it is a shot from a rifle, there will be a lot of blood and the deer will drop almost instantly.
If the blood is purple or very dark red blood, chances are it is a shot in the liver or kidney. It is a fatal shot and the deer will bed down and die within 200 yards if it is not pushed.
Dark Brownish-Red Blood
If the blood is dark brownish-red, it might be a gut shot in the stomach or intestines. There could be a greenish or brown substance on the floor with a foul odor.
A spine shot will sever the deer’s spine and it will drop in its tracks or hobble off.
A shot to the neck will be fatal or not depending on where it hit the deer. If the arteries are hit, it will run hard and drop in about 100 yards. A shot above the neck bone may not be fatal and it just might survive from the flesh wound.
A hip shot can be fatal if the femoral artery is severed. It will bleed profusely and it will bed down and die in less than 100 yards.
Any shot to the arteries can be fatal. The deer will usually go down in less than 100 yards. The aortic artery runs under the backbone from the heart to the hips, where it branches to become the femoral arteries.
4. Find The Blood Trail
If you memorized the spot where you hit the deer, you can quickly find the initial spot and start looking for any signs of blood. Many times, you will not see any signs of blood. Don’t give up, just continue to look carefully. Look at the vegetation and trees close by as sometimes the deer will brush against the branches or vegetation. Remember the direction it ran and slowly follow the steps. You will, at some point, find blood signs that you can start the search.
5. Track The Blood Trail
After locating the blood, you should start tracking it. There are many items you can use to help map out the blood trail such as orange tape, surveyor’s tape, or toilet tissue.
6. Be Patient & Meticulous
Tracking a deer involves a lot of patience and meticulous search. Slowly find and follow the blood trail and you will eventually locate the deer.
7. Involve Others
Most of the time, you will have hunting buddies and they will get involved in helping you locate the deer if it proves to be a difficult and complicated search.
8. Tracking Dogs
The last resort will be to use dogs to help you track down the deer. They don’t have to be tracking dogs. Dogs have a very good sense of smell and instinctively will follow a scent.
How To Track Deer After The Shot Tips
1. After hitting a deer, discipline yourself to remain quiet and stay in your position for a period of time. He might not be far away and any noise from you might push it away.
2. Mark the blood trail progressively using orange tape, surveyor’s tape, or some other indicator to establish the line of the deer’s travel route.
3. Never make the assumption that you completely missed the target.
4. Look for signs of blood on vegetation, trees as well as the forest floor.
5. When tracking the blood trail, stay on the side and track it to avoid disturbing the sign.
6. Before you start tracking the blood, mark the spot you shot the deer with a ribbon or another marker.
7. Deers that are shot in the gut have a habit of going to water. If you lose the blood trail, check the water streams in the area. It could have fallen beside or in the water and died.
8. When you look at vegetation and tree branches, look at the height of the wound. Also, look at the bottom of the leaves as sometimes as the branch slides along the body of a deer, it is the underside of the leaf that picks up the blood.
9. As you search for the blood trail, look for broken twigs and displaced leaves.
10. Be on the lookout for clusters of ants, flies, and daddy longlegs. You might discover small drops of blood that these insects are feeding on.
11. Listen out for birds like magpies, jays, and crows. Sometimes they will make sounds where the deer have fallen and died.
12. A dog can also be helpful in locating a deer. Their sense of smell is very good.
13. Also use your sense of smell as you look for the deer. Sometimes you will smell something that you just can’t see.
14. Many times when the blood trail ends, you will find the deer, not in the same direction of travel, but off to one side as it has “bled out”.
15. It can prove difficult to follow a blood trail in the grass. Carefully study the grass as it seems like the blade can avoid the grass and hit the soil.
16. As you follow the blood trail, be prepared for a second shot or to back off as sometimes it may still be alive and you may stumble upon it bedding down.
17. When a blood trail is difficult to see, get down on your hands and knees. It might be easier to spot the blood trail from this position than from standing up.
18. Sometimes your emotions can get the better of you as you search for the blood trail. If possible, have someone help you look for the blood trail who did not shoot the deer.
19. Use a compass and have one where you last saw the deer and another one where you last heard any noise from its flight. It just might help.
20. When tracking a deer after the shot and you jump a deer and it flags its tail, most likely it is not your deer. A wounded deer will seldomly flag its tail. But still, check it.
21. If you are part of a group tracking the deer, it’s best to spread out and be as quiet as possible.
22. If you shot the deer with an arrow and you retrieve it, inspect it. Check for hair, tallow, blood, etc. Your findings will give you clues on how to track the wounded deer.
Items To Track A Wounded Deer
A high-powered flashlight can be very helpful in locating and following the blood trail.
2. Backup Batteries
You will need backup batteries for your flashlight as you track the wounded deer blood trail.
3. Orange Tape
Orange tape is preferred for many hunters to track the blood trail.
4. Surveyor’s Tape
A surveyor’s tape can be used to mark the blood trail.
5. Coleman Gas Lantern
A Coleman gas lantern can be used to help you track the blood trail especially when it gets dark.
The Bottom Line
How to track deer after the shot requires patience and being very methodical. You will need to follow a set routine and take out your emotions. In this article, we discuss how to track a wounded deer. Our goal is to help you become a better tracker of wounded deer after reading this article. If you want to be more successful in hunting deer, then read the best whitetail deer hunting tips.