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Best practices for finding downed deer #7689874 12/16/19 12:40 AM
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If you've ever been around those who have been hunting for a long time, you know there are those who are well skilled at finding deer that were hit but have traveled some distance before hitting the ground. I've known guys who could find a spot of blood like no one else. Others just seem to have a sixth sense about the direction a deer traveled after being hit. IMO, it's a part of deer hunting where "best practices" come into play, in this case that being steps that have been proven time after time that lead to a successful retrieval of an animal that others might never bring to a meat pole.

One of the "best practices" that I've learned and heard others mention is to always mark the location of each spot where blood is found so that you can see the general route the deer took for its exit. This can often point to something about the route that helps identify where the deer might be headed, such as a water source that many say deer will often go after being hit. Not sure if there's any truth to it or not, but I've heard many old timers claim a deer will head to water after being hit. Some have said it's only true because deer prefer to head downhill after being hit, which often takes them to water. Others have claimed deer head to water more as an instinct to seek relief for the wound.

What best practices have you learned and found to be useful when searching for a downed deer?

Last edited by Texas Dan; 12/16/19 12:48 AM.

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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7689885 12/16/19 12:54 AM
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In my experience, wounded deer head for water. If you get lost in the tracking process, go to water and work backwards


"Sometimes, too much to drink is barely enough"

Mark Twain
Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Whammer7] #7689893 12/16/19 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Whammer7
In my experience, wounded deer head for water. If you get lost in the tracking process, go to water and work backwards


So in other words, if a nearby search hasn't uncovered anything and there's a tank or pond on your place, your next move should be to go to it and begin searching on your way back towards the spot where the deer was hit, correct?

Last edited by Texas Dan; 12/16/19 01:06 AM.

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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7689903 12/16/19 01:09 AM
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I've also known guys would prefer a good lantern over a flashlight when searching for a downed deer. There may be some truth that 1500 lumens spread over a large area is more useful than using a 600-800 lumen beam.

I even remember on old timer who claimed he could see blood much easier with the light from a lantern.

Last edited by Texas Dan; 12/16/19 01:10 AM.

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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7689948 12/16/19 01:56 AM
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I used to always use a Coleman lantern- put foil around the globe on your side so that all the light is reflected forwards.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7689949 12/16/19 01:57 AM
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Knowing a deers patterns helps a ton!!

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Whammer7] #7689960 12/16/19 02:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Whammer7
In my experience, wounded deer head for water. If you get lost in the tracking process, go to water and work backwards

Yup...harder to do in east Texas than west but still the same...

If they go more than a couple hundred yards start looking near water...


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7689965 12/16/19 02:10 AM
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High shoulder shot with a 6.5 Creedmore in a High Fence. They won't stand a chance at finding water.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7689992 12/16/19 02:48 AM
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Since you put it that way, Texas Dan, yes. Absolutely. In my experience.

The deer of which I speak were hit pretty hard. A non fatal wound or a gut shot will run and run and run. They may end up as floaters somewhere but you probably won't ever find them. The floaters I'm talking about never went any further than 500 yards in most cases less.


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690014 12/16/19 03:05 AM
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Agree with marking the trail of blood. I also mark the point where they were when you shot them.
If you don't see them fall over and don't hear them crash, give it at least 30 mins before tracking. After the shot, I will listen to them run off, and will often hear them hit the dirt even when I can't see them.


Originally Posted by txhuntingguide
If I choose to hunt in a coon tail hat, a pink tootoo and hip waders that is my fine...
Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690043 12/16/19 03:48 AM
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When the search gets tough, I'm one of those who reaches for a Coleman lantern.

I'll never forget the time a friend came to solicit my help in finding a buck he had shot earlier that evening. He had been looking for at least an hour before he decided to come and get me to help. After about a 15-minute search, I found the buck laying near the edge of a stock tank. He had searched around the tank earlier and was blown away that he had missed it. Although he had been using a flashlight, I think my finding it was more a result of my walking closer to the edge of the tank so that l could better see near the bottom of a short bank that circled it. Anyone who would have walked another five feet away from the bank would have never seen the deer laying near the bottom of it.

That's another thing about searching for downed deer. Just about anyone who has done it enough can remember at least one instance when a deer was later found right under another searcher's nose.

