The chase isn't over 'till you find your deer and break out your knife.
A whitetail is one of the most adaptive, determined and resilient creatures on Earth. We have all seen deer take precise and mortal hits with firearms and archery equipment and they run off as if merely spooked. Most of us have witnessed a deer being hit by a car, and often they often just disappear into the forest. Do deer know some zombie secrets? How is this possible?
The simple explanation is adrenaline. The same stuff that helps panicking parents turn crashed cars over is pumping through a deer. A deer uses adrenaline like a Cajun uses hot sauce; it's always handy and applied liberally.
We humans use adrenaline sparingly. Only under extreme distress does our body make this resource available. Like on Black Friday or something.
When you have made a shot that's less than perfect, combating the effects adrenaline require some thought and patience. A deer has no dilemma of fight or flight when faced with a dangerous situation, it's all flight and deer are well-trained in escape techniques. You must attempt to relive every detail of the shot you made and proceed accordingly when preparing to trail deer.
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Try to focus on where you held your crosshairs or pin, recall the deer's first reaction and the direction the animal headed. All these factors sound trivial, but they add up to a good game plan when trailing a deer. Once you have arrived at the deer's location when the shot was made, bring all the "CSI knowledge" you have amassed from television into play.
Look at the ground, obviously for blood but also hair and how the terrain can offer advantages to your trailing. If a good blood trail is evident, follow and keep your eyes and ears open to clues to what lies ahead. If you jump the deer and hear it run further, patience is now the preferred virtue to rely on. Sit tight, pay attention to the blood, recall what side the entry wound is on, and use this time to determine where the deer will head. It helps to the area you are hunting.
I usually wait 30 minutes. It is a long enough period of time to let a deer feel comfortable and possibly slip into the darkness. It is also the maximum amount of time I can wait without going crazy, I'm not that patient.
If a deer continues to flee, I usually mark my last position clearly and back out of the area for a couple of hours. I usually grab a bite to eat, round up a buddy or two, and get back after it. Your odds increase with more eyes and, if possible, your friends should be equipped with guns. Dedication and good friends are a must when you trail deer that won't give up.
Persistence is most often the most important thing you have to combat the strong adrenaline rush a deer can use to escape. I've often wondered just how much adrenaline a deer can manufacture, I'm usually thinking this while on all fours following a blood trail through a briar thicket. A deer is simply following its instincts, but they follow them well.