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harvey lee

Tracking wounded deer tips

33 posts in this topic

Here are some tips for sign when tracking a wounded deer. I'm going to pin this to the top for anyone who needs some reference for tracking a wounded deer. Take note of blood color and hair color and this will help you know where you hit the deer.

BLOOD COLOR

Lung hit: Blood that appears frothy with bubbles.

Liver or Kidney: Very dark blood.

Gut or intestinal: Blood that has particles of vegetation.

Heart and arteries: Blood will appear a dark maroon color (like the liver or kidney).

Flesh wound: Blood will appear a light red.

Deer Hair

Side and neck: Hair is short and fine (1-3/4 inches) brown with black tips and gray near the bottom.

Brisket: Hair is curly, up to 2 inches long, stiff and are whitish-gray with black tips.

Shoulder: Hair is wavy up to 2-1/2 inches long with two bands of black near the tips and brown through the rest.

Heart: Long and fine usually 3-1/2 to 4 inches in length, black tipped, tan below and the rest gray.

Stomach: Hair is slightly wavy, coarse and up to 2-1/2 inches long and will usually be all white.

Hindquarter: Wavy hair usually 1-1/2 inches long with brown and black tips, gray below that and gray at the bottom.

Chest: Hair is fine and wavy, usually about 1-1/2 inches long. They are black tipped with black or tan, followed by a tan and a grayish-white at the base.

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Any tips for tracking one for a guy that is color blind? Other then calling my cousin and him leaving class to come help me? Thanks again cuz. I got a flashlight but that wont help me during the day light so any help will be appreciated. I tend to shatter shoulder blades as a result. I know it aint the best way but I can atleast find them then.

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Thanks Harvey!

The best tip that I have from experience is don't walk ahead of where you spot blood. Get on your hands and knees and search for the spots, mark them, and move ahead slowly. If you walk ahead you could turn over a leaf with blood on it that could turn out to be the spot of blood you needed to see, and the difference between finding and losing a deer. Follow the trail. Also, if the deer goes through tall, thick grass or trees; look on the trees a few feet off the ground for blood. This has saved me a deer in the past. Good luck guys!!

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I heard that with some mixture of like vinegar or something and a spray bottle when you spray that on the ground and it hits even the smallest spot of blood it will cause it to bubble up etc. Is this true. Has anyone else heard of this. I don't know exactly what you put in the spray bottle but I think it was a vinegar mixture. This may help someone who is color blind!!!

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Hydrogen peroxide will cause blood to bubble as it hemolyzes the red blood cells thought I don't think this would be a very efficient tracking technique especially if the blood has dried.

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I don't like to walk too far ahead of the last blood spot i found, but here is a tip i got from a guy last weekend. I like to have two arrows with field tips on them, when i find blood i stick an arrow there, then i find the next blood and stick the arrow in that and do that over and over. It helps if you can't find blood for a little while, to have a spot to go back to where you know there is blood, and it gives you an idea where the deer is going. this is more helpful if you are slim on blood, or tracking alone.

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I would say the very best tip happens immediately after the shot and before the tracking starts. Do your VERY BEST to be quiet and concealed during AND after the shot. If you hit the boiler room it shouldnt matter a whole lot, but if you hit the liver (a vital but slower to kill) or worse yet make a gut shot your reaction immediately after you release is critical to whether you find the deer or how long you have to trail it.

A deer that is hit but doesnt know what happened, is much more likely to go a short distance and lay down, whereas, a deer that is hit and knows there was a predator there is much more likely to run and run, and with a non bleeding gut shot the farther they go the less chance you find them. I have unfortunately shot 2 deer with a bow in the gut but easily recovered both because I froze at the release, they ran a ways and looked back then walked off and laid down. Had I moved or worse yet, began tracking too early, my chances of recovering these deer would have been slim. Its hard, but contain your excitement and study the reaction after the shot to know how you should proceed and when you should proceed, and NEVER let them know you were there until you prop them up for the picture.

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Good tips. That waiting can be the hardest part, the anticipation of recovery sometimes clouds hunters senses.

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Great info here. I just need one more thing... the ability to see color. Red/Green are not in my visable to me, so when I hit a deer, the first thing I do is get on the phone.