Last edited by Texas Dan; 12/16/19 03:51 AM.

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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: unclebubba] #7690044 12/16/19 03:51 AM
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Originally Posted by unclebubba
Agree with marking the trail of blood. I also mark the point where they were when you shot them.
If you don't see them fall over and don't hear them crash, give it at least 30 mins before tracking. After the shot, I will listen to them run off, and will often hear them hit the dirt even when I can't see them.

This, make note of shot location and where ran to using bushes, trees, cactus as reference points. Once tracking look for blood and erratic tracks too, a well hit deer will be on adrenaline and erratic. Also don't discount elevated blood on cactus and bushes which will catch mid-level body shots. Deer will even circle their runs at times.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690062 12/16/19 04:24 AM
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Years ago it was a lantern and me on my hands and knees looking for blood. These days, I just fire up the Pulsar thermal spotter and find the animal in short order.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690066 12/16/19 04:42 AM
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A lot of good info so far. I have found deer near water and in water. Found one my Dad ha shot that was still alive and laying down in a small hole of water, He got up but went about 50 more yards with a chocolate lab hanging on to a broken leg.

Marking of trails, Toilet paper works well and is quickly bio-degradable if not all is picked up.

On the shot watch for reaction of the deer, does it do a

mule kick (usually good shot)
Hunch its back up good chance that it is gut shot or gut was at least hit.
deer will generally run the direction they were facing when shot but if able very well might circle back to where they came from if able

Do not just look on the ground for blood, trees, grass, brush.... can have blood on them up about the height of the wound.

If you are tracking one and you bump it, back out and give it more time.

If you have lost blood after a long trail start looking in the thick spots, have found them in some very thick spots that had to crawl into to retrieve them.

Coleman lanterns are great for night tracking. White bright 200+ lumen lights are good as well

If all else fails bring in a dog. Their nose is much better than our eyes will ever be.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690076 12/16/19 05:00 AM
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One thing I see those who are less skilled at tracking do is walk right on top of the blood trail. Even if you have good blood, walk off to the side, so that you don't disturb any sign. Oftentimes, if the deer is on a good death run, the blood will run out or become very faint for the last 50-60 yards. If you are walking on top of the trail, you may miss those tiny specks that will give you a clue if the deer veers from the path you are on.

Also, if you are following good blood and it just seems to stop, don't give up. As I stated above, most are within 100 yards of that last blood.

Finally, just because there is not blood for the first 20-30 yards, doesn't mean there won't be blood. With a high hit or a hard down angle with no pass through, the blood has to fill up the chest cavity before it will start leaking out. That is when being able to follow actual tracks comes in handy.


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690083 12/16/19 05:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Texas Dan
Originally Posted by Whammer7
In my experience, wounded deer head for water. If you get lost in the tracking process, go to water and work backwards


So in other words, if a nearby search hasn't uncovered anything and there's a tank or pond on your place, your next move should be to go to it and begin searching on your way back towards the spot where the deer was hit, correct?


Last years buck. 220 yards from the shot. Pretty much had perfect blood trail and then it ended... [Linked Image]

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690089 12/16/19 06:05 AM
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I use flourescent marking tape and go thru a disciplined process of marking sign, whether or not I see the animal fall.
I mark the location where I shot from, and then the point of impact(where the animal was when shot), I do not move until these two points are establish, if I cannot find blood I will make circles, upon finding something, and follow the sign back to the point of impact and mark it with tape, instead of just following the trail.
Once these two points are marked, I establish the direction of travel and mark at regular intervals while the sign is good, in the even I lose the trail, I can easily go back to the last mark.
Sign is followed and marked until the animal is found, if its a hit with some bodily fluids dropped, or some ground disturbance it should reveal the animal, but nothing is 100%, this method works for me.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690120 12/16/19 12:01 PM
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Had a part Shetland pony when I was a kid. If the deer didn't fall close, look for the horse. He'd be standing a few yards from the deer looking at it.

