You know you made a solid shot but can't find a drop of blood. Now what? It happens to everyone at least once. Whether you're bowhunting or rifle hunting, going after mule deer or whitetail, every deer hunter knows this is a risk they take. For one reason or another you will eventually find yourself trying to track a deer that doesn't seem to be bleeding, no matter how observant you were or how positive you were that you hit your target. You have to do everything you can to retrace your steps to avoid the risk of losing your deer, but how long do you look for blood or a downed deer before being able to confidently determine you actually missed? Well, there are ways to be especially thorough in your search to at least feel like you aren't walking away from a freezer full of meat. It won't be easy, but you can use these tips to hopefully get your buck.
Go back to the site of the shot
The first thing you need to do is get back to where you made your shot. Replay the moment in your mind. How was your shot placement? Did you hit it too far forward or too far back? How did the deer react? Did it hunch like a gut shot or bolt like a vital hit?
Once you have that image in your head, look at the ground for disruptions where you hit it. It should be torn up, and there will hopefully be a clear track of your wounded deer. Look for your arrow or immediate signs of blood, but don't get too far from the shot site. One of the biggest mistakes a hunter can make when tracking a wounded deer is to rush it. I typically wait half an hour before searching for blood outside twenty yards.
Running the risk of bumping a wounded deer is never a good idea. Give the deer time to bed down, and they will likely expire in their first bed. One bump can give a deer enough adrenaline to run another 500 yards and possibly out of your life forever. Be patient.
To clarify this statement, when deer are shot, it is an instinct for them to circle downwind, roughly 50 to 60 yards. This can be a great starting point to check for blood. If you lose track or can't find it, start walking in a 40-yard circle from the last place you remember seeing it. Look for white hair sticking out or brown hair if it's snowing. Move slowly and keep your eyes open for the deer, tracks, or any possible blood.
Look for water and bedding
If blood is scarce, there are other reliable places to search for a downed whitetail. After being shot, deer seek water to replace the fluids lost in their blood. Finding a primary water source, such as a flowing creek headed downhill from the site of the shot, is a great place to search for blood.
Another great place to search for a downed whitetail is in a core bedding area. After being shot, it's natural that a deer will want to go to a site where they feel safe. If you have a good idea of where that deer was bedding, there's a good chance that's where it is headed. Give it time and cautiously approach the area from downwind, looking for signs of blood along the way.
Call the dogs and friends
If it is legal, get tracking dogs. They aren't a guarantee, but their sense of smell is much better than yours and might get you closer or bring you right to the deer. If you can't get tracking dogs, get friends to substitute as hunting dogs. Just don't tell them that they are playing dog for you. Getting more eyes and more experience in the woods is always a good idea.
As we all know, making the perfect shot on a big game animal is tough, especially one that makes blood trailing completely easy. But we should always strive for such a shot and be able to adapt if it doesn't happen the exact way we want it to.
Deer hunting doesn't end after the trigger is pulled or the arrow is released. It's the deer recovery tasks that can often spoil things. Although sometimes necessary, waiting to track a wounded animal until the following day can be agonizing, and finding zero red blood signs without a clue of the animal's direction of travel, is never a situation we want to encounter.
Here's hoping these tips contribute to your luck if you do.
READ MORE: The 10 Worst States for Deer Hunting
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