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Tracking tips

Mike

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#1
I know a lot of you know what your doing, but for someone like me this guide would have been helpful Saturday evening when I was alone. Two items, the compass and marker tape, would have saved me at least three hours of tracking after getting turned around and following the original blood backwards. Working with Randy learned me a thing or two as well.
 
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#4
Sounds good to me.
As many poorly hit deer as I have tracked I have learned a thing or two. My first bowkill was a decent hit but no blood trail. I called Roger (Debbie's husband) to give me a hand. We followed scuffed leaves and little blood for 75 yards then nothing. He said I got an idea. Fugger circled downwind 30 yards and hollered "your deer is dead between us somewhere, not sure where". Mind you its pitch black out, I said "how do you know??" He said "just keep coming my way and I'll direct you left or right". I found the deer. I asked him how he knew where it was. He said "from where you said you hit it, I knew it was dead and close. I kept moving downwind intil I could smell it."

I have used that trick a time or two if conditions are right. I was even trying that Sunday in that overgrown crp north of last blood. I would have bet $$ he was in there.
 

RedCloud

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#5
Looking back we should have stayed together instead of seperating. I really suck as a teacher. Next time either of us shoot a deer we should track it together, step by step.
Now that you brought it up. I did the same thing to Dante Saturday evening. I suck as a teacher as well lol.

I don't care how good of a tracker you are...Night tracking sucks and theres no way around that issue. A lot of the things I use for visually locating a trail when no blood is present is hidden by the blackness of night unless you use a spotlight.
 

hickslawns

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#6
I have never tracked one at night. If I do, I am just going to follow Hank's nose. I guess this is cheating until you add up how much that dog has cost me.
 
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Swanton, Ohio
#7
Being an afternoon hunter for the most part 90% of my tracking is done at night. I like a smaller light for following blood and a guy with a spotlight. I use tp or flagging tape which helps give you a direction of travel. With all the yotes around anymore and the nervousness of haveing an unrecovered deer I generally stay on the trail until I find it. Been a few times I have come to a dead end and had to return in the am but I can only thing of a handful of deer that were recovered the morning after. If they are dead we can usually find them that night.
 

CJD3

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#8
Looking back on a flagged blood trail ( I use tp) has sometimes given me incite into the deers possible direction of movement. By that I mean is the deer going to the least path of resistance, looking for the worst/thickest cover, taking a direction that seems to head towards a low area or water...

I know some types of flash lights show blood better than others but I'm not sure which is which.
I have never tried the " smell" trick but I'll keep that one in mind too. Its interesting after a deer has been recovered from a long blood trail to review where it went. (more incite)
 
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#9
Its interesting after a deer has been recovered from a long blood trail to review where it went. (more incite)
I go on every tracking job I can for this reason. Spent more than a few nights crawling looking for that ONE piece of evidence that will put you in the right direction. Amazing what you can learn, or unlearn as the case may be. Amazing how different deer react to what condition they were in before the shot (alert, dumbfounded, spooked, etc.) and how they use or don't use the terain.
 

RedCloud

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#10
Looking back on a flagged blood trail ( I use tp) has sometimes given me incite into the deers possible direction of movement. By that I mean is the deer going to the least path of resistance, looking for the worst/thickest cover, taking a direction that seems to head towards a low area or water...

I know some types of flash lights show blood better than others but I'm not sure which is which.
I have never tried the " smell" trick but I'll keep that one in mind too. Its interesting after a deer has been recovered from a long blood trail to review where it went. (more incite)
It's funny you bring this up CJD. Out of all the tracking jobs I have done over the years ( My uncle was a bad shot) I have found it very interesting. Almost all the gut shot deer head for the water and all mortally wounded deer will horseshoe out 20-30 yards and back around and drop.

Another couple things I have picked up on over the years. When a deer is first hit the first 40-50 yards of travel have no rhyme or reason it's just a fight or flight reaction. They will bowl over small trees blow right through thickets. They soon gain their barrings again after that first 40-50 yards and start heading to a trail they have always used trying to get back to a comfort zone (CORE area.) When they start loosing enough blood to start getting weak if they don't drop on the trail they will jump off that trail to one side or the other. Sometimes it is just a few feet other times it might be 20 yards but they are looking for cover to bed down. The will find logs, big trees, or thick brush to bed next to or sometime up under it. Usually on a decent hit deer they will do this and die within the first 100-150 yards. Deer that are hit in the liver, single lung/liver, or guts could do this many times over that 100-150 yards and the only reason I can come up with is the discomfort. They lay down and start to feel the burn, cramping from coughing or a blood clot pop and they think something is getting them so they get back up and run some more. Deer in this shot placement group can do this for hours and cover some huge amounts of ground specially if they are bumped and pushed. Just remember a perfect heart shot deer can still run 40-70 yards before dropping over.

