Published by archerchick on 20 Feb 2010 at 06:51 pm
Staying on the Trail – By Randy Templeton
Here are some well practiced blood-trailing tips to help you on our next deer recovery
I’ve tracked down a good number of whitetails of my own and taken part in trailing numerous others for friends and fellow hunters over the years. The greatest majority of those animals were recovered, but for the few that weren’t it seems that the shooters had one thing in common: They couldn’t remember much detail after taking the shot. I truly believe the root cause for the temporary amnesia was more likely brought on by the sudden surge of adrenaline after releasing the string.
Prior to the sound of the bowstring dissipating and the first few seconds thereafter are often the most crucial moments in time that will assist you in effectively recovering an animal.
Rather than clutter these pages with information of little interest or value, lets look at some fundamental steps that I as well as others use to track down wounded deer!
CAPTURE THE MOMENT
I can’t express enough how important it is to identify where the arrow entered the animal. Also important to etch in your mind is the exact shot angle, the deer’s reaction and the line of sight in which the deer ran. The terrain looks much differently from your treestand than it does at ground level. So, it’s to your advantage to pick out a landmark such as a tree, bush, fence post or rock formation that will help guide the way to that specific spot.
After the deer have vanished from site, continue listening for familiar sounds like thrashing of leaves, sticks cracking or possibly a crashing noise that would indicate the deer went down.
ON THE TRAIL
After taking up the numerous blood trails I’ve come to understand that fatally wounded deer, like healthy deer, follow the path of least resistance
For example, it’s rare a wounded deer will travel up steep ridge inclines or cross deep ravines. such a deer is more likely to travel downhill until reaching flatter ground or cross in a saddle between ridges.
Wounded deer typically head for the security cover of their bedding area. Therefore, try to locate the trails on flat ground or those with downward trends that lead to areas of thick cover. Don’t walk on the blood trail itself but rather off to one side, otherwise you could destroy or cover up critical sign.
When you’re down to finding speckles of blood, it’s a good idea to hang surveyor’s tape or toilet paper in brush or limbs to mark the trail. With any luck at all you’ll pick up new sign that will lead to your deer.
NEVER GIVE UP
There’s no such ting as giving up when it comes to trailing a wounded animal. It’s time to dig down deep and put forth 110 percent all the way!
Even when the trail appears to have dried up, it’s your duty as a hunter to exhaust all your knowledge and resources. I say this because all too often I’ve been on a blood trail when a single piece of evidence surfaced that turned a seemingly doomed situation completely around. This was such the case for me this past season.
It was mid-November and the rut was underway. The stand hovered over the intersection of three pieces of property where several trails snaked through a coulee bottom and converged toward a damaged section of barbed-wire fence. It was the ultimate funnel, and every deer in the neighborhood seemed to be crossing there. Shortly after slipping into the stand that morning a pink
glow on the eastern horizon announced another perfect day to be in the deer woods. Maybe. a half-hour later a mature doe meandered across the grass field. A deep grunt and a flicker of antlers in the sunlight drew my attention toward a buck standing in a patch of multi-flora rose briars near the creek. The doe continued toward the fence, drawing the buck into the open. It was a nice eight-point and a shooter by my standards.
As good luck would have it she crossed the fence and the rut-crazed buck followed. At 25 yards I drew my Fred Bear bow. When he stepped into the clearing I let the string slip free, sending a Muzzy,tipped arrow toward the target. The shot looked good, but the buck barely flinched as the arrow blew through both sides and stuck in the ground 5 yards beyond. The deer looked somewhat
stunned at first, but eventually turned and walked away. Watching through my binoculars, the buck stood near a fence at 100 or more yards away and appeared to contemplate crossing. He then turned and walked along the fence to a section that had been busted down by a fallen tree and soon disappeared. Mentally marking the spot, I sat back and waited another 45 minutes before climbing down.
Inspecting the arrow, the dark burgundy-colored blood indicated the broadhead had passed through the liver. Unless my eyes had totally deceived me, there was no way the arrow hadn’t taken out a lung too!
Following the blood to the fence crossing wasn’t a problem, but shortly thereafter I lost it when the deer trail forked three ways. Searching each trail, I failed to turn up one shred of evidence that would point me in the right direction. Considering the circumstances, I felt it was best to give the buck more time and return a few hours later with help. My brother, Tracy, and I were back on the scene by noon. After another hour of fruitless effort, we decided to try a grid search. Walking 20 yards apart we swept one small section at a time until the entire creek bottom had been covered. A hillside laced with multi-flora rose briars divided by another fence was the only thick cover left to search.
