Hunting: Tracking a Wounded Deer

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Your heart is racing. Sweat pours down your face as it burns red with excitement. You got him! What now?

Don’t let your excitement get the best of you. SAFETY first! Secure your weapon. Secure yourself. Get out of your stand or blind in the safest way

Do you have flag tape? Get it out and ready to use. Flag tape can be surveyor’s tape or even toilet paper to hang on limbs. Toilet paper dissolves in
rain and will go back to nature, so I suggest using it. You may have brought some with you anyway! Use this to mark your trail. A handheld GPS would be great here to mark waypoints. Imagine having a top-down map showing where your stand is and where the deer has gone. You may be able to even predict where he is going if you have set up your GPS map with geo markers like 'thicket', 'pond', etc.

Rushing is not going to help, since you should wait a while to go find the deer. Unless you have seen the deer fall and are pretty certain it is down,
don’t run over to the spot just yet.

It is a good idea to wait at least 20 minutes before you start tracking the deer. This will let the wound set in and give the deer a chance to lie down. If you go after the deer right away, its adrenaline will kick in and it could go for miles with you on the chase! Imagine dragging it back to your vehicle after that run.

Poorly hit animals often seek water for relief, especially animals that have a gut shot. When all else fails, look for a pond or stream. Your buck may be standing there! If you know you have a bad hit leave it alone and don't push it. Leave the area for a few hours and come back later. Wounded deer tend to go for thick cover or water.

Find the blood trail. Get a spray bottle and fill it with hydrogen peroxide. Mist the ground area around where you think the deer was hit. If the hydrogen peroxide bubbles up white, then you know you have located blood.

Since blood and other bodily fluids glow under UV light, try one of these two methods to find the blood.

1. Coleman Lanterns. This works well when you shoot a deer late in the day. Cover the glass on one side with foil so you can hold the lantern up to your eyes without blinding yourself. This also makes the wet blood look almost fluorescent.

2. Fluorescent Lights. For finding wounded game in the evening hours, overcast days, or in the dark, carry a fluorescent light with you. These
fluorescent lights are sold at outdoors stores and cause biological fluids like blood or urine to glow. Handhelds typically retail for $10-$20. True black lights, or Wood’s Lights, make blood glow even more but these handhelds cost about $30.

If you can’t find blood, don’t assume you have missed. The angle in which you shoot a deer may determine if the hit leaves blood on the ground or not. Under certain conditions, it can be very difficult to find blood. If you still have not found anything, go to the last place where you saw the deer. Using this spot as a center, move out about 10-15 yards and make a circle. Keep increasing the size of the circle until you are certain you have covered the area thoroughly. When all of this fails, go toward the direction the deer came from originally. When wounded, the deer may circle and head back the direction it came from.

When tracking a wounded deer, remember the travel patterns and escape routes that you discovered while scouting or observing; while on your tree stand or during previous trips into your hunting area.

Remember to be patient and methodological in your search. Don’t give up too early or you’ll leave the woods disappointed and the freezer will stay empty! Good Luck!

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