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690297 12/16/19 03:24 PM
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From my days as a Border Patrol Agent...a tracking stick...we carried a single ski pole but any mostly straight stick will work...and a rubber band... find 2 tracks or what appear to be tracks...tip of stick at one and rubber band at the other, now move the stick up and slowly sweep the stick tip left and right...looking for any disturbance...stay to the side of line of travel...and accent each known track...tp as mentioned earlier works fine...so do spent .357 brass...carried a small baggie, typically found in most Agents "trique" bag...see Cop Slang...anyway, this can be hands and knees work but with good terrain, with the rubber band adjusted correctly you can hold the stick out in front of you and slowly wave it side to side,,,and see the next disturbance...pretty soon you have a trail of "bread crumbs"...that usually will point you to the "lost" thing you are tracking...


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690313 12/16/19 03:39 PM
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Use a dog.
I shot a doe last week that never dropped a speck of blood. Was 20 seconds away from calling it a miss before my Lacy in training found it while I was doing a blind zig zag pattern in the pine tree thicket. Deer ran 150 or so yards and never bled, except right where she expired. I had poor shot placement, and just barely nicked the bottom of the chest. When I took one of the front shoulders off, she just poured blood.

It's also a myth that they won't run uphill.
And typically a gut shot deer does head to water.


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690484 12/16/19 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Texas Dan
I've also known guys would prefer a good lantern over a flashlight when searching for a downed deer. There may be some truth that 1500 lumens spread over a large area is more useful than using a 600-800 lumen beam.

I even remember on old timer who claimed he could see blood much easier with the light from a lantern.

Yep, we always kept a Coleman lantern in camp. They cast light downwards and it is a bright white light. Someone may have mentioned it in a previous thread but a lot of times a wounded deer will circle.


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690517 12/16/19 06:56 PM
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If it’s a long shot, these days I use my RF to find the distance to where the deer was. Makes it easier to find that first blood spot. Then I use toilet paper for marking the blood trail. If you can’t find the next drops of blood, look back at the tp trail to see if you are still on line. That is particularly helpful if you are trailing in failing light or dark. If possible, put the tp at waist or chest high, so it’s easier to see with eye or flashlight.

I shoot them in the lungs, so two things happen. First, they always die. Second, they will run a short distance, which I’ll say is 30 to 50 yards. My logic, assuming I placed the shot well, is that the deer is dead or soon will be. Give them time to die. 15 minutes should do it. Grandpa always said to smoke a cigarette before tracking, but I don’t smoke. Badly wounded deer usually run in a somewhat constant line. As they fade, they’ll lean on a tree to rest, so blood won’t all be on the ground. Look on the trees and bushes at knee high or a bit higher. If you are tracking in the wood, and the leaves on the ground are wet, you will notice that badly wounded deer will drag their hooves as they weaken, stirring up the leaves noticeably. Often that’s easier to follow than a blood trail.

As for deer going to water, I’ve always thought that gut shot deer will do that, and I have found a couple in the water. But, I grew up in the swampy lowlands along the Mississippi River, and water is everywhere, not like south or west Texas.

Hit em in the guts, they bow up and run.
Miss them, and run off with white tail held high.
Lung or heart shot, they run tail down, in my long experience.
They usually run generally in the direction their nose was pointing, but not always.

I used to say that I could track a lizard across dry rocks, but I do find it harder to blood trail nowadays. But again, I shoot them in the lungs. I start any trail in in the sure knowledge that the deer is dead. It’s just a matter of where.


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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690527 12/16/19 07:06 PM
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I've read and heard other hunters say the position of the tail being up or down is not a reliable indicator if a deer has or hasn't been hit.

I always look for a backward jerk of the front legs for a heart and lung shot. When a hunter cannot tell me for sure how the deer reacted to the shot, I suspect a flinched shot.

Last edited by Texas Dan; 12/16/19 07:11 PM.

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Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Texas Dan] #7690533 12/16/19 07:11 PM
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I'm color blind, so step one is call in some better eyes!

Re: Best practices for finding downed deer [Re: Grosvenor] #7690538 12/16/19 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Grosvenor
I'm color blind, so step one is call in some better eyes!


I have the same problem. I have difficulty distinguishing between shades of green and brown, which can make it extremely difficult for me to see drops of blood on the forest floor.

The wife often laughs at me when I put on a shirt that looks brown to me but green to her.


Dan,

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