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Successful Game Recovery

By Richard Johnson

The Crucial First Seconds

One of the most important parts of hunting occurs after you shoot the animal, finding that animal. This isn't something that should be taken lightly. This should be one of the most serious parts of hunting.

The most important thing I can say to you on this subject is that the most important stage of game recovery is right after you shoot. You must look at everything that occurs in that couple of seconds. Look at: where the arrow hit the animal, which direction the animal started to run, and what the deer looked like. Let's go into each one of these subjects in more detail.

First thing is to see where the arrow hit the animal. See if you hit high or low, too far back or too far forward, or maybe it was a perfect heart shot. A shot low and forward in the chest means that the deer should die almost instantly, but a shot high in the chest won't cause the animal to die of blood loss. Low hits will also leave a good blood trail while high hits will not.

The next thing to look for is what direction the animal was running in. Don't take your eyes, I repeat, don't take your eyes off that animal until it is completely out of site. And if you paid attention to our Necessary Hunting Items page, take out your trusty binoculars and look for it. Any glimpse of the animal changing directions will help you find the animal. In your head, mark certain spots of where you saw the deer change directions and where you last saw it.

Then remember what the deer looked like. I know it seems simple, but if you find your deer you just want to make sure it is yours. Also, if the animal lays down to rest by another deer, and you jump them and you see two deer running off in different directions, you'll know which one to follow. This becomes harder with two does, but if you remember the body size of your deer, you will save yourself from a lot of frustration.

What's that you say? Just see which one left a blood trail. Oh, oh, oh, have you got much to learn. Blood trails are not always reliable. Some deer may not even leave a blood trail. Or it could be raining, which would wash away any hope of a blood trail.

Read The Arrow

While not the most important part of tracking, but still very important, is to find you arrow if you can and look at what kind of blood is on the arrow. Different kinds, shapes, sizes, color, etc., of substances can usually tell you where your arrow passed through the deer. Let's go over what you will find on arrow hitting in the different places.

Arrows covered in bright red blood usually means that you hit both lungs. Good shot. Large blotches of blood means a heart hit. Another good shot. Either of these two finds means you hit the animal well, you made a great shot and will be rewarded with finding your trophy shorty. I must add though that anything can happen, even with the best of shots. Now let's move on to the less desirable findings.

Dark red blood usually means you hit the animal back, possible a liver hit. If you hit too far back you will find green stomach contents. This is big trouble. Watery, thin blood usually means a superficial hit.

But remember this and listen to me when I tell you this. No matter how little of blood there is, you better start tracking. If you don't find the arrow and you're sure you hit it, this usually means that the arrow is still in the animal or was when it started running.

On The Trail

Now you're on the trail of your animal. You've waited about 30 minutes if it was a good hit. If it was a paunch shot, you should wait 6 to 12 hours. If it was a suspected liver hit, you probably should wait about 2 hours. One of the most important hints I can give you while following a blood trail is to mark off the spot where you last found blood with bright surveyor's tape. If you seem to run out of a blood trail, search on your hands and knees. Also, look for tracks.

Unless safety issues direct you otherwise, do not stop looking just because it got dark. Use a flashlight, (Remember Necessary Hunting Items? Wow, these things do come in handy!). If all else fails at night, go back to get some rest and go at it in the morning with some help. If don't have any game recovery sprays that light the blood up like a glow from a spaceship, hydrogen peroxide will make the blood to foam up. Put some in a spray container and spray around.

Even a hair could lead to your deer. Once, my good friend and hunting partner shot a doe the second to last day of rifle season. We couldn't find any blood at all, and there was even snow on the ground, which makes it a lot, and I mean a lot easier. Despite the cold and snowy ground, I got on my hand and knees and found one very little puff of hair. This pointed us in the right direction. We eventually found blood and followed the trail for a long, long, long, long, time.

We did find the deer. It was under a pine tree, still alive, but couldn't get up. So my friend went up and finished it off with a shot to the head. His shot turned out to be a gut shot. This just goes to show that even the worst hit deer can be found and the smallest puff of hair can put you on the right trail.

I hope these tips are useful in finding your next animal. Remember, nothing is impossible and no sign is too litte. Oh, and one more thing. When you use the surveyors tape to mark your last blood, be sure to clean ALL of it up when your done. Good luck with all your game recovery!






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