HUNTINGsmart! USA Knowledge Base



If your deer bounds off with a bullet in it’s side, it may not appear to be injured but chances are, it will eventually fall—and you’ll need to track it down to finish the job. So, how do you find it? Carefully observe the game animal’s movement after you’ve shot it. Then, wait for 30 minutes to an hour before starting to track it down.

When you start the search, you should be looking out for these signs of it’s direction of travel:

  • Hoof/paw prints.
  • Feathers or hair.
  • Blood drops.
  • Broken branches.
  • Scuff marks.
  • A dew line (in the early morning).

Wise Words: Blood Trails

If you’ve found a blood trail—don’t leave it. Mark the last spot where you found blood and then comb the area in a circle, always returning to the marker. A broken branch is a good sign but not nearly as good as finding more blood on the ground or on the leaves of a bush. Turn leaves over on the ground because they may have flipped over when the animal ran off. Remember, even critically hit animals may run off a fair distance away from where they were shot. You’ve got to go get em’.

Is It Dead?

Found it! Now, how do you tell if it is safe to approach? When approaching a downed animal, make sure it's dead before you rush in to check it out.If it’s not, you’ll need to finish the job with a well placed lethal shot.

Always approach the animal from behind and above it’s head to avoid being within kicking, biting or scratching reach of its mouth or legs. With your firearm loaded, try poking the animal several times with a long stick and watch closely for any type of reaction. Remember, if the eyes are closed, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s dead. Wide-open, glassy eyes will be a much better indicator.


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