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Tracking Wounded Deer – When is the right time?

Deer Track

Tracking wounded deer can either be exhilarating or heartbreaking, depending on whether or not you are able to find your buck! The following tips and techniques should make tracking whitetails a bit more smooth procedure.

When you first shoot your buck, watch it for as far as you can, noting where the last landmark you saw it is located. Even though pros will tell you to wait 30-45 minutes before getting out of your stand, we all know that this is extremely hard to do! So, wait for at least 10 minutes to calm down from the excitement, before leaving your stand. Falling out of a tree stand isn’t what we would like for you!


When you retrieve you arrow check it for blood

For starters, see if you can retrieve your arrow. Finding and checking your arrow can give you a good idea of what type of shot you made. Is it covered with lots of deep red blood? Then it was probably a good hit. Is it covered with a lighter, more pinkish blood? Then the hit may not have been as accurate as you would like. Is there a greenish type slime or food particles on it? You may have hit it further back than what you thought and you have probably made a gut shot. Walk over to the landmark where you last saw the deer and check to see how much blood there is.

All of these signs can help you decide when the right time to start tracking your deer is.

If you saw or heard it fall, then wait 20 minutes before you begin tracking it.If there is deep red blood, then wait 30 to 45 minutes. If the blood is not abundant and is a lighter color, wait 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you believe or know that you made a gut shot, wait 12 hours or overnight.


Deer need to lay down to die. Even though they are wounded, if they sense that someone is around, they will keep running. However hard it may be to wait to actually get your hands on it, not waiting may result in completely losing the trail and your prize. If you believe that you had a marginal hit, make sure you take your crossbow with you and have it cocked and ready. Go quietly and slowly, as your buck may be laying down, so you can get another shot on him.

When trailing, take tissue or toilet paper with you and every 10 to 15 yards, tie ½ square of it to vegetation and brush, that is about 2 to 3 feet off of the ground. If you lose the blood trail completely, you can look backwards at your paper trail, to get a general idea of which direction it is going.

While tracking wounded deer, notice the path it is taking. If it went across a fence, did it jump over it or did it pass through an opening? Seriously wounded deer will take the easiest possible paths while avoiding steep hills and jumping fences. Sometimes, a gut shot deer will lay down in creeks to cool its stomach.


Sometimes, when tracking wounded deer, it may be difficult to determine if you are looking at actual blood, or just blood colored plants. Rather than buying the expensive products on the market for determining the difference, take a spray bottle filled with peroxide. When sprayed with peroxide, blood drops will bubble. We use this all the time. It works great and is extremely inexpensive as it costs about $2.00 per quart bottle.

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