If you don't find your deer in the first 100-150 yards just pop a squat and give it a little longer. Once you bump or push a deer past the 200 yard mark your chances of finding it goes downhill quick. The blood starts to clot up and the blood on the body starts getting wiped off from tall vegetation or small trees, and soaking into the hair and will make a blood trail a nightmare. ( by nightmare I mean hands and knees looking for small dime size drops of blood.) Just take your time fellas. If you didn't hear it crash and burn then give it the 30min. before you start your tracking. I know the excitement is there but if it's dead it will still be dead when you get there :D. One last thing. if your tracking with a buddy try and stay with each other and look for the blood together and if you get separated DON'T yell across the woods to one another for every little thing lol.

I will see if I can find that very good and informative article from last year about shot placements and general waiting times.
 
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Mike

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#12
I calculated that final blood through Google Earth at over 600 yards through the small woodlot, through the bean field and into the other woods down into that low spot where the puddles were. Like Randy said in another post I probably hit one lung. Thanks for posting guys.
 

Jackalope

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#13
The best piece of advice i can give is be honest with your shot. We all get excited and might try and talk ourselves into thinking it was a good hit. If it looked far back and you didn't hear it crash. Give it time. Back out and go find a buddy to help. Even if you were wrong and the deer is right there it's always fun to have someone along for the recovery. And they can help drag.. lol. It's not where you hit them boys. It's how long you give em. Dead right now, or dead in 3 hours, they'll be there when you get there.
 

RedCloud

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#14
One more little trick I forgot about. Take some peroxide and pour it into a small spray bottle. If you run across some red leaves and you can't tell if the red is blood or if it's the leaf just give a quick spray and if it's blood it will bubble white. I will do this on the next deer and see if we can get some good pics to share.
 

RedCloud

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#15
I finally found the article I was looking for so here it is. I hope it helps a little.


Less than a minute has elapsed since you've shot one of the biggest bucks you have ever seen. It happened so fast it's hard to believe. What you do now may determine whether or not you'll recover your buck.

Your first impulse is to bail out of your treestand and take off after him. Depending upon your arrow placement, this could be a big mistake. If a deer is not hit well you could spook him and make recovery next to impossible.

Knowing where the animal is hit makes a difference in how you track him. For this reason, a bowhunter should use brightly colored fletching, such as orange or red.

The chest of the deer contains the lungs and the heart which, when hit, produce the quickest kill. The lungs are easily reached by an arrow, protected only by vulnerable rib bones. The heart is low in the body and somewhat protected by the deer's leg bone.

The following describes types of hits and how you should track for each.

* A lung-shot deer will run hard 50 to 65 yards. After that he will
usually walk until he falls. The blood will sometimes have tiny bubbles in it. This blood trail usually gets better as you track the deer. However, if the deer is hit high in the lungs, the blood trail may sometimes become light and even disappear completely. The deer could be "filling up" inside with blood, showing very little external bleeding. The hair from the lung area is coarse and brown with black tips. The deer will usually go down in less than 125 yards. Give the deer 30 minutes before tracking.

* A heart-shot deer will sometimes jump wildly when hit. The blood trail may be sparse for the first 20 yards or so. A heart shot deer may track as much as a quarter of a mile, depending on what part of the heart is damaged. The usual is less than 125 yards. The hair from this shot will be long brown or grayish guard hairs. Again, a 30 minute wait is advised. But, if while trailing you find where he has bedded back off and wait an hour before taking up the trail again.

* A liver-shot deer. The liver lies against the diaphragm in the
approximate center of the deer. It is a definite killing shot. The blood trail will be decent to follow and the deer should bed down and die within 200 yards, if not pushed. A one-hour wait is best. The hair from the liver area is brownish gray and much shorter than the hair from the lung area. If you push the deer out of his bed, back off and wait another hour.