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Thats a tough one to deal with Scoot. I guess you just have to hit the boilerroom perfect and watch the blood pour out.

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Some excellent advice in here, I especially subscribe to keeping undetected after the shot!

I was lucky enough to work with a renowned tracker and author when I worked in Yellowstone on a Canada Lynx project. His name was James Halfpenny, and just being around him and listening to him talk, I picked up alot of great tips. I'd recommend his books on animal tracking.....incredibly top notch.

Jim approaches things from a different perspective, as he's typically more interested in deciphering tracks and habits on non-pursued game. In other words, he's not looking for blood, he's looking for tracks, gait, distances, hoof splay, depth of track, uneven depth of imprint, and several other major clues. Think of it as CSI for wild-game.

While these clues/tips don't always work well, especially in high-use areas of game activity, they've helped me recover many archery deer.

1) Think of the area as a crime scene. Not a blade of grass should be disturbed or leaf overturned near blood or the path which the deer took. You're looking for subtle clues, don't destroy the evidence. This means walking to the side of everything, which is very inconvenient, considering deer trails often take the path of least resistance.

2) Pay special attention to gait and distance b/w tracks. A fully bounding or running deer can't turn on a dime without providing clues. Distances between tracks greater than 7-8 feet means you can move quickly over the area, continuing in a straight line that the animal was traveling. If you come to a fork in the trail, and the animal was running, take the fork that continues in the direction of his path.

3) All other times work slowly and be incredibly patient. I'm of the opinion that most lethally shot deer which are lost happen because the hunter tracks the game too soon. 2nd biggest reason I'd guess is because they lose patience. I've done it myself. It's a roller-coaster of emotion....no blood, no blood, BLOOD!....no blood, no blood, no blood. When the blood trail peters out, you go back to last good blood, and instead of fine-tuning your approach, the temptation is to get lazy. Start wandering around, kicking over leaves and destroying clues. Frustration mounts, and you convince yourself that you probably didn't kill it anyway, and you'll never find it.

4) Subtle clues are everything. Deep imprints on one side of the track indicate an on-coming turn to the opposite direction, or a shoulder/leg break with the animal favoring one side. Esp. early season, folks tend to look only at leaves on the ground, when much of the blood is on vegetation as high as 3 feet off the ground. Even later, position yourself directly perpendicular to the trail the deer was taking so that you see the blood that smeared on the plants. Stand off to the side a little bit, esp. with wind blowing the veg., and that's blood you never see.

5) Confidence is what keeps you from giving up or being impatient. Do your very very best to kick it up a notch once the going gets tough. Some guys use the guilt factor, but from experience I think the positive psychology is the way to go.

6) Two guys maximum. Even then, I prefer tracking alone. The argument could be made for another set of eyes, and that I agree with.....however, I'll take just one guys eyes over the additional disturbance created by another person.

7) Don't hedge your bet. Lethally shot animals don't always act the way we think they should. Once you have it in your mindset that "I know he'll go this way as that's what he normally does," or "that should be easier walking for him," the deer will do the complete opposite.

8) There are few/no excuses for not finding a well-hit deer in snow. Even if blood subsides, there's incredible information in the tracks the animal is leaving, right in front of you. Bring a tape measure with you and start measuring tracks. Unless your deer runs through a wintering yard, you should be able to measure the distance from tip to dewclaw to help you separate sets of tracks and narrow down the deer that is yours.

9) No hounding/pushing deer. I've heard some folks say that it'll get their blood pumping and make them bleed out faster. While there may be a bit of truth to it.....their instinctual push to remain un-caught by a predator, along with the surge of adrenaline usually means increased trailing. Poorer the hit, longer the wait. If you're kicking it up again, you didn't wait long enough. Don't make the same mistake twice, and back off.

10) Trust nothing to memory, mark everything. Arrows, hats, marker tape....whatever. Everything looks the same after you've been looking at leaves and veg for an hour. Even obvious blood. Your brain starts to play tricks on you, and you get turned around.

There's plenty of good advice out there, but experience is by far the best teacher. Help friends trail their animals to get some practice in!

Joel

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HL, yep, I sure try to do that!

