How to blood-trail a deer

"How to Blood-Trail a Deer," by Bob Westerfield

Any experienced white-tailed deer hunter has surely had to track one at one time or another.

This practice, sometimes referred to as trailing, can be a tricky undertaking, even for the seasoned hunter.

Theories and preferences abound as to what portion of a deer makes for the best target, especially with consideration toward the particular weapon, arrow, or round that is used.

Most hunters would prefer that their chosen methods would result in a quick kill with minimal time spent locating or moving the animal.

Most hunters also realize that even the slightest unintended movement or inaccuracy of the weapon or aim upon firing can result in failure to hit the exact intended target area.

This, in turn, can make the difference between an easy hunt and a difficult one.

Time is of the essence when a hunter leaves his perch and sets out to begin preserving and processing a harvested animal, and this is especially true when faced with warmer temperatures.

My personal white-tailed deer tracking experiences have been futile efforts more often than they have been rewarding. Even so, this season provided a positive tracking experience.

I found the makings of a perfect shot at a good doe that allowed for a calculated aim taken with a variable scope at that personal choice of a target area—the heart.

It was a clean shot by any personal standard.

Still, my deer ran away. I was perplexed. Then, the second-guessing began. Had I jerked the trigger of my Marlin 30/30, over compensated, or misaimed? All answers seemed to be “no.”

I found some initial impact sign and began to feel some relief. Then, I found a trail, but the trail seemed to lead to nowhere, only a few feet away from the starting point.

I followed the trail a second time and the trail seemed to lead me a little further before coming to an abrupt halt.

How was this possible? How could this deer leave such a trail and still get so far away? I gave up and turned to leave when my better judgment forced me to turn around and try again.

The third time proved to be the charm. I found more of the choppy, crooked trail that finally led to the deer that lay about 150 feet, through the thick brush, away from the starting point.

Alas, it turned out that the intended heart shot landed in a lung. The cause will only be fully determined upon the next sighting-in of the rifle, but my bet’s on a slightly low aim on my part.

My advice for white-tail tracking is “don’t be too quick to call it a loss.” Have you had similar experiences? What are your thoughts? 

I have a passion for writing about a growing variety of topics and have enjoyed pursuing this passion through personal projects, various blogs, and as a correspondent covering Coryell County for Killeen Daily Herald.

(2) comments


Not the most fun part of deer hunting, but sometimes necessary. Good article!

Shawn Paul

No, Dub. Based on my experience, it's not the most fun part of deer hunting, but as you said, it is sometimes necessary, and it can be rewarding. Thank you for your comment and for the compliment.

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