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Even if you make a perfect shot, the animal may not fall instantly and die right away. A deer hit in the vital area can run for hundreds of yards before collapsing. It is your responsibility to do your best to recover every animal you shoot.

Hunting couple with deer

If a wounded animal does not die on the spot:

  • Mentally mark the location of the animal when you shot and where you saw it last. Look for some distinctive feature (dead tree, flat rock, etc.). Also, be sure to look back often when tracking. The landscape will look different on the return trip!
  • Wait for 30 minutes before following a wounded animal. A wounded animal will likely lie down. It might die there on the spot or become too weak to get up by the time you find it. It may take as long as 4-6 hours for an animal hit outside the heart/lung area to die.
  • While waiting, go over the shot in your mind: What was the animal doing before you shot? What did the animal do when you shot it? Did the position of its body change when you shot?
  • Even if you think you didn’t hit the animal always check for blood, hair, or bone chips near the spot where it was standing. Unusual running behavior after a shot may indicate that an animal has been hit.
  • Go slowly and look carefully for signs of a hit. Always assume you made your shot until you recover the animal or are absolutely certain you missed it cleanly.