Whitetail hunting: Tips for after the shot

whitetail-trackingYou’re in your deer stand. It’s opening morning. Finally, you hear the slightest sounds, perhaps it’s a deer moving ever so quietly through the brush. It’s a beautiful buck. You aim very carefully, touch off the trigger, and watch as the buck kicks out it’s back legs, hits the ground and starts running. Your shot didn’t drop this particular deer in it’s tracks, but it’s still a killing shot. But, what should you do now? Here are some tips for after the shot.

Wait 30 mins

Particularly if you have lots of daylight left, it’s best to not get out of your stand right now. Wait thirty minutes. Why? Because at this point, you’ve shot the deer, it’s run off, and frankly, it doesn’t know what just happened. The deer doesn’t know you’re even there. If you get down immediately, in his current state of alarm, he will hear you, his adrenaline will kick in, and he’ll run off even further.

Wait 30 minutes. Stay very quiet. This gives the deer a chance to quickly find a spot to lay down, and not run off even further.

Note where the deer ran

Take a mental note of exactly where the deer ran. Listen hard so you can estimate how far off it was when you last heard it. As you’re sitting in your stand, take a mental note of exactly what path the deer was on, memorizing the trees it was last seen running next to. This information will be invaluable as you trail the deer.

Note where the deer was standing when you shot it

While you’re still in the stand, try to figure out exactly where the deer was standing when you first shot it. What tree was it next to? Take a mental note of that as well. This is the first place you’ll go once you are down from the stand.

Look at those two spots as you climb down from your stand

One mistake that’s easy to make is, while you’re still in the stand, you memorize where the deer was standing when you shot it, and exactly the last place you saw it as it ran away. But, after you’ve gotten down to the ground, you notice how different everything looks from down here. You’ve lost place of where those two points are. Instead, as you climb down the stand, look back at each spot as you are coming down. That will allow you to keep track of those two critical spots once you are on the ground.

Don’t step on the trail!

The first thing you want to do is to quietly walk over to the spot the deer was first standing when you shot it. Don’t step on the trail! You might accidentally step on a key piece of evidence that tells you you’re on the right trail. Try to find any sign of the deer at this spot. Blood, a small tuft of hair, dirt that kicked up, tracks, a broken branch, anything. This is your starting point. This is where you begin trailing. Stay off of the trail,  you don’t want to mess it up in case you have to backtrack and start trailing again.

Use flags as markers


Some people just want to tromp out there and walk over to find their deer. Me, I’m more interested in tracking it the old fashioned way, down on my hands and knees. Down here I can find the tiny flecks of blood or hair. I can see how fresh tracks are, even across pine straw. I can see tiny amounts of sandy soil, still moist from where the deer just ran. I can see that I’m actually on the wrong spot when I notice a small spider web that’s undisturbed. I can see frost on the ground that is disturbed.

Each time I spot what is a true sign that I’m on the right trail, I put a little flag in the ground as a marker. That way, if the trailing gets hard, I can see exactly the direction the deer was running, and make guestimates on where it might have turned next. These flags barely weigh anything in my backpack. I just leave them in there all the time in case I need them.

Approach with caution

Once you do come upon your deer, approach with caution. I know, I know. I can hear the old timers saying “gimme a break, that deer’s been dead for thirty minutes already, jest go up and git ’em.” Sorry, not me. I’ve seen deer that have been down suddenly rise again and run like hell. I don’t want to be in their path if they do. I walk up be hind them. That way, if they were to suddenly stand up, they are standing up away from me, not into me. Make sense? I then reach over their back and touch my rifle muzzle to their eye. If the deer doesn’t move after you’ve touched it’s eye, you should be fine.

What other tips do you have for after the shot? Tell us in the comments.

photo by PhillipC on Flickr

About Nate Goodman

Nate Goodman is the author of bestselling terrorism thriller novels. To receive a free copy of book 1, The Fourteenth Protocol, go here.