If you bowhunt for very long, you will soon find yourself on a tough trail. That is exactly where Zach Ferenbaugh found himself in this week’s episode. In this blog, I am going to pass along a few tips I have learned about blood trailing.
Tip # 1: Never Give Up on the Blood: The first step to losing a deer is to give up on the blood trail and start going on a random carcass search. It can be tedious work to stick with a blood trail when there is just one drop here and one there, but that is exactly the way you need to approach each trail.
Deer can make a lot of twists and turns when wounded and each blood drop takes you one step closer to sorting these out. You will notice in this episode that Zach’s buck made a number of loops that the guys were only able to sort out because they stuck with the blood.
Tip # 2: Keep the Recovery Team Small: When following up a deer, you need to move slow so you don’t miss anything and you need to be sure not to trample valuable sign. When first pursuing the trail, it is best to go with just two people, yourself and one careful trusted friend. Be quiet and follow the trail carefully. It may be possible that the deer is not dead and you can slip in for a follow-up shot, or at the very least, not push it off the property.
Tip # 3: Don’t Assume You Know Where the Arrow Hit: Even with the benefit of video playback, we still sometimes get it wrong – we think the arrow hit someplace that it didn’t. This often occurs due to deflections of the arrow off ribs or leg bones that result in surprises.
Unless you see the deer go down, or hear it crash and then no further sounds, it is best to mark the last point where you saw the deer very carefully and give it at least 30 minutes for things to settle down before you go after the deer.
Tip # 4: Follow Up in the Prescribed Time Regardless of Conditions: When it rains or snows shortly after you make a marginal hit, you may feel tempted to go after the deer sooner than you normally would. This is a mistake. Your chances for recovery are better if you give each hit the necessary amount of time to do its work regardless of conditions.
For a solid heart/lung hit wait 30 minutes unless you saw the deer fall.
For a liver hit, wait 3 to 4 hours.
For a paunch hit wait at least 8 hours.
For a muscle hit follow up immediately.
Tip # 5: Don’t Wait Until the Next Day Unless Absolutely Necessary: This is a bad habit that people are getting into. When you leave a deer out overnight you will degrade the quality of the meat. The blood that is trapped in the deer will begin to spoil shortly after it dies and that will taint the meat to a degree.
If the shot calls for a four hour wait before attempting a recovery, go out four hours later even if that means starting the search at 10 or 11 PM. Just go slow and quiet and listen carefully to any sounds that could be your deer.
Tip # 6: Do a Grid Search as a Last Resort: If you are forced to give up on the blood trail, your final hope is to enlist as many friends as possible and grid search the area. Don’t just go where you think the deer went, they often double back. Cover everything, including grass fields and fence lines. Spread out only wide enough that you can still see each other’s legs and comb the area very carefully and thoroughly. Only after gridding a wide area, should you give up on the search.
Good luck this fall. I hope that every trail ends in success.