After the Shot...recovering your deer


12 Steps to recovering your deer:

          The sound of the shot startles the deer into flight. To the inexperienced hunter this may be disappointing, but to experienced hunters watch the flight of the deer with intense concentration and anticipation. These hunters know that after a well placed shot, a running deer is often the beginning of the end of the hunt. All hunters try for a quick, clean kill, but many don't realize that quick and clean does not always mean instantly.
          Many fatally wounded deer immediately run, especially when hit in the largest vital zone; the heart-lung-liver area just behind the shoulder. In bowhunting season, some deer will run a short distance and resume feeding for several seconds until blood loss causes them to black out. That won't happen after the thunder of a gunshot. During the regular season, deer often collapse on the run.
          Never assume you missed. Most well placed shots will put a deer down in just a few seconds, but deer can travel hundreds of yards in that time. If there is no snow to clearly show you the tracks, it may take a while to find the deer.

Here are some step-by-step hints to make the task easier.
1.    Don't move. Keep quiet and follow the deer with your eyes and ears.

2.    Mark your location before you move. Remember exactly where the deer was standing
      when you shot, and also the last place you saw it. Take a compass reading if
      necessary. Mark these two places also. Tissues make good markers (not white ones,
      for safety reasons), as well as surveyor's flagging. Make sure you pick them up later.

3.    At the point of impact, deer hair and possibly blood will help confirm where the arrow
      or slug hit. Bowhunters should look beyond where the deer stood to see if the arrow
      passed through the body. Hair and body fluids on the arrow will provide clues for your
      search. If you can't find the arrow, assume it is in the deer. Evidence here will help you
      decide whether to follow immediately or to get your hunting partners for help. If you
      find stomach contents or intestinal fluids , for instance, wait at least a couple of hours,
      preferably more, to avoid pushing the deer farther.

4.    Look for drops of blood, tracks, or scuff marks. Mark your trail, especially where you
      find evidence that the deer passed. Don't step on the signs you are following, you may
      want to check them later.

5.    While you are trailing, be slow and quiet, as though you were stalking a live deer. In
      fact, you maybe doing just that, so keep looking ahead for the deer, not just at signs
      on the ground.

6.    Blood may not always be on the ground. Look for blood on trees, grass and other
      plants at the height of the wound. Don't be discouraged if there isn't much blood. Some
      wounds cause internal hemorrhaging that puts the deer down just as fast as external

7.    If you are tracking on dry leaves, and it's windy, you may have to turn leaves over if
      the blood trail is sparse. It's easier if you pay special attention to rocks, logs and tree
      roots, things that don't blow away.

8.    Look for details. Drops hitting the ground may splash, making small "fingers"
      pointing in the direction of travel.

9.    Blood is hard to spot on leaves that are already red. You can look for the shine, feel it,
      or rub it with a tissue to detect blood.

10.  Some surfaces soak up blood so it doesn't look red. Use drug store hydrogen peroxide
      or commercial blood detectors that foam when they contact blood.

11.  If you lose the trail, don't give up. A systematic search often works. The "increasing
      L" system works well. Pace off a straight line, make a right turn, and pace off the
      same distance to complete the first "L." Keep turning right, increasing the distance
      after each two lines.

12.  When you find your deer, it's eyes will be open if it is dead. Approach it from the back,
      and touch the eye with a stick to make sure.