Deer Hunting and You Made a Bad Shot, Now What?

Let’s face it, when you hunt long enough you are going to make a bad shot eventually. It happens. The internet is filled with “perfect hunters” that have never let their nerves get the best of them. They will let a 190” buck walk by, because it is quartering towards them at a 3° angle. Cro-Mag Outdoors’ live in the real world and the fact is that sometimes a lapse in judgment is made and you send an arrow flying a little far back, or a little high. We are all human and mistakes get made. This is not a time to beat yourself up, it is a time to take a deep breath and relax for a little while. After you have calmed down from the excitement and being unsure, there is one question that will present itself and that is, “what the hell do I do now?”

The first action that needs to be made is that you need to get your shit together. A cluttered mind will do nothing but present more problems during tracking. And you need to be 100% focused on the task at hand.

The second step is to find your arrow and determine what type of blood that you have.

  • Light red blood with air bubbles and a frothy appearance signifies that a lung or heart shot has been made. This is the best sign that you have for a quick and easy tracking job.
  • Dark red and thick blood signifies a liver shot.
  • Green and grainy goo on your arrow means that you have made a gut or paunch shot.

All three of these blood types should provide a fatal wound to a whitetail. That doesn’t mean that you will find the deer though. The next steps are crucial to your success in finding this deer. If there is any doubt in your mind that the blood is questionable, meaning dark red or green, the best course of action is to mark where the first sign of blood is and then back out of the woods for 4 to 6 hours.

A liver shot will kill a deer in 1 to 3 hours, and a paunch or gut shot can take up to 6 hours for the animal to perish. But the number one worst thing that you can do as a sportsman/woman is to push a wounded deer. If a deer is not pressured they will lay down within a couple hundred yards for the hit site. They will lay down to try and recover from the wound. And generally, they will not get up and that will be their final resting place.

Okay great, you have waited 4 to 6 hours and you are ready to go and look for your trophy. Go to the initial blood site and slowly start to track the deer. Take your time and analyze every inch of the trail. Mark the blood trail with ribbon every 10 yards. This will provide you a visual of the line that the deer took to run away.

Oh no! the blood trail has ended and now I can’t see any more blood. What do I do now? Step 1, RELAX. Take a deep breath because I know at this point the anxiety has already taken hold of you. Sit down for 10 minutes and clear your head. After you have lowered your heart rate go to the last known blood. Begin making circles around this area progressively getting larger and larger. Look for broken sticks, disturbed leaves anything that will denote that a deer has came through this area. If you are having trouble finding any sign, go back to the initial blood and look at the line of ribbons that you have placed in the trees. A wounded deer doesn’t meander they generally take a straight line from where they were hit. This will give you the ability to retrace their path and put yourself back on the line that they took. Keep pushing into the woods and looking for sign working in the direction that they took. Stay calm and be persistent and then, Bingo, there he is laying next to that fallen pine in a thicket. Congratulations!

But wait, what about me, I still haven’t found my deer. Okay, for those who are not lucky enough to find their deer they are still a few things that you can try. First step once again is to RELAX. The next step is to back out of the woods once again. By this time, it is getting dark, do not attempt to continue tracking at night. You could disturb some critical sign that is needed to recover your game. Mark the last sign that you have and leave until first light.

You are in desperation mode at this point. The sad truth is that depending on the circumstances the deer that you shot may not be fatally wounded, or that a hole plugged off and they have run further than anticipated. The realization of the uncertainty of you shot is coming to light. You basically have one option left.

Call a group of your friends and have them come help you search in the morning. You go back in the a.m. and there is no more sign and the woods seem barren. Go back and visualize your ribbon line once more. Spread a group of guys out in a line about 25 to 50 yards apart and begin to walk the line that the deer was running. Have them look for blood and trace signs of disturbance. This is basically an Easter egg hunt. Hopefully, the deer will turn up. That’s all that there is left to do.

At this point if the deer has perished the meat will no longer be viable. That is the downside of making a bad shot, the potential for lost deer, or ruined meat. But take this as a learning experience. It really sucks to lose a deer, but it happens to everyone. You are an ethical hunter and mistakes happen. But this experience is not a total loss. You have learned a great deal of information and life lessons from this event. And you know what areas you need to focus on during your next encounter with a deer.

Practice controlling your emotions, practice breathing, practice shot placement for a quick and humane kill. But most of all, don’t ever forget what happens if you fail to make a good shot.

This article was never intended to downplay a mistake shot or the seriousness of wounding deer. It was written to educate and push you to be a better outdoorsman/woman. The Cro-Mag Outdoors Staff does not believe in beating people up for their mistake but rather support them when they are seeking help. Do not let this experience ruin hunting for you, but allow it to install more dedication and commitment on your end to become a better hunter/huntress.

Having the desire to become successful in hunting, takes a mindset change and that is the hardest part in this endeavor. We can help you with changing this mindset, and once you have changed you will appreciate the hunt more, and start understanding what being a sportsman/woman is all about. Remember our mission is to redefine tradition. Challenge traditional thinking and push others to do the same. We must dedicate ourselves to hone in on our primal instincts and combine them with new methodologies and technologies to truly master evolution.

Cro-Mag Outdoors

Tradition, Re-engineered

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published