* A gut-shot deer is probably the most difficult to recover because of the poor blood trail and the hunter's impatience to wait him out. A lot of bowhunters want to hurry up and find the deer. Since the liver and stomach are close together, it is possible that the deer will go down and die quickly if the shot also penetrates the liver. If the deer is dead in an hour, he will still be dead in 4 hours. Have patience, he will not go anywhere. Wait him out for at least 4 hours. Wait overnight if the deer is
shot in the evening.

When a deer is shot in the stomach area, he will usually take several short jumps and commence walking or running. His back will usually hunch up and his legs will be spread wide. The hair from this wound is brownish gray and short. The lower the shot is on the animal, the lighter colored the hair will be. The blood trail is usually poor with small pieces of ingested material (stomach contents). If the intestines are punctured there will be green slimy material or feces Take your bow with you because a second shot might be required.

* A spine-shot deer will usually drop in his tracks or hobble off. Either way, a second shot will probably be required to finish off the deer. If a spine-shot deer hobbles off, wait a half-hour and track slowly and quietly. Look for the deer bedded down.

* A neck-shot deer will either die in 100 yards or he will recover from the wound. The lower portion of the neck contains the windpipe, neck bone (spine), and carotid (jugular) arteries. If the arteries are hit, the deer will run hard and drop in less than 100 yards. The blood trail will be easy to follow. A shot above the neck bone will give you a good blood trail for about 150 to 200 yards before quitting. The deer will more than likely recover to be hunted again.

* A hip-shot deer. A large artery (femoral) runs down the inside of each deer leg. This artery is protected from the side by the leg bones. The femoral artery is most often severed from the rear or at an angle. If this artery is cut, the bleeding will be profuse and the deer will usually be found in less than 100 yards. The ham of a deer is also rich in veins with a lot of blood. A hip-shot deer should be tracked immediately. Track him slowly and quietly to keep him moving (walking). If you jump him and he runs, back off for a few minutes then continue trailing. You want him to walk, not run. A walking deer is easier to trail.

* An artery-shot deer will almost always go down in less than 100 yards. The aortic artery runs just under the backbone from heart to hips, where it branches to become the femoral arteries. The heart also pumps blood to the brain through the carotid (jugular) arteries.

Sever any of these arteries and you've got yourself a deer. There is one catch, these arteries are tough. It takes a sharp broadhead to cut through them. A dull broadhead will just push them aside. Keep your broadheads sharp! Give the deer half an hour before tracking.
GENERAL TRACKING TIPS

* After shooting the deer, stay in your stand and be quiet for the
recommended time. A noise might push your deer away. He could be bedded down less than 100 yards away.

* I have found it very helpful to tie a piece of pink surveyor ribbon around my stand tree at eye level from where I shot. After noting several terrain features near where the deer was standing and where it ran too, I tie on the ribbon before coming down. From the ground looking back up to the ribbon, I can get a better visual for locating exactly where the deer was and went.

* Before beginning the tracking, mark where you shot the deer with a piece of white toilet paper hung on a branch.

* Mark the trail periodically with more toilet paper as you track. This will give you a line on the deer's travel.

* When you find the arrow, check for hair, tallow, blood, etc. This will give you a good clue on how to track. Example: Tallow and slime means you should wait 4 hours.

* Check for blood carefully, walking off to the side of the run.

* Look for blood on trees, saplings, and leaves that are about the same height as the wound. Blood will sometimes rub off the body.

* If tracking as a group, spread out a little. Keep noise to a minimum. In tracking, sometimes "too many cooks can spoil the stew." It would be better if only 2 or 3 people tracked the deer. If the blood trail runs out, you can always get more help to search for the deer

* While tracking a deer that you have shot and you jump a deer and it flags its tail, it's probably not your deer. A wounded deer will very seldom "flag." BUT - check it out anyway.

* Tracking at night presents special problems with visibility. The blood and the deer will both be hard to see. A Coleman gas lantern will help a lot in both cases.

* Take a compass bearing to where you last saw the deer, and another one to where you last heard any noise from it's flight. It might prove very helpful.

* It helps to have someone who did not shoot the deer to help with the blood trial. Many an experienced hunter in his excitement misses things.

* Stay off of the blood trail, and use a small piece of tolled paper to mark each spot

* Get down on your hands and knees when a blood trail is hard to see it helps. From this angle while night tracking you can shine the light in the direction of travel and often see blood that does not show when standing over it.

* Look at the bottom of leaves on branches at deer body height. Sometimes as the branch slides along the body of a deer it is the under side of the leaf that picks up the blood.

