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WishIWasHunting's picture
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First Lost Animal

This past weekend, on the final day of CO Archery Deer Season, I lost my first big game animal.  I was sitting over a water hole in heavy cover when a nice 4 point buck came in for a drink at about 11:40 am.  Luckily, the wind was in my favor and I had enough cover to get situated.  As the buck climbed the hill out of the water hole, he paused part-way past a tree, leaving me, with what I believe to be a slightly quartering away shot at his vitals at 14 yards.  I pull my bow back, acquire my target, and let an arrow go.  The buck immediately runs away.  

This was the first time that I had even pulled my bow back on a big game animal, so I was incredibly excited for a split second before I see the vanes of my arrow too close to the buck's hind quarters.  I only got a brief glimpse, so I do not know if the arrow was in at a deeper angle than I thought and still got vitals, or if I really shot him that far back.  Rather positive that I made a poor shot, probably through a combination of poor judgement, too much excitement, and poor execution, I force myself to stay put as long as possible.  

At 2:15 pm, I finally get up to see what I can find.  This was the first time that I have ever had to follow a blood trail since all of my deer and antelope before this were in open country with a rifle, basically dropping the animals on the spot.  I am excited to find several drops of bright red blood.  Several steps later, I find the business-end of my arrow covered in blood.  Since I knew I did not have a pass-through shot, I was a little disappointed to find my broadhead, hoping that it was still lodged in the animal, doing additional damage in order to help me successfully complete the retrieval.  However, the fact that it was covered in blood in such a short distance did lift my spirits.  

Over the next couple hours, I manage to follow the blood trail for about a quarter of a mile, using my GPS to waypoint nearly every drop of blood I find.  Most of the blood is only little drops, less than a half inch in diameter.  However, at a few points where the deer must have stopped, I do find some larger pools of blood in the 2-3 inch diameter range.  Also, blood must have been flowing down the deer's hind legs because in deep pine needle terrain, I find several bloody footprints.  

About 5:30 pm, the terrain changes to a combination of gravel and plants that make finding either blood or tracks difficult.  Red plants and red rocks get the label "fools blood" for falsely getting my hopes up thousands of times.  I keep searching for about half an hour after dark.  Nearly every part of me ached, but more than the physical exhaustion, the emotional toll from the day left me defeated.  I completed the hike out by headlamp, knowing that I would not be able to return the next day to see if I could luck out and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  As I hike, I run through every detail of the hunt that I can remember.  Some of it happened so quickly that I am not entirely sure how it happened.  

I end up with thousands of questions, but no answers.  I think about if I actually saw as much of the buck as I thought when I decided to take the shot.  I wonder if there was a little branch that deflected my shot?  I also wonder if I pushed the shot off target?  If I had waited, would I have had a better shot opportunity?  Even though it wasn't perfect, was it still a fatal shot?  Was that actually a decent blood trail or not?  

So, what is your experience following blood trails?  How far apart did you see blood?  How big where the drops?  Did you ever end up finding an animal that you did not think you would find because the blood trail was so thin?  Did you ever not find an animal that you were positive that you drilled perfectly?  Any other thoughts on tracking and/or losing an animal?  

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groovy mike's picture
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SUX!

Losing an animal SUX! There is just no way around it. We all do everything we possibly can and it still happens to us all eventually - it is why I gave up archery hunting. I prefer the BANG- flop to twang and track.

Sounds to me like you either hot the gut / paunch which means a fatal but not quickly fatal hit. Or possibly rump / thigh which would be a deep muscle hit that will be recovered from.

I hate tracking. I have recovered game that I tracked if they either died within 200 yards, or I saw them limping away and put another bullet in them to put them down.

My first deer I tracked for over a mile and shot again. But that was in snow....

I have never recovered an animal that went beyond 200 yards, except in Africa where a professional tracker helped me. Although I have helped other hunters find deer that they had shot and given up on.

You have to do all you can to find them but sometimes they just don't get found. It sux.

