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Blood-Trailing Whitetail Deer

Experience, Tips, and Tricks to Help You Become a Better Tracker


Over the years, it has been my privilege to take a good number of whitetail deer. It has also been my happy experience to have recovered every deer that I've hit. I've only had to trail a few of them, and that experience, while nerve-wracking, has ultimately been satisfying. Taking your game home with you is the ultimate conclusion to the time-honored activity we call deer hunting.

First Trail

The first deer I had to track was a Florida buck I'd hit with my 44 carbine, using some PMC bullets of a poor design for hunting. They were jacketed soft points, but they did not expand and therefore didn't deliver the proper "clobber power" the cartridge is capable of.

I hit the deer first as it quartered towards me, and the 240-grain bullet passed entirely through it. The buck stumbled, then ran the way it was facing - towards me. I fired again and missed, then hit the deer again as it ran past. I was met with the strange spectacle of a white cloud that lingered for a split-second where the deer had been when I'd hit it that second time, and the buck ran on.


The weather was hot that day, and after ten or fifteen minutes, I climbed down and walked to the spot where I'd seen the cloud. Already, blowflies were on the spoor that the deer had leaked at the second shot - blood and bits of acorn. My heart sank at the prospect of a gut shot, but I knew I had hit the deer with the first shot, also.

I began trailing the buck - slowly, quietly, and carefully. At first I could follow his deep tracks in the sand, finding a bit of blood here and there. Then as the deer had slowed, his tracks got harder to find and I relied more on finding blood. This was not an easy task, as the drops were few and far between.

The Flies Have it

At one point I had run out of blood to follow. Because I had seen flies on each bit of blood along the way, I stopped, stood still, and listened. Buzz buzz... the sound of the flies led me to the next drop of blood and I continued tracking.

I did this a few times, then I reached a point where the deer had begun stumbling and weaving, and once again I lost the blood. I stopped and listened again, and heard a louder buzzing in the stillness of the woods. I looked in that direction, and there was my buck! He was lying dead and still, having gone no more than sixty or seventy yards after the second shot. He died quickly, but not before he had gotten well out of sight.

So the flies helped me find that buck. In future hot-weather tracking, I wouldn't hesitate to try the same tactic again.

Double, Double Lung Shot

The next deer that required me to find blood spoor to locate was a young doe in Georgia. I hit the deer broadside, and it ran a ways and stopped, again standing broadside. I fired once more, and the deer leaped forward and disappeared from view.

I mentally noted some landmarks, and walked over there. My deer was nowhere in sight, though it was not brushy and I could see the ground in most areas. I concentrated on where I had lost sight of the deer, and noticed two downed trees lying over a shallow wash. One tree had a bloody smear on top.

This prompted me to look down in the wash under the second tree, and there was my doe, dead and in as good a hiding place as there ever was. She had made a dying leap and slid over one tree and underneath the other. Without the blood smeared on that tree as the deer fell onto and over it, I may never have found that one. Incidentally, both shots were double-lung hits, within inches of each other.

Flag up, Deer Down

My next trailing job wasn't my deer, but Dad's. The young doe had run off with her tail high when Dad fired, and he hadn't found any blood, so he wrote it off as a miss although the shot had felt good to him. Back at camp, he shot his rifle and it was hitting accurately, so I said, "Let's go find your deer."

Not far from where the deer had been when the shot was fired, I spotted brown blood in the dry clay dust. With some help from Dad, I located where the deer had turned off the trail and headed into the brush.

Then, knowing that a wounded deer's tendency is to run downhill, it was a fairly simple matter to follow the dried blood sign along a dim game trail in the thick brush. We did have to backtrack a time or two, but within fifty yards we found Dad's deer and took her back to camp.

One useful trick we used was that our buddy Richard would stand at the last blood found, as I searched ahead for the next drop. In this way, I could always easily return to the last known sign and change directions in my search for the next bit of spoor.


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