Searching the fence line. I found a faint deer trail leading to a sagging top strand of barbed wire. Much to my surprise, a tuft of white belly hair in the fence drew my attention toward faint blood on
a weed on the opposite side. Not more than 50 yards from that, I spotted the buck buried beneath
the briars! The liver/lung-shot deer had obviously doubled back and died less than 100 yards from where he was shot.
THE NULL ZONE?
There’s been a lot of talk over the years, concerning whether or not a null or void zone truly exists
under the spine. Perhaps you’ve been told by another hunter or read somewhere about someone who shot a deer in the upper back and then saw the deer a month or more later apparently doing fine. I’d venture to say that in most instances the wound was superficial, whereas the broadhead didn’t sever the primary artery running along the spine or it didn’t penetrate the sealed portion of the chest cavity. I don’t believe there is such a thing as the null zone, but I do believe an animal is capable of surviving minor injuries to a vital organ.
SINGLE LUNG SHOTS
The previous statement begs an answer to a frequently asked question regarding whether or not a deer can survive with only one lung. My answer to this is yes! I say this because I have witnessed it more than once.
For example, many years ago during the gun season my friend Danny had just shot his first buck. While field dressing the deer, Danny found one shriveled lung and the other with a fresh 12-gauge slug hole through it. It was obvious the “one-lunger” had been shot the year before and survived to see another season.
Therefore, if you suspect you have only clipped one lung, I might suggest continuing to push the animal, especially if the arrow is still in the chest cavity. Chances are the broadhead will continue working around, doing further organ or artery damage in the process and improve your odds of recovery.
A sharp broadhead center-punched through both lungs will have a good blood trail to follow and the animal generally goes down within 100 yards or so. However, as with a liver-shot deer, a high-lung shot can create similar problems for tracking. The animal doesn’t bleed much out of the gate and the majority of the bleeding takes place internally. Therefore, the lower chest cavity normally fills up first before it starts pumping out the top. Similar to priming an old water well, it takes a few pumps to fill the lower well shaft before water starts flowing out the spout.
My good friend and hunting buddy Craig Owens experienced the same scenario this past whitetail season. He shot a deer that was quartering away slightly to start with, but at the sound of the string twang, it lunged downward and turned at the same time. The three-blade Thunderhead broadhead entered the chest high, sending the buck racing to parts unknown, leaving virtually no trail to follow. It took a few hours of searching on his hands and knees, plus a grid search, to find the double-lung-shot deer that expired 150 yards from the hit sight.
Therefore, don’t assume the worst just because you didn’t find blood right away. Continue to follow up!
I’d venture to say shoulder shots have one of the worst recovery rates, but also one of the highest survival rates. This is likely due to a whitetail’s amazing clotting capability especially when a vital organ or major artery isn’t involved. Similar to what you might learn in a first-aid course with regard to applying pressure to a deep cut, when a deer lies down on a wound the applied pressure helps seal it off. On more than one occasion I’ve seen shoulder-shot deer leap from their beds and flee without spilling any blood. Even worse is the fact that they wont bleed much (if at all) for quite some distance and it’s easy to lose the trail all together!
Although some may disagree, I truly believe a suspect shoulder shot warrants immediate follow-up to keep the wound open.’With any luck at all the broadhead will worm its way around and do further damage in the process and improve the odds of recovery.
Depending on whom you speak with, some claim a paunch shot is a non-lethal hit. Call it what you want, but there’s no doubt in my mind that a belly-shot deer is a dead deer!
Unfortunately, the biggest mistake hunters make is letting their eagerness to take up pursuit override all common sense. The old stand-by. rule of waiting a half-hour before tracking was never meant to apply to a gut shot.
It’s fairly easy to identify a paunch shot if you have the arrow to inspect. Typical to this type of hit, you’ll normally find green or brown stomach matter mixed with bright red blood on the arrow If unsure, give it the nose test. The stuff generally reeks with a foul-and-sour-smelling odor.
Depending on the exit wound the arrow and broadhead may be coated with a greasy fat or tallow, which is typical if it passes through the intestines and exits the belly.
In cases where the arrow wasn’t found, watch the deer as it walks away. If the deer is walking with it’s head down or hunching up with tail tucked between its legs, it’s a fair indicator of a paunch shot.
The minute,you identify this type of hit, mark the last sign and slip quietly out of the area all together. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by pursuing the deer. Provided they’re not pushed, a gut-shot deer will generally bed down within 150 yards from where they’re shot On a
couple of occasions I’ve found a deer the following day that was still alive. Because of this, I always wait a minimum of 12 hours before taking up the trail!
It would be great if there were a dead animal at the end of every blood trail. Unfortunately, in real life it doesn’t always end that way. If an animal falls within eyesight, then obviously the task of tracking is a no-brainer For those that don’t, however, take a calm approach to avoid missing the small details that could point you in the right direction. Be persistent, and above all, never say never when it comes to recovering your game. <—<<
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