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Trailing wounded game

It is a hunter’s ethical responsibility to stop the hunt and search for any wounded animal.

  • You should wait for at least a half-hour to an hour before trailing a deer, unless the downed deer is in sight.
  • Make a practice of carefully observing every movement of a game animal after you shoot it. Investigate the ground and trail after shooting before assuming you missed.
  • Once at the site of the shot, look for signs:
    • Blood on the ground or vegetation
    • Broken twigs or branches, or scattered leaves
    • A “dew” line if early in the morning
    • Tracks
    • Hair, meat, or bone fragments
    • Downhill trails, especially toward water
  • If you lose a trail, search in a circular or grid pattern, and try to pick up the trail again.
  • Use fluorescent orange flagging to mark the blood trail in case darkness or weather forces you to quit the search and return the next day. Marking the blood trail also shows where to look for more signs if you lose the trail. Be sure to remove the orange flagging after use.

Blood Sign

Blood sign can offer important tracking clues, such as blood splashes in the direction the animal is traveling.

  • Dried blood usually has a brown color and can be difficult to spot on brown grass or leaves. Using hydrogen peroxide may help you determine if spots you see are actually blood. Hydrogen peroxide will bubble on contact with blood.
  • The color, appearance, and location of fresh blood can indicate the type of hit.
    • Bright red blood indicates bleeding from arteries. Darker blood indicates bleeding from veins.
    • Blood that has bubbles or looks frothy could indicate a lung hit.
    • Fluid that is greenish, has tallow, or is clear can indicate an intestinal shot.
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