What a gret deal to be able to get sage advice from Mr. Halfpenny- from everything I've heard, he's as good as they come.

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Joel, I also pratice what Mr. Halppenny writes and have found deer without the use of a blood trail. I once tracked a large buck by its hoof print impressions in the dirt as he was a big buck and he left deeper impressions.

great info for all to utilize to help in the recovery of a downed animal.

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Great tips Joel..........especially about staying out of the deer's exit path. Nothing worse than walking right in the blood and disturbing any sign you may have to go back to.

I'm not a big fan of sticking arrows in the groung to mark blood. I prefer to use loggers flagging on the trees. This is much easier to see from distance and can create a line of site to follow once 3 or 4 trees are marked.

Great tips everyone!

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I have seen this happen twice on deer I was helping to recover, so keep it in mind if all else is failing. Both times it was trailing a buck who was bleeding decent and following a deer trail when the blood suddenly stopped. In both cases the deer was bleeding out one side or the other for the entire distance when we noticed that there was suddenly blood on both sides of the trail. The deer had followed a trail, did a 180, and backtracked where they had just come from and then veered off on a different trail. In both cases it was the reversal of what side of the trail the blood showed up on that tipped us off. It was more like a trick a coon will play on a hound than what a deer would do but we found both deer. As ha sbeen said, subtle details can tell the story.

One more tip that I unfortunately hear about every year, just because a deer is hardly bleeding does not mean it was just knicked or it will be fine. A high shot through the vitals can leave no blood trail but yet the deer is dead. We all owe it to the animal to spend a little time looking for each animal we shoot at, especially with a gun.

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Great post MNPurple!

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I second that statement about a high shot nt always leaving blood....a doe I shot about 3 or 4 years ago did just that. I knew I hit her a bit high so I waited a bit longer, found the tracks where she took off running, since it had rained the day before it wasn't too tough, no blood after 100 yards but still followed the tracks, another 50 yards she layed dead, died on a full run, all the blood stayed inside the cavity. Would have been alot tougher without the soft ground.

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I am red/green color blind like Scoot. Makes tracking slow, to say the least, unless I have some snow to work with. frown.gif Drives my father nuts (my rifle hunting partner). It's a lot easier for him to do the tracking than me, so guess who gets the nod the few times we need a tracker during rifle season. He's also received a phone call or two from me while in the bow stand to come out and help when I have botched an easy shot. smile.gif Anyway, when I took my first archery deer, I happened to be hunting with a buddy who is a very experienced bow hunter. That turned out to be good for me, he gave me a few tracking lessons that day specific to archery hunting (stuff my dad and I didn't know, being rifle guys). When I took my shot, saw the nock disappear a bit low and behind the boiler room, so I knew I had a liver hit. I knew the deer was going down, but just not close like the hoped for double lunger. I knew enough to do some of the things mentioned above. Freeze after the shot, don't spook the deer any more than it is, carefully watch and listen to it's path, landmark any spots where it paused, etc. She jumped after the shot, ran for a few strides, then went into a cautious walk and slowly wandered off. It took a good 10 minutes for her to wander out of view. After waiting another 45 minutes (which seemed like an eternity having just shot my first archery deer), I quietly climbed down and retrieved my partner, who happened to be hunting the exact opposite direction the deer went. I figured I could go get him without disturbing the deer's path. I also figured I might as well use someone that can see color instead of me struggling for hours. Turned out to be a good decision. He knew I was colorblind, and a novice archery hunter. So on the walk back to my stand, he clued me in to the backtracking tendency that some archery deer exhibit following the shot. Also explained the tendency to head for water. (Neither of these tendencies had ever surfaced in my rifle hunting life, they pretty much drop where they stand.) This helped me understand the type of things that we would have to watch for. When we arrived at the site of the shot, I showed him where the deer was standing. He took one look and said that the deer was dead, it just didn't know it yet. Blood everywhere. I had difficulty seeing it as the leaves on the forest floor were still very colorful, and the blood soaked leaves looked like they were from a crimson maple, just like all the other bright leaves. (I have to touch suspected spots to see if they smear.) Long story short, we found her down about 75 yards from the stand site just out of view, she had basically circled approx. 180 degrees around me and traveled about 125 yards total in the process. While tracking we lost the trail twice as she had doubled back on her own path. The obvious (to my partner) blood trail petered out after about 75 yards (I assume due to severe blood loss), and we tracked by small dots and smears about 18 inches off the ground after that. We did the TP pieces in the trees/shrubs to establish a path, marked the dots, did circles around the last known spots till we picked up the backtracked trail again, walked off to the side of the trail as to not disturb what we had already found, etc. Due to my disadvantage, the few times I had done any tracking on rifle deer, I have learned to watch for disturbed leaves, hoof impression irregularities, etc. Once or twice I used those clues to help fill in gaps in the blood trail for my partner....

