Taking the time to prepare before and after ‘the shot’ can go a long way in helping find a wounded animal. Here are a few tips that can help you prevent the loss of your next buck.
BEFORE THE SHOT
1. Clear Your Shooting Lanes: Take the time to get up into your deer blind and check for any obstructions in every direction that you plan to hunt. Many wounded animals are lost because an obstacle like a tree limb causes the bullet or arrow to slightly veer off course.
2. Know Your Range: Practice at specific ranges to get a feel of your weapon and how it will perform at that distance. It’s important to know how far away your game is, before you make the shot. A rangefinder is essential equipment to have on hand. Range your quarry while you’re waiting on that big buck to arrive, not in the seconds before a shot. Spend time ranging various objects from your deer stand like leaves and tree bark and use those visual keys to know how far away the game is when it appears. Be prepared to make a quick shot, but know your limits. If the game is outside your range, don’t shoot.
3. Pack Tracking Essentials: Fluorescent or reflective tape is a great aid in marking a trail, so add this to your hunting pack. Marking blood trails will allow you to visualize the animal’s path and is much more effective than dropping your caps and other gear along the track. If you need to call in extra help, they’ll be able to get a sense of the trail as soon as they arrive.
AFTER THE SHOT
1. Be Patient. Rushing out of your deer blind minutes after the shot is one of the most common mistakes even experienced hunters can make. The noise you make after a shot can often drive wounded game even farther away making locating them even harder in the long run.
2. Find the Trail: Your first priority is to identify the trail, starting with the area where the game was when you took the shot. Mark the trail every few feet with tape, and take time to examine the blood. If it’s frothy and contains pink tissue and air bubbles, it’s likely a lung shot. Red muscular blood indicates a heart shot or marginal hit in the shoulder or elsewhere. Bits of fodder and green material mean you’re likely looking at a gut shot. Work your way following the trail and don’t go too far without clear evidence that the animal went in that direction.
3. Go High Tech: There are a number of products designed to help you find a lost animal including blood trailing lights that amplify blood and thermal imaging cameras that display drops of blood in the grass. Mixing Luminol - available on Amazon - with some water in a spray bottle can also help reveal blood in the dark.
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