* You will often find a gut shot deer or liver shot deer dead in the water not just beside it. so look for an ear or the side of the deer in deeper water too.

* Some shots that look good may be one lung or a poor liver hit because of the angle. These deer can take several hours to die. Be careful about pushing them to soon, since they will rarely leave much blood sign if they are jumped when bedded.

* Look ahead as you blood trail for deer parts and movement. Your deer may still be alive and you might be able to get a second shot or back off with out spooking it.

* Look for disturbed leaves and broken twigs as well as for the blood sign on hard to follow blood trails.

* It is often hard to follow a blood trail in grass. It seems that the blood can fall all the way to the ground without hitting a single blade of grass.

* Look for clusters of ants, flies and daddy longlegs. You can find small drops of blood because these bugs are feeding on it.

* Often times when the blood trail seems to end you will find the animal off to one side and not in the same direction of travel.

* Listen for birds like magpies, jays, and crows. Sometimes they make a ruckus where the animal lies dead.

* Be persistent!

* Use your nose. sometimes you can smell a deer you can't see. A gut shot is even more likely to have a smell.

* When trailing at night use a couple of the Chem Lights that you can get at WalMart for less than a buck. You don't use these as lights to see blood, but they are hung on limbs at the last blood found. That way nobody has to stand on the last blood and everyone can easily see where the last blood found is at
 

formerbowhunter1023

Now Posts as Jesse..
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SE Ohio
#17
Some good info in here. Anyone that has ever tracked deer with me knows I'm probably better at that than I am at killing them! :D I grew up tracking lots of deer and have made myself available to track as many deer as I can over the past few years. Deer will do some amazing things when wounded. Two things I am always aware of is that deer will head to water when wounded and they tend to circle back to the area of the shot more times than you would think. I've found several deer by searching close to water and by walking circles around the impact site after losing blood.

I love to track deer because of the mystery that is involved with the difficult jobs. Be slow. Be meticulous. You don't need an army, 2-4 trained eyes is perfect. Don't take a dog unless it knows what it is doing or it is on a leash. I've seen some unleashed, over zealous dogs make your job even tougher. Mark your tail while tracking. And be honest with the entire situation. Tracking is a vital skill that improves with practice...
 

jagermeister

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#18
There is a ton of great information here so far.

I know everybody has a pre-shot routine, but I'll bet that most bowhunters don't really have a POST-shot routine. It's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a harvest, especially if it's a big buck that you just shot at. However, the seconds and minutes after you release the arrow, before you climb down, are just as critical as the tracking job itself. Every time I shoot a deer, I make it a point to focus my complete attention on it's reaction and it's route of travel after it's hit. I listen for any and every possible sound that occurs as well. Immediately after I lose sight and sound of the fleeing deer I begin replaying the entire scenario over and over in my head... at least 20 times. This does two things... 1)It helps you calm down and assess the situation, and 2)It helps pass the time as you're waiting for the deer to expire. At this point, once I climb down from the stand I know exactly which way the deer was headed, how it was running, which trees it passed by, and where I "think" it's going.

Of course this information isn't ALWAYS completely necessary... I mean, anybody can track a deer when you've got a perfect blood trail. It's the marginal hits and blood trails where this mental video library can save your ass. There have been too many times that I've witnessed buddies fall short on this. In the heat of the moment, they climb down, pack their shit up, and call up every Tom, Dick, and Harry to tell them about the big buck they shot. Then they can't find blood... oh shit... then I ask them, "Well how did the deer react... which way did it go?" They respond... "Uh, well, umm, I think it did this... I think it ran there... oh crap I can't remember!" Jesse compared tracking deer to solving a mystery... which is a perfect analogy, actually. How do great investigators solve mysteries? They gather ALL of the clues... the subtle post-shot details are your clues fellas.
 

Matt

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#20
Jbrown, another thing to add to your post. On top of observing the deer's reaction, direction of travel, etc., another thing to keep in mind is the sound the arrow makes when it hits the deer. This is usually pretty quick, but just taking a quick second to think about it might help, particularly in low light when seeing the arrow impact is even harder. A gut-shot will have a very subtle sound, particularly if it hits no bone. A rib shot will have a bit more of a thwack. But once you hear that solid bone hit, whether it's front leg, femur, spine, whatever... it makes a hell of a thwack. The gut shot is not as important because typically the arrow is a pass through, and it will tell you that you got guts. That bone sound can be invaluable in determining what the arrow has hit, and what tracking strategy you should employ.