In a perfect world, each shot you take at a deer will flawlessly hit its mark, dropping the animal upon contact. As nice as that sounds, this world is far from perfect, and even the best placed shots don't always get the job done in an instant. Whether your shot makes contact as a mere graze or fails to put the deer down as intended, sometimes that animal is going to take off, and a mobile deer can cover a significant amount of distance while leaving very little blood to guide you to its ultimate location.
Photo: The Jump
Initially, an injured deer may take off quickly, but maintaining that speed while injured and losing blood is not likely over a long period of time. Instead, the deer will slow to a walk, which therefore decreases heart rate and slows blood loss, leaving less and less to indicate to you in which direction it went. Though the deer will ultimately lay down and pass from this world, it could take time and tracking skills to locate the animal.
When a blood trail fails to aid you, it will become essential to have another skillset to call upon if you are to find an injured deer. There is a simple way to go on tracking, but it is necessary that your prey reduce its speed to a walk in order for this method to be effective. In this scenario, you can utilize a tracking tactic that originated at the hands of the U.S. Border Patrol before being adapted by retired game warden Bob H. Lee, which essentially uses a four foot long stick to perform tracking tasks over rough Missouri terrain.
Photo: Wood Life
In order to perform this type of tracking, you will need the stick mentioned above with the addition of a rubber band, washer, or other marking device wrapped around it. Measurements marked on the stick can be useful as well, but if you opt to notch your stick, be careful not to confuse past notches should that stick be reused. To use the stick, you will need to be able to decipher which part of the track is from the front of the animal and which is from the rear. Once this is achieved, the end of the stick will need to be positioned on the front track. You will then need to use your measurement indicator (rubber band, washer, etc.) to mark the distance to the rear track. The distance covered by this indicator will portray a normal stride length and give you a directional aim in which to focus your efforts in looking for the next track. All you have to do is look in the direction the stick displays and you should find another track as well as blood which will confirm that you are moving in the right direction.
Photo: Wood Life
Depending on the ground cover in which you are tracking a deer, it may actually be easy to lay eyes on lost blood. In a snow covered area, blood stains may stand out as quite visible, but on leaf litter the opposite holds true. By using a tracking stick, however, you focus your eyes in the proper direction and omit some of the other distracting sights that might have otherwise made your kill more elusive, which is beneficial when it comes to saving time and conserving energy.
Have you used the tracking stick method to successfully find deer in the past? Is there another method you use and prefer? Let us know in the comments!