Granted, given the terrain and knowing where the deer was hit, and from her last known direction, I guessed she was down very close and could have probably walked cross country and found her in short order (turns out that she expired right out in the open, not in any heavy cover). But I wanted to learn all I could from my partner, so he took me through the process, even though it may have been unnecessary for finding this particular deer.

The lessons were very valuable for me. All I can say Scoot is be thorough, take your time, and use the tips everyone is posting. They really work for us "color perception challenged" hunters. smile.gif

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question --

I have seen some type of flashlight that makes the blood show up better, or maybe it was a spray or maybe I was dreaming. I don;t know. Does anyone use a special light? Does it work? Is it worth getting or is it just another thing to stick behind your seat?

Thanks

hit

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The spray you are talking about is "hydrogen Peroxide". Dried blood spots are difficult to distinguish from other spots on brown leaves and grass. If you spray peroxide on the dried "spots" any that are "blood" the spot will foam up simular to when you pour it on a cut. We used this method last year to track a wounded doe. Sorry to say we did not find her, but I did manage to find "blood" several hundred yards past the last visible blood the guys saw the day before.

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Hitman

I was told by some that you can buy a LED flashlight and place a blue cap over the end and it will help illuminate blood. I purchased one made for this and it didnt do what I was told very well. I still use a led light or a lantern with tinfoil wrapped around the back half to help push all the light forward and down.

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I have heard that a coleman lantern with white gas works good in the dark. I have not tried it yet though.

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I was also taught by the DNR in a hunter ed class that the Coleman/white gas will help make liquid (not dried) blood stand out better. I tried it once, couldn't see any benefit over a regular flashlight. I took a deer in the morning, but saved a film canister of blood until it got dark. That night I poured it on the driveway and fired up the Coleman lantern and the flashlight. Neither my father (who is not colorblind) or I could tell any difference using the Coleman........maybe the blood trail has to be fresher than 8 hours? Never tried it again......

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I guess the biggest tip I have is PASS on bad shots that don't give you good shot placement in the boiler room. I myself have passed on bucks while bowhunting due to trees in the way, not enough daylight left, too windy etc... you get the idea, and have then seen the same bucks appear for firearm season with a better shot. If a hunter places a broadhead/bullet in the hear lung/s area the animal will go down and shouldn't goo too far. Use good hunter ethics and field decisions while affield. Of course that buck of a lifetime will come through at the last 2-min before you can no longer see your hand in front of you and that's when a peson needs to know his own abilities with there choice of weapon and how good they are with that weapon and the ability to take the animal cleanly. Like I've stated I have passed on multiple shots in my hunting days only to see the same deer once again. Of course this is only one opionion but durring my years of hunting I now need more than two hands and two feet to count the number of deer I've encounterd in the woods I've found dead with bad placement shots from other hunters, also while skinning deer too, I've found broadheads and mutliple bullets healed over.

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Most of the arguement behind the coleman lantern is the "white light". The same has been said about LED's. It provides a whiter light compared to incandecent bulbs which are actually yellow light. The white tends to make it "pop" better from the dull color of leaves and grass. If its helps more power to you, but I don't think there is any one size fits all way to make following blood trails easier. I couldn't even imagine being colorblind. I think its hard enough having full vision.

Most of the lights, lanterns and headlamps are only gonna benefit you at night. The deer I was searching for 2 weeks ago was shot at 7am. None of those things woulda helped until 12-13hrs later and good luck making dry blood glow, let alone being washed away by rain.

I think the best advice is what C&A said, only take good quality shots with full view of the animal.

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