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After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

December 2008 Feature Article:

After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips

You wait until he's broadside, then, as the big 12-pointer lowers his head; you raise your rifle and centre the crosshairs behind his shoulder. You breathe, control your nerves, and squeeze the trigger... In a perfect world, he'd drop right then and there. But, as any experienced deer hunter knows, that's not always the case.

Read more...

Please use this area to post comments or questions about this feature article.

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Location: Idaho
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Posts: 1068
After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

Good article. I like what Steve says about not looking just at the ground, but also on vegetation.

Also, 8 hours on a not-so-well-hit deer, whoa ... but I like it.

It is somewhat intruiging to me that a `perfect' shot will in general NOT immediately anchor a deer (thru lungs and/or heart) missing bones and muscle mass. But, every now and then such a shot (with a rifle) DOES! I was told that the difference is the coincidence with high/low pressure of the animal's heartbeat. If the instant of impact coincides with the high pressure part of the beat - the capillaries in the deer's brain burst - and it's anchored.

Any anatomy people have any comment?

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Location: new brunswick
Joined: 07/28/2007
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Re: After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)
moderator wrote:
December 2008 Feature Article:

After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips

You wait until he's broadside, then, as the big 12-pointer lowers his head; you raise your rifle and centre the crosshairs behind his shoulder. You breathe, control your nerves, and squeeze the trigger...

In a perfect world, he'd drop right then and there. But, as any experienced deer hunter knows, that's not always the case. Read more...

Please use this area to post comments or questions about this feature article.

I learned a long time ago a shot to the head saves a lot of work and the butcher will love you for it ,also never take a head shot on a deer with it's head down wait till he brings it up ,the slightest sound will cause him to jerk it up most likely when your squeezing one off and there's no stopping the finger when you start to squeeze...advice from the rat

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Location: Ontario
Joined: 04/02/2007
Posts: 26
After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

The head shot does the job, so too does a neck shot. -- I've used them both. But they're not shots that most of us advise or recommend to others and often they are hard to pull off for a variety of reasons. Head and neck shots are not good options fro bow hunters either.

On the other hand, most times a good heart/lung shot does the job quickly too and is generally easier and more accessible.

Steve

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Location: new brunswick
Joined: 07/28/2007
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After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)
Highlander wrote:
The head shot does the job, so too does a neck shot. -- I've used them both. But they're not shots that most of us advise or recommend to others and often they are hard to pull off for a variety of reasons. Head and neck shots are not good options fro bow hunters either.

On the other hand, most times a good heart/lung shot does the job quickly too and is generally easier and more accessible.

Steve

For sure your advice is sound for beginers ,One who does his homework and knows how to shoot shouldn't be scared to try the head and neck , my last ten deer and last 3 or four bear have all been taken this way bow hunters is a different story altogether,A hunter who spends no time at the range from one year to the next has two strikes against him already .

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Location: Ontario
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Posts: 26
After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

I agree; you shouldn't be afraid of a head/neck shot if you are a competent shooter, comfortable making the shot, and it's your best option. Having said that, I respectfully submit that, all things being equal, a heart/lung shot is a surer bet.

Besides, a bullet through the boiler room wastes precious little meat and is fatal too.

Having said that, it's obvious that head and neck shots work for you. That's all that matters in the end. We've all got to do what we think is best by the game we hunt.

As for practice, you are dead on. I shoot several times a week in our back 40 and try to replicate field conditions.

The more you shoot, the better and more confident you become. It's that simple -- provided, of course, that you are concentrating on improving your techniques and form and not just making noise.

Location: Butte, MT
Joined: 01/02/2006
Posts: 234
After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

I lost a deer once that I shot in the middle of the neck. He flopped over and didn't move. I waited a few minutes with my crosshairs on him. When I decided he was down, I got up and started toward him. I don't know if he heard me comming and got spurred into action or what, but he jumped up and ran. I shot 2X's more while he was running off and missed. No blood trail to speak of, but I looked for that deer for the rest of the day and didn't find him. I felt incredibly bad about that. I vowed I would never take anything but a heart/lung shot again, and I haven't.

That was 15 years ago and I'm much more experienced now. I also know my own capabilities as a hunter better than before. I took 5 whitetails this fall, 1 with a bow, 4 with a rifle. A couple of them (with the rifle) were about 80 yards away and completely relaxed when I shot them. I got to rethinking my heart/lung shot vow as on both of them I had a very good rest, punched both right in the heart, and just as easily could have placed my shot in the small of the neck or the brain resulting in zero loss of meat. I think I will try the head/neck shot next season if conditions are right, as they were a couple of times this past fall. For me, I'll still shoot for the lungs if the animal is 150 yards or farther. But I agree, experience and knowing your capabilities have a lot to do with this sort of thing.

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Location: Ontario
Joined: 04/02/2007
Posts: 26
After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

Yup, it's always about experience and confidence with your weapon.
Having said that, I strongly believe in Murphy's law, "What can go wrong, will." That's why I like to minimize the risk by aiming for the boiler room.

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Joined: 05/20/2009
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also

Never climb a fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm while tracking your wounded game.. I make extra noise letting other hunters know I'm not game while treking

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Joined: 04/20/2009
Posts: 29
After the Shot: Deer Tracking Tips (feature article)

I must admit as a rookie my composure wasn't where it should have been but I guess wisdom comes with age and now I'm more patient and take the time to take that breath and relax and focus a little more. But for me I do prefer that heart or lung shot. I just want to make sure that it counts and that seems to work for me.

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Joined: 09/25/2009
Posts: 2
Tracking game and bullet placement

I hunt in an area where deer are extremely fat. I have often hit deer perfectly in the boiler room and found no blood trail whatsoever. Both the entrance and exit wounds were stuffed with congealed fat. My only indication of a good hit was the reaction of the animal and the colour of hair I found at the point where the deer stood at the shot.
I make it a habit of marking where I was when I shot, and taking a compas bearing from there to where the deer was standing. Once I get to the spot, I can take a back bearing to my shot location to be certain that I am in the right spot. I also look for the round mark a bullet makes as it passed through brush (on the twigs) if there are any at that spot.
Here are a couple of other ideas I have found to work for me.
If there is no snow and the blood trail is weak, I will mark each drop I find with a piece of tissue or toilet paper. These are easier on the environment than plastic flagging tape, and you don't have to go back to pick them up. When you look back at the trail, they indicate a clear direction of travel.
Another trick that works very well, especially when there is no blood trail, is that a well hit deer will leave deep hove marks in the ground. Just get down low and look forward. You will see the holes where the hoves hit the ground/leaves/grass.

On the issue of bullet placement (head/neck vs. lungs), I'd just like to point out that it is relatively easy to make tight groups (well under 2 inches) at the range under ideal conditions. However, under field conditions, with your heart pounding, and without a solid rest like a table and sand bags, these groups grow rapidly. Many hunters would be hard pressed to hit a 6 inch circle every time under field conditions beyond 75 yards. The vital zone for a head shot is less than 5 inches, and no more than 4 by 10 inches for the neck. Miss by as little as 2 inches and you have a mortally wounded deer that you'll never recover. Coyote food I say. I'll take a nice big vital zone like the lungs (8 to 10 inches) any time (even on a moose)! There is no excuse for taking a high risk low percentage shot when there is a much surer shot available.

In good conscience.

André in Alberta

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