One skill that is crucial in bow hunting is knowing when and how to blood trail a deer that you just shot. Often times, hunters lose out on a harvest because they have rushed blood trailing deer or just didn’t have a good strategy.
The first two important things to determine is what part of the body the deer was shot in and how it ran off. Not knowing this information can result in premature searches and the pushing of a wounded deer. Some shot locations result in a quick death while others require an 8 to 10 hour wait for the animal to expire. Let’s go through the different shot locations.
A heart shot will result in a quick death to the deer. After being shot in the heart, a deer will sometimes jump up and do a “mule kick” and then proceed to dart off at a blazing speed with its tail down. The blood from a heart shot deer should be a bright red and thick. The blood should spray out a nice pattern which is normally easy to follow. Heart shot deer make blood trailing deer easy in most cases.
Heart shot deer will rarely take the time to find a trail to use and will just choose a direction and go. If you listen closely after a heart shot, you will sometimes hear the deer crash through thick brush and even expire with a frenzy of kicks/twitches after hitting the ground.
If you suspect you shot a deer in the heart and did not see the animal go down, give the animal at least 30 minutes before blood trailing. Heart shot deer will typically run anywhere from 15 to 100 yards before expiring.
The best place to aim at on a deer is the lungs just above the heart. If you are off your mark a little, chances are, you will still be in the vital area with your shot placement. Lung shot deer normally wont go very far and leave a frothy bright red blood trail. Sometimes, there will even be bubbles in the blood.
Lung shot deer will run off like a bat out of hell with their tail down just like a heart shot deer. They also will not take the time to follow an established deer path and will often dart through some thick vegetation.
After shooting a deer in the lungs we suggest waiting 30 minutes to 1 hour before looking for blood. A deer shot through both lungs will normally run 20 to 100 yards before expiring. A deer that only has a partially clipped lung can live much longer and travel further, so treat a questionable lung shot as if it were a liver shot.
A liver shot is normally the result of a shot that was off its mark and rear of the vitals. The liver shot is a fatal shot but requires a much longer wait time than a lung or heart shot. Blood trailing deer after a liver shot is probably the trickiest of all hits. Many deer are pushed due to a premature recovery attempts with a liver shot deer.
A liver shot deer may take off at any pace, with its tail up or down, but will usually bed down after a short distance. If not disturbed, the deer will normally expire at this location. The blood from a liver shot is more of a darker red/maroon and has a watery consistency. I would suggest waiting 5-6 hours, if the weather permits, before blood trailing a liver shot deer.
Ah the dreaded gut shot….. When we are well off our mark and shoot a deer in the stomach/intestines area, we will hear a hollow thud. The deer may run or walk off in any fashion and will usually have their tail up.
The blood from a gut shot deer will have a brown to yellowish color and may have partially digested food matter in it. This blood normally will have a distinct raunchy odor. Due to a lack of arterial pressure, there may be much less blood left behind from a gut shot deer. Most gut shot deer experience septic or toxic shock and eventually die due to organ failure.
With gut shot deer I suggest waiting 8 to 10 hours before pursuing the blood trail.
After The Shot
It is important to remember what part of the deer you shot and how was it running after the shot. Watch carefully just after impact for the deer reaction and visual clues which direction it is heading. Once you lose sight of the animal be sure to listen for any clues such as the deer crashing or hitting the ground kicking. Always remember the exact location where you shot the deer, use visual objects close to where it occurred for reference when it is time to start looking for the blood trail. Be sure to do the same for the last visual of the animal as well.
Stay in your deer stand until it is time to track the deer as to not push a animal about to expire. If you have to get out of the stand, leave the opposite direction the deer was heading. After waiting the appropriate amount of time for the shot you made, it is time to mark the area where you shot the deer with a marker such as a hat or arrow. This will give you a good starting reference point. Begin by slowly following the blood trail and marking each spot as you go giving you a good look at which direction the deer is heading. Be very careful walking blindly ahead and destroying the trail. Take your time and squat down to examine for hard to find blood trails.
If you lose blood make sure you have the last blood spot marked then fan out to see if the deer jumped or changed direction. If you come up to a pool of blood where the deer was laying down, that means your pushing the deer. Take a break and allow more time for the animal to expire. Most blood trails are not very hard to follow but remember these tips if you get in a bind and can’t find your deer. Good luck this season my fellow bow hunters, may your arrow fly straight and your blood trails be short. Just remember to enjoy your time spent in the woods.
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