Today is Saturday, August 19, 2017

Misconceptions about deer recovery

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This buck ran 65-yards & never shed a drop of blood. Snow sure helps.

I got an email last week, like I get just about every year.

Guy has shot a deer, can't find it, could I help.

Unfortunately, not every deer that is shot, is recovered.

Each year, a small percentage of animals, wounded during hunting season, go unfound.

This is true more during bow season. Some of these animals die, some recover.

This loss is usually attributable to two major factors-poor shot placement and ignorance.

There is nothing I can do about poor shot placement. But I may be able to help a little with ignorance.

A long list of misconceptions and old wives tales exist when it comes to what a wounded deer does. Space does not permit dealing with all of them but perhaps I can shed some light on the main ones.

(1) A wounded deer always runs downhill. This is patently false. A wounded deer will run in whatever direction it wants. In 60-years of hunting, I have seen wounded deer run uphill as often as downhill. So don't fail to look uphill when you lose a blood trail.

(2) A wounded deer will always run toward water. Again, false. Sometimes they do but as a general rule, only after some time has passed and their temperature begins to rise. When you lose a blood trail, don't start looking near water and ignore other options. Major considerations are known fence crossings and grown weed fields.

(3) A wounded deer will always run with their tail down. Worse than just false, this is plain meadow muffin. The tail position has nothing to do with a deer being wounded in any way. Don't assume you missed just because the tail was up. For that matter, never assume you missed. Go look and look well.

(4) A wounded deer will always circle back the way it came. Nope, not even close. Sometimes they do but more often, they know exactly where they are going and this brings up an important skill for a hunter.

Learn to distinguish the difference between a deer that is still thinking and making choices and one that is running blindly.

That takes some experience and is easier when a wounded deer is following plain trails as opposed to running through open woods. The deer that is running blindly is usually more badly wounded, often fatally. As long as a deer is still thinking, it has not lost much blood.

And how about the deer who leaves no blood trail? Many deer are lost simply because the hunter does not find a quick blood trail and assumes they missed. Not all deer bleed immediately, even ones shot in the heart.

Of equal importance is knowing the land where you are hunting.

After experience in blood trailing wounded deer, you can begin to develop patterns as to where they head. It has been a long time since I have lost a deer where I hunt. I credit this in a great part to knowing where they tend to head, where they cross fences and what trails they use.

Now. Here is a sticky subject and the single most hotly debated one among deer hunters.

It is widely believed that a wounded deer should not be trailed for at least an hour, up to six hours when known to be gutshot. The thinking being, the deer will run a distance, bed down and if left alone, will expire right there. If pushed, they may run some distance and not be found.

I do not subscribe to that school of thought. I do not wait at all on any deer and here is why.

When is the last time you saw a victim in a car crash or shooting get up and run around so he can heal faster? Don't medical professionals always feel their chance of survival is much higher if they stay still or lie down? Doesn't that slow the bleeding? I want a wounded deer up and moving so the blood continues to flow and can be followed, not clotting and plugging the wound so there is little to follow. In my years of guiding, I saw many instances of deer lost because they were allowed to bed down. When they got up and moved again, no blood trail. That makes it tough.

Just a "guesstimate", but I reckon I have been involved in upwards of 1,000 wounded animal recovery efforts.

I have learned from every one of them.

I have been called from four states away to give advice on a recovery and have actually found deer via the phone, just from information provided. And yes, I have lost some animals over the years. Of one thing, I am firmly convinced, buying into the myths and legends has cost hunters a lot of deer.

Never underestimate just how hard it may be to see a dead deer.

It is possible to actually walk right by one and never see it. Sometimes, they do run toward water.

More often, they tend to cross fences or creeks in the easiest places-places they are familiar with. So, before you start running toward the nearest pond or creek, check the fence crossings and never assume a deer won't walk out and bed down right in an open field.

In fact, never assume anything.

Maybe that should be rule number one and rule number two should be don't use always or never when talking about deer.

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John Sloan - Outdoors
John L. Sloan, Outdoors
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