Ca_Vermonster's picture
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That's a bummer, for sure. 

That's a bummer, for sure.  My first deer I ever shot at, was an 11 point whitetail when I was 16.  Lever action Marlin 30-30 with open sights, the deer was running at about 30 yards through thick hardwood and saplings.  Missed the first 3 shots, but he stopped for some reason, giving me a split second 4th shot.

He immediately fell, and my dad was just getting to my position, and told me that he was down.  We get over to the spot, and no deer.  However, I find bright red blood sprayed over a tree.  We were going to let it sit, but there was a hunting camp just down the road, with 10+ cars parked there, so we were afraid someone would take it.

We started tracking the deer, and were seeing blood everywhere.  He walked between 2 saplings, and both saplings were smeared with blood.  Every step we took, we thought we'd find the deer under the next bush.

Well, the blood slowly dwindled to a trickle, with only a dime sized drop or less, every few yards. We got another shot at him as he jumped a 5 foot barbed wire fence with ease, and missed again, but kept with him.  About 3 1/2 miles, and 5 hours after the first shot, we were walking across a hay field, and the tracks headed straight into some thick stuff off the edge.  My Dad said he'd go around the othe side, and told me to walk through the thick stuff.  He had barely finished his words, and taken 2 steps, and we hear a "BOOM" from the other side, 100 yards away. 

The deer was indeed in the thicket, but moved out the other side before we could get in position.  And, someone was already hunting that field on the other side, and dropped my nice 11 point, 176 pounder with a shot to the neck.  When we inspected the deer, I had hit it just under where the tail attached to the coccyx (a$$bone).  I was 1/2 inch from shattering the back legs, in which case, he would have been mine.

So, deer are resilient creatures, so who know what could happen to him.  Might still be there, at least we can hope so.  Oh, and in case anyone wants a happy ending to my story, you won't get one.  He kept the deer, and didn't even thank me for pushing it to him.  He did drop off a single roast a month or 2 later, with a photo of him standing next to the deer holding up the rack.  And, he also had to tell me "You JUST MISSED breaking his back legs"....... Whistling

 

WishIWasHunting's picture
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Mike,I completely agree that

Mike,

I completely agree that tracking sucks! I use a rifle when I can, but I can get licenses more frequently by using a bow.  Since I didn't get that deer, I haven't got anything with a bow yet, so I don't know if I can even call myself an archery hunter.  I will keep trying with a bow when I can't get my preferred rifle tags, but too many more experiences like that, and I might have to give up.  

CA,

Your first lost animal story destroys mine in every way possible.  I can't imagine that being my first deer hunting experience.  I am glad that it didn't sour you on hunting for life.  

I agree that deer are remarkably resilient animals.  The second deer that I got had no quit in him.  He took 2 poor shots and 2 solid shots from a .308 in order to finish him off.  Luckily, we didn't have to track him because it was in the wide open, but it was still incredible how much it took to put him down.  

Ca_Vermonster's picture
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Yeah, I think my Dad was more

Yeah, I think my Dad was more upset than me.  That was my second year hunting, I think.  My first year, the first day, we had a buck run out right in front of us and stop in the field 30 yards away.  Whether it was nerves or what, I whispered to my Dad that I couldn't move to get a shot at him.  My Dad reluctantly shot him.  Still a great time though......

groovy mike's picture
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yep

You are not alone!  My first deer was travelling on 3 legs and I eventually shot both hind legs out froom under him before tagging him.  It happens!  I have lost one hit with a 45-70 at about 50 yards.  It was facing me - I held center of chest and pulled the trigger.  The deer went down on both front knees and grunted hard, then got back up and RAN.  I thought - no problem.  It will fall over.  I smked a cigar and waited for 20 minutes.  2 hours and a mile + later I lost the trail in a swamp with 10,000 deer tracks and the faint blood trail down to a single drop every 5 or 10 yards.  My only guess is that I hit brisket too low to be fatal.  I still don't understand how.....

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