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A downed deer or other large animal should be approached carefully from above and behind the head.

  • If the animal appears to be dead, wait a short distance away for a few minutes. Watch for any rise and fall of the chest cavity.
  • Notice if the eyes are closed—the eyes of a dead animal are usually open. You can be certain that the animal is dead if the eye doesn’t blink when touched with a stick.
Hunter approaching a downed deer
Approach downed game from above and behind the head and wait a short distance away, watching for any rise and fall of the chest cavity.

If the animal is still alive, it should be finished with a quick shot to the base of the ear. If you wish to mount the head, place your shot in the heart-lung area. For bowhunters, the only option is placing an arrow in the heart-lung area.

Once the animal is dead, follow the state regulations for reporting or recording a kill. Some states require you to tag the animal immediately and indicate the date of the kill. Then begin field dressing.

Hunter placing